A Divine Mess

This may sound horribly unromantic, but I can’t even remember the first time I met my husband.  He’s just always kind of been there, like your parents.  I do however remember my first impression of him in general.  He was old…and grumpy.  Now, please understand, to an insecure and giggly 14 year old he was just one of those 19 year old guys who seemed to be there with the sole purpose of saying no to anything fun.  You see, I was a counselor in training at Miracle Mountain Ranch, and he was an apprentice.  Not only was he in a college program, but he was also in charge of us, and that, by default, made him a kill joy.

Between this first impression and getting to know him later lay many years of vague memories.  He was many people to me: my friend’s older friend, my cousin’s crush, and by now he was on staff, which made him even more distant.  But there was something about him that intrigued me.  By now I had become an apprentice in that same college program, and as staff, he served as an advisor to one of my fellow classmates.  My intimidation of him turned to admiration, not only as he lead us through work projects and horsemanship classes, but more so when he would share of his personal walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.  He was far from perfect. In fact, he’d done a good job making lots of mistakes.  But I think that is what softened my heart toward him when he would share his testimony.  It wasn’t a dictation of all that he was accomplishing and learning, but instead, a narrative of God’s immeasurable grace despite his fallibility and shortcomings.  

Then I began to notice it.  I was surrounded by girls who admired him, and it started to bother me.  Others were trying to play matchmaker for him and I began feeling sorry for his plight. Through many circumstances that year, including a devastating car wreck that my parents were in, we saw each other in a myriad of ways that we couldn’t have anticipated.  I saw a man willing to sacrifice and serve total strangers as he would bring students to my parent’s house to help with different projects.  He saw a young lady who had always wanted to be in the program prepare to give it all up to take care of her parents physical needs.  We saw each other sick, cold, frustrated, and discouraged.  We saw it all publicly, but took it all in privately.  

But here is where our story gets crazy.  Our parents saw the spouse that God wanted for us long before we did.  My dad admired Matt greatly, and would drive over an hour just for a “visit”.  His parents had worked with me in our Wilderness Camp program and began inquiring after me when he would talk with them.  

He called my house one night when I was home on Christmas break, and my heart leapt in a way that I had not anticipated.  I was starting to like him, and I didn’t want to.  I had given up this whole relationship thing.  I was burned too many times to try again so soon, and besides, he was staff, and I was sure I would be in so much trouble!  One day I worked up the nerve (and stupidity) to march up to his apartment, knock on the door, and tell him that I was struggling with feelings concerning him.  My imagined response from him was to be one of shock, embarrassment, and telling me that I needed to go talk to my advisor and work through my ill placed affections.  Instead, I was met by a look of surprise that immediately responded by reciprocating his admiration.  We were in so much trouble.  The distraction of relationships was frowned upon, but we soon found that God had paved the way for that as well.  I think the staff had seen our growing interest long before we had, and in the following months we began courting while I was still in the program.  

We had no real idea what a courtship was supposed to look like, so we made it up as we went, but because we were both at the Ranch we just spent a lot of time together.  Soon our hearts were turned toward marriage and the real struggle began.  Both of us had come out of many unhealthy relationships and had brought a lot of bad habits and experiences with us.  We found affirmation in our physical affection and sought times to be apart from the crowd.  Even though I screached into my wedding day with my virginity intact, we had compromised in so many ways and pushed so many lines that we were now shrouded in a robe of guilt and hypocrisy.  If I could have anticipated how hard this would have hit us in our ability to trust each other later, I may have had the fortitude to be stronger.  May have, but I doubt it.  We had done the very thing we wanted to avoid, hurting each other.  

Of course, this revelation did not occur to us until years into our wedded bliss, when I would question his love for me, or his ability to make wise choices.  I was so afraid of being “found out” for who we really were, flawed people.  We felt like hypocrites serving in a ministry, one that preached on purity.  But slowly, God began to heal our hearts.  Ironically, around year three we found ourselves attending a couples counseling group with the intention that we would be learning how to counsel others.  We were duped!  These workshops wanted us to talk about OUR issues!  This was not what we had bargained for!  

