As the sun rose over the mountains, I leaned my head on my husband’s shoulder. I took a deep breath and smelled the familiarity in his coat. The brisk mountain breeze tickled the hair around my ears as I squinted to see the creek bottom below. We were stalking deer and had been sitting on this ridge since before daylight, about an hour.
An hour in the quiet together always does wonders for our marriage. There is just something about the open air and sharing in my husband’s passions that helps us reconnect on a deeper level. On such mornings, I am sure we can take on the world.
I didn’t always approve of my husband’s hunting. Our first hunting season occurred during the first few months of our marriage. Due to our whirlwind romance, we hadn’t ever spent hunting season together, and I didn’t know what all it entailed. My dad wasn’t much of a hunter. He often would go on a week-long trip with friends in November, but it wasn’t an every-weekend ordeal like my husband’s traditions. Therefore, when mid-October hit, I didn’t understand what the next month would bring.
At first, I tried playing the doting wife, making snacks and sandwiches for my husband to take to the mountains to sustain his long days from sunup to sundown. However, after spending two weekends alone, with raging pregnancy hormones to complicate the issue, a sort of depression washed over me. I didn’t like being left at home all the time by myself, and I quickly fell into a deep funk. Instead of picking up a hobby, I binged on Netflix and fall treats, gaining much more weight than what I could fairly attribute to pregnancy.
My disappointment increased exponentially when, after dropping a wad of cash on butchering and processing fees, my husband refused to eat the meat he had harvested.
“I just really don’t like wild game. I grew up eating it so much that I don’t like it now.”
Well cool, I thought, I’m so glad we spend all fall hunting, then. (To be fair, he always donates his game to local families who need it.)
I figured the next year would be better, since I had an adorable new baby boy to love on while my husband tramped all over the countryside looking for elk that he wasn’t actually going to eat. I was wrong. Hunting Season, version 2.0, was worse. Much, much worse. Being at home with a baby was exhausting, even if the baby slept all day. I had no sense of self and felt like I was attached to a three-month-old constantly. I was just getting back to working full time and figuring out how to navigate my professional life as a new mom was exhausting. I grew resentful of my husband who could sneak out at five in the morning, before anyone was awake to cause mayhem, and hide out in the mountains where he was far beyond the range of cell service. My frustration spilled over into the rest of the week, and we fought constantly about every little thing.
Finally, four years of marriage later, and I have finally come to terms with hunting season. I can’t quite pinpoint when it happened or why, but I will admit that it took a lot of shifting perspective. It is easy for us to hope and pray for someone to change, but often we have to look inside and change ourselves. I had to let go of some of my selfishness and my expectation that my husband’s life revolved around me. I figured out that hunting was something my husband looked forward to year-round, and getting up into the clear mountain air was necessary for his mental health, just like my monthly escapes to town, complete with peppermint mochas, got me through long winters. He has gotten better at inviting me on an excursion or two, which has helped me realize his love for the sport.
Figuring out hunting season has helped our marriage, and it also lays the groundwork for us to work out other areas of our life when they suffer. It is so easy for my husband and I to become egocentric in our thinking, and our quality of life declines very rapidly when this happens. When I find myself hoping that my husband will change, I make sure and reflect on what I could be doing to meet him halfway. Marriage isn’t about pointing fingers or training spouses to be models of perfection. It is about sacrificing pieces of ourselves to love each other in the way Jesus loved us.