I think about that often because it goes against the mindset I’ve had to adopt to get through life. That mindset centers around always being strong and capable, coming through for others (especially loved ones), and protecting them – and not really allowing myself to be (or be viewed) as too weak, soft, or inept. And the rigors of daily responsibility have reinforced that belief in so many painful ways that it has become who I am. It’s dysfunctional, I know, but it almost feels like adopting this mentality is the only way to survive. But more on that in a second…
Spooning is so comfortable, and my wife Rachel and I do it all the time while watching a movie on the couch, or before we fall asleep in bed at night. When she is the little spoon, she feels warm, protected, sheltered, safe, and small. We’re both in the fetal position (which is so incredibly natural), and I’m wrapped around her, and there is no other place we would rather be. These are all pleasurable feelings which I imagine have some sort of biological basis: this is how we felt in our mother’s womb during the most critical nine months of our entire lives, and that environment was the most nurturing and loving one we’ve ever known. I don’t mind being the big spoon. In fact, I want to be what it metaphorically represents – a shield, a blanket, a mantle. I feel like this is my role and I embrace it (pun intended). But sometimes, if I’m honest, I do want to be the little spoon.
Rachel is great about this. I’m actually embarrassed to admit that I ask her to spoon me sometimes. She does so graciously, and even enthusiastically. And when she does, I love it. I first secretly loved it, but now I unabashedly let her know that it’s freaking awesome. I don’t know if she contemplates all of its symbolic aspects when she does it (hopefully not!), but I do hope she enjoys it. I think she does. I really, really do – because I know her heart. And what all this is teaching me is that in a romantic relationship, both parties want to demonstrate love towards the other person and that we just need to let them, and let them know what we want. This was so hard for me when we were dating (and in past relationships) because I wanted to be that guy who was “the man” – who rose up and came through and always spoke and lived and moved in courageous, valiant, heroic ways. I would say stereotypically masculine (and ridiculous) things like “you can’t hurt steel!” and “I’m a tree” not because I believed that nothing could touch or affect me or cause me to bend and break, but to repeatedly remind and convince myself that this is what life and other people required of me. That this is what I have to do.
I’m not going to lie: those reminders have served their purpose, in part. They have helped me deal with pain and make it through the worst seasons of my life. But they’ve also led to some really unhealthy thought patterns which make it hard for others to love me well. They want to, but I get in the way. And this is an exhausting way to journey through life, and one that is lonely, parched, and inevitably self-destructive. And so I am trying to change. It is selfish, insincere, and even foolish for me to not let Rachel know what I need, and not give her the opportunity to come through for me in the same ways that I take pride in coming through for her. When I am the “big spoon,” literally (at night) and figuratively (throughout the day), she feels deeply loved, cherished, and looked after. And particularly in a marriage (and hopefully also in quality dating relationships), she wants to make me feel the same way.
I shouldn’t feel a need to constantly prove I am what being the big spoon represents. I need to remember that she knows, and it is never a question in her mind. The problem is that my own insecurities sometimes creep up and convince me I had better prove it again and again, or else be exposed as not having what it takes, or what the situation needs. But there is no freedom in this, and it definitely doesn’t deepen the level of intimacy, trust, abandon, and oneness we should share. So what I am doing, in essence, is robbing our relationship of its most vitally nourishing qualities. Even more importantly, it betrays so little trust in my God, who I claim will equip me to do all that I’ll ever need to do (Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 13:21). He has always equipped me. He has actually never let me down nor failed to come through for me. And He is my source, and everything is not up to me. But still I have to continually fight against this pressure which, again, is in my own head and not hers. It is a fear-based mentality, and not one marked by faith. And that never leads to anywhere good.
It’s okay to be the little spoon, and I am starting to own that. And not just when we’re spooning! I find myself actually making progress in this area, and letting my needs be known and allowing myself to be more human (and less steel- or tree-like). And it’s bringing an increased measure of joy, health, and vitality to my perspective of the relationship, one that (sadly) I have not really known before (because I was doing it all wrong!). This finally feels right, and like how it’s supposed to be! And I’m so thankful for the eye-opening lesson, and just have to stay intentional in living it out until it becomes natural for me to always do.