But God…

I love that phrase, especially where it is found in scripture.  We were a mess… but God.  We are undeserving… but God.  We will fall again… but God!  God began to show me that my issues were not with my inability to trust Matt, but in my refusal to trust Him!  What if Matt makes a foolish decision?  God is still God.  What if Matt doesn’t meet my needs?  Only God is truly capable of that.  My insecurity caused me to want to elevate Matt to the status of God, and then I flung onto him a myriad of needs that only God is truly able to fill.  I still wrestle with fear and insecurity, and I’m sure I will as long as I’m on this side of heaven, but I’m learning to let Matt off the hook.   

There was a time in recent years when I was feeling angry at what I felt I had a right to; a man who could look at me and see the needs of my heart, who knew my fatigue, fear, and anger. I longed to be longed for, pursued, sought after.  Matt is a wonderful man, but he is just a man.  I needed more affirmed that any human could fulfill and I found myself standing in a worship service staring at a cross in the corner that was all lit up for Christmas.  It was then that the Lord asked me, When did the cross stop being enough?  When did knowing that someone else had ALREADY died for me no longer matter?!?  He seeks me, pursues me, hears me, and knows the deepest aches of my heart.  He lets me ramble despite how irrational I may be at the time, and more than anything else, He DELIGHTS in me.  Me.  This hot mess.  He delights in me.  

If I had to pick one word to describe our marriage it would be “grace”.  When we walk in the gratefulness that we have been given more than we deserve, we are at peace.  Our marriage is far from perfect, and life is constantly bringing new stress and trials with it, but I am freer now more than ever to just enjoy my husband,  because I see his love as a gift I don’t deserve, not a right I’ve earned.  We laugh together, cry together, and fail together.  We are both messes, but he is mine and I am his, and I couldn’t ask for a better person to journey with than the beautiful soul that I’ve been entrusted with.  So here’s to many more years of exercising God’s grace.    


Cox Small

Matt and Jenni Cox have been on staff at Miracle Mountain Ranch Missions since 1992, where Matt now serves as the Executive Director.  They speak, teach, and act as advisors for summer camp, retreats, and the School of Discipleship.

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This So Isn’t Me – Battling Anxiety

I have been after Macy to write a guest post for almost a year now.  There is something about the way she shares her heart that always convicts and encourages me, and I was excited to share that with all of you.  What she ended up sending is a collection of snapshots into her battle with anxiety, and I believe that God will use her struggles to give those of us in similar places hope.  I pray that you will be encouraged by her heart!

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I’m not sure how to pull these thoughts together with an introductory paragraph. To me, they are all connected with a common thread that I apparently can’t put to words. Let’s just introduce it as a collection of snapshots into my battle with anxiety.

Last year, Joe told me that he has had to relearn how to be married to me. This was after we had one of our biggest fights to date. It had to do with me sharing a creative idea with him privately and him sharing the idea with others and running with it before I’d had a chance to speak up. He argued that I had never before cared about taking credit for an idea, preferring to remain nameless. And he was right– but It wasn’t so much about the recognition. It was more about the ownership of my participation in the world around me. My tendency is to mesh. To blend. To let things pass by me, through me, even. This all stems from fear, of course. Of being misunderstood. Of being disliked. Of being wrong. But I am learning to spend less time trying to perfectly portray myself to people and more time just getting in there showing up and learning and contributing. That’s where vulnerability happens. That’s where connections are made. That’s what has the power to break that enormous barrier between me and others that I feel I have been timidly tapping on my whole life, afraid of calling too much attention.

I told a friend a while back that anxiety, to me, feels like I’m trying to navigate through life with someone screaming continuously inside my head. The screaming isn’t even words, just constant “white noise” muddying up my ability to be completely present in whatever it is I’m doing. I still haven’t figured out how to turn the noise off completely but I am learning to dial back the static and focus on the life going on around me.  My comfort zones are tiny spaces, with the white noise bouncing off the walls and amplifying 1000x over. But I think if I can break that barrier, just shatter it and live in bigger spaces, maybe that noise will actually have some space to dissipate into.

