RAD backup was the only thing that kept our marriage and our family together. When marriages fail, it’s because someone in the relationship isn’t getting what they need.
Listen up, Guys. Our Wives Need Some Help.
There were dark days during the first year that our oldest daughter was in residential treatment. She was seventeen at the time. We had decided that we would continue our commitment to be her dad and mom, even though the state forced us to relinquish custody to get her the help that she needed while keeping the rest of our children safe. For us, that meant weekly visits to see her, with an hour drive, each way. There were also weekly phone calls and other limited contact by digital means. Most of the time my wife, Amy, and I worked in unison. There were times one of us needed RAD backup.
My wife’s cry for help was the beginning of RAD backup in our home.
Some wives are quick to let their husbands know when they need help. Some husbands take it as a requirement to argue or to rattle off a list of things they have recently contributed as if that changes what their wife needs. Other wives, like mine, never ask soon enough and husbands like me are often content to overlook the fact that we need to be doing more. Because my wife is so slow