I was recently bawling my eyes out because I felt so incredibly inadequate to do a certain thing. I couldn’t see why I had been trusted with it in the first place. Joe asked me “Macy, are you solving more problems than you are creating? Then you’re good.” That really hit me hard.  I am never never never going to get to a place where I do it perfectly. No matter what “it” is. I think I was trying to maintain a perfect record by doing nothing at all, but what an unfulfilling life that ended up being.

I’ve been pushing myself super hard lately– working full time on evening shift, giving up some of the social life I feel like I only just built, taking on a leadership role in the piano hub @ my church. We are in major debt payoff/house savings mode, I’m going to the gym regularly (mostly haha), and we’re hoping for a baby for too many years in a row now. It all feels like chaos a lot of the time and I crave a giant pause button.

I have found myself saying so much lately “I don’t feel like myself!!” “This so isn’t me!!” as I am forced to do things less than perfectly and not be able to hide it or dwell on it. I think “I’m not a speeder. I’m not ever late. I’m not insensitive. I’m not careless. I’m not unorganized. I’m not unprepared!!” But, I am those things. I am human and flawed, but I used to avoid pressure to keep those flaws from surfacing. What’s coming to the surface now is a whole lot of ugly and broken and I’m doing my best to take it apart & let it be rebuilt better, and it has been super cool to realize I am surrounded by beautiful people who are okay with my awkward unfinished parts.

Because taking credit for my own ideas, and actively contributing to things that I am passionate about despite being afraid, and connecting with a variety of people on a regular basis, and finding my way through the fog, and yelling over the static…. well, those things “so aren’t me!” either. But I am discovering that yes, indeed, they are.

 

Actually Becoming The Happy Wife of A Human Husband

 

The title of this blog came from an oft-repeated threat to write a book called “How To Be The Happy Wife Of A Human Husband”. I began making that threat after it dawned on me that it’s typical to vent about a husband’s failings while excusing our own weaknesses. This behavior is not limited to the husband/wife sphere, either — we all do it.

I got married later in life, so there were lots of years with human room mates. Being the oldest of 5 meant my family life was pretty full of humans, too. Four human children have become adults who make their own choices — choices I do not control. (In all honesty, I never had the power to control their choices.)

On top of the aggravation of humans in my house, humans share the road with me as I drive and they post irritating stuff on social media. I go to church with humans. Humans all around, and they all act human. How do we stay “happy” when there are all these humans bothering us?

I am human, too. Maybe this blog should be called “Happy Human Among Human Humans” or something similar.

The thing is, we all cut ourselves some slack and think our own aggravating qualities are not so bad. There is deception in our hearts, according to Proverbs 21:2. We all think we are right, or we have good reasons for whatever wrong we do.

I am blind to my own faults — a good example is the piles of “stuff” I plan on sorting someday. I have many piles of stuff. One of Dave’s first gifts to me as a new wife was a blue basket to put my piles of stuff in. One basket, however large, won’t hold all my procrastination piles. Did his helpfulness change my pile habit? A little, but they are still there in the corners of my life because they don’t bother me like they bother him.

Here’s the thing — he gives me grace about my pile habit. Should I give him grace about his irritating habits? Yes, because not only does Dave give me grace, but God forgives me for far more serious sins than procrastination. When I realize all I am forgiven for, the natural response is thankfulness followed by forgiving others. It’s like that parable of the servant in Matthew 18 — we need our eyes opened to how much we have been forgiven.

When I choose to forgive as God has forgiven me, I am free to be happy with imperfect things and people. I can be a happy wife of a human husband, or a happy co-worker who works with humans, or whatever life throws at me.

Our daily lives are where our theology is tested. Truth is always true, but we don’t always believe the truth and it shows. My reactions to the people around me show me what I actually believe. This is humbling because I often have a disconnect between what I “believe” and how I react.

Recognizing my consistent failures helps me see myself accurately — I am human. I fail. Because I am human and I fail, I have to accept others as human failures just like me but our failures cost us more than we like to think about.

Jesus points out in his famous Sermon on the Mount that our natural tendencies have horrible results if we let them grow to fruition. Sibling rivalry, for instance, is the same basic attitude as murder. That’s harsh! But it’s true and we all do it.

We all need forgiveness, we all need grace, we all need the good news that God loves us enough to do something about the condition of our hearts. The cost of my self-centered insistence on my own way was death. Not death as an arbitrary punishment by an egotistical deity but death because it’s the natural consequence of my choices.

Jesus chose to leave his position as God and become human — like us — so that he could be a substitute for us and take that consequence on himself. I don’t understand how that all worked, but this changed everything. Do some research on the historical evidence for Jesus and the resurrection and it’s hard to ignore.

So what do we have? A resurrected Savior who provides forgiveness for me. He gives grace, so I can extend that forgiveness to the human who shares my life. That makes me a happy wife of a human husband.

 

 

 

 

To Love & Honor

Two days ago I had a quarter life crisis kind of a morning. It was all in response to an article I read about the roles of men and women in marriage. I of course brought this up to my husband, Luke. “So what do you think?” In my head I believe that God designed marriage in a way that gives husbands the leading role, in real life though this doesn’t seem as clear cut.  A thousand scenarios fly through my mind. What if I’m the only one that wants more kids? I don’t care what he wants to do he can’t just borrow $5K in credit card debt! What if my way is right?

In our culture the idea of submitting to your husband is often repulsive, and I struggled with it too. Certainly that is not necessary, this is the 21st. century after all, haven’t we as Christians decided that giving in to our husbands was some cultural Bible times idea? Not too far into this discussion, one I had somewhat confrontationally dubbed; “who gets the final say”, I was getting defensive!

In the heat of the moment, to even say the word submission is to feel weak, vulnerable, and less capable. “I am my own man! I am usually right!” I vehemently expound. Luke reiterates that it is from a place of love and protection that God has him lead. I want that love and cherishing and I want to be the boss of me! My eyes are dark and glaring, like a cornered cat, my hackles are up. “Why should I?” I scream in my heart. I want to do the right thing. I want to honor God. I want to avoid this issue like the plague.

So I did the only reasonable thing to do and went to my older sister’s for cocoa. She would vehemently state that God made both spouses equal in marriage, but with different roles. I left fortified with a solid argument and good hot chocolate, but the matter was still unsettled for me.

My next step was to ask my little sister, more input couldn’t hurt. “Oh we agree to make all our decisions together.” She confidently smiled. Nodding and smiling in return I thought, I like that sentiment, this is a good philosophy. Still a debate raged in my heart. After 8 years of marriage it’s obvious to me that we will not come to an agreement on all major decisions. We will not come to an agreement on if the kids can have more cake.

Mom joined what was now a family discussion. “Many times Dad and I agreed on decisions, but there was one time that Dad was excited about a business opportunity and all I could see was having to leave our children home many nights. I never voiced my opposition, and this endeavor had a major effect on our lives. I didn’t want to burst his enthusiasm or face his judgment that I was being negative.”

The question for me has never been whether or not I can voice my opinions, or be the deciding force in major decisions, that is an overwhelming yes. My question here is; after we’ve hashed it all out and a stalemate has been reached, is there a biblical truth that directs me to let my husband take the lead? Does the Bible give us a structure for our roles in marriage? After great debate and studying I believe so. Read Ephesians 5:22-30 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.”

Here my husband is given the roles of savior and lover, he is to nourish and cherish me, to give himself up for me as Christ did for the church. I am given the direction to make myself subject to my husband. This isn’t a word we use a lot today. To be subject to Luke is to place myself under him, this is a voluntary choice on my part to let him lead. Submission is not something you can take, or force from someone. It is placing myself in his care.  

Choosing to give preference to my husband and follow his leadership is peaceful. It brings us a new oneness, and it demands a level of trusting from me that I am unaccustomed to. I see in Luke a greater willingness to listen to my point of view and defer to me. I see him give himself up for me in a whole new way. This is not about winning or losing, it is about building a loving relationship, orchestrated by God in a way that reflects Christ’s love for us, His church.

Learning to Wait

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On my wedding day, my husband and I chose Ephesians 5:22-33 as one of the verses we wanted to live by. I strongly believed what those verses have to say and — by God’s grace — I have kept by them.

I believe as a wife it is extremely important to be submissive to your husband. It is something to take very seriously. We are to be their help meet. What we say, things we do, and how we respond affects them as a person. They need to be built up, not torn down and nagged. Sometimes it isn’t easy, though.

My husband and I got married in 2008. He didn’t want to have children right away. Babies scared him. He was the youngest and really wasn’t around babies as he grew up. He knew that we were going to have some but “not that soon.”

So, I had to wait. A year passed and he still was not sure about having a baby. Year and a half? Nope — not yet. It was really hard to have to wait. There were times that I would talk to him about it and where I would push him away. I had to back off and had to respect his decision even though I didn’t understand.

Then, in the late spring early summer of 2010 (after a year of struggling with God on where I was at) God got hold of me. He really made me see a lot of things about life. Through every detail, He was involved and guided me through His word. Having this spiritual breakthrough really helped me become more submissive to my husband.

Here are some verses and tips that helped me to wait and submit to my husband by submitting to God first.

  1. His way is perfect. 2 Samuel 22:31

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is shield to all who trust in Him.”

Every single thing you go through is His perfect plan for you. There are no mistakes. Every situation, every person you come in contact with is a part of His perfect will for you. His word is there to help you understand this and to give you peace. Even when you mess up, He is still a part of it. He is involved in every detail of our lives. It is also important that you and your husband discuss situations and significant issues. In those discussions you could bring it up on how God is intimately involved in every details of your lives. There might be those times he might not be ready to hear that. It is so easy to get upset too, but it is always imperative for you to talk these things through. That is why it is important for us as wives to constantly focus on God’s word and pray for our husbands. But the key is believing God’s way is perfect and what He says is true, so that whenever your husband says something that you disagree with, you can trust God and submit to your husband.

  1. He knows all my days and has a plan for them. Psalm 139:16-17

“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”

Every single day that we live has been written down in His book. He knows when you were born and when you are going to die. He knows what days you and your husband had that argument about that same issue that keeps coming up. Our Lord is sovereign and in control. Even your husband’s days are all written down. God knows when your husband will change his mind or even if you will change your mind.  He has great things for the both of you, things to make you grow, things to make you understand your husband or other people. He wants and has the very best for your marriage.

  1. He instructs and guides me in the way He wants me to go. Psalm 32:8-9

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.”

You might be thinking, “You don’t know my husband. He doesn’t understand what I am trying to do.” Yes, that might be true but God knows the way you and your husband need to go. Allow Him to instruct you in the way He wants you to go. It might be the entirely different way from what you want. But who are you to know what is truly good for you? He knows and He will guide. Don’t fight your husband! You are fighting God because He has called you to be submissive to him. Don’t be like a horse with a bit and bridle. When you let go and be submissive, God will tell you and guide you in the way you should go.

  1. A gentile and quiet spirit does work. 1 Peter 3:1-6

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,  2 when they observeyour chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”

In today’s society, wives don’t have many examples of what a gentle and quiet spirit looks like. It doesn’t mean that a wife has to sit quietly while her husband does all the talking. That’s not right. It means allowing your actions to speak louder than your words. It means that if your husband is doing something that is not correct, but it does not go against God’s word, your only choice is to fear and trust God and humbly pray that He can help you to be that woman who wins over her husband. In the long run, your husband will respect you because even if you didn’t agree with him, you didn’t put him down or nagged him.

  1. Be thankful in the moment you are in. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always,  17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

The years I had to wait until my husband decided to have kids was the will of God for me. When I finally allowed God and His word to transform my heart, I am so thankful for the things we got to do. I honestly cannot imagine it any other way. God gave me such a thankful heart and enabled me to be content in every moment.

Very close to our fifth anniversary and only two months after getting off of the birth control I was on for five years, God allowed us to get pregnant. The following year we received a beautiful baby girl who, with all the joy in my heart, daddy loves and adores and treasures with his whole heart. God is faithful, so very faithful during those years.

 

A Husband-Shaped Hole

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The first time that my new husband hurt my feelings, I sat on our front steps and cried my eyes out.  It was a warm night at the end of the summer, and as I sat there I asked God how it was possible that just weeks after the wedding I could be this crushed by my loyal and loving (and oblivious) husband.

It was one of those times that God answered me very specifically.

It isn’t his job.

What?

Filling all of your needs.  It isn’t his job.

The tears dried on my cheeks as I thought about that.  I had this erroneous idea that was probably born in my childhood or early teens that marriage was the ultimate goal and would make me happy.  Even knowing intellectually that it wasn’t true, it was a hard reality to actually encounter.

Christian dating/courtship books encourage this idea, though they probably don’t mean to.  Even most of the conversations that I have had about marriage make it seem like singleness is a long hard journey and the reward is marriage.. much like we look forward to heaven at the end of the journey of life.  But marriage isn’t a goal; marriage is a continuation of the journey.  Marriage is acquiring a running partner.  Marriage is the decision to make the hard journey of life with a loving and sinful spouse who is also a novice at the whole thing.

There’s an evangelistic concept that we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only he can fill.. only I feel like as single women we were all subtly told that it is actually a husband-shaped hole.  We long for marriage, and so we imagine that a husband will make us secure or cure our loneliness or fix our brokenness.

It isn’t a husband-shaped hole.  It is definitely a God-shaped hole.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to saddle your spouse with responsibilities that actually belong to Jesus.

Even after 2 years of marriage, sometimes I have to stop and evaluate where I am placing my trust.  Am I expecting things of Jason that are not within his responsibilities (or capabilities) to fulfill?  Am I trusting Jesus to be my Savior and trusting Jason to be my partner?

That night, I got up and climbed the steps back into my house.  I gave my hurt feelings to God and responded to my (still clueless) husband with love.  And I let the hole in my heart be filled by the only one big enough to fill it.

communication again

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It is a source of wonder to me…the things that bothered me in Dave when we were dating & engaged STILL bother me. He has not changed all that much, and I haven’t…we just have learned how to communicate our needs a little better. Just the other day, he wasn’t listening to me blather on about a grill I was looking at in the local Walmart because he thought he heard a groundhog in the garden. This is not a problem if he says, “I wasn’t listening to you because I thought I heard a groundhog in the garden.”

It is a problem if he acts like I didn’t say anything in the first place.

In the past, I’ve tried to ignore my hurt feelers…doesn’t work, the tape in my head keeps playing reruns & it escalates from there. I’ve tried to let him know non-verbally that something is wrong…doesn’t work, he picks up that something’s wrong but generally guesses wrong, too. And it escalates from there. I’ve talked to him under my breath…not a communication skill at all. And it escalates from there. I’ve tried praying about it…works on my end in terms of learning more about forgiveness (a whole chapter at least by itself) but that is only a good first step on how to deal with the hurt of being ignored.

I’ve learned to say, “did you hear me?” because maybe he didn’t.
I’ve learned to say, “it makes me feel ignored when you don’t respond to my talking to you”
I’ve learned to listen to what he says when I say that.
I’m learning how to handle his exaggerated “I’m listening to you” “I heard what you said” schtick for the first week after an incident.

Maybe a pillow fight would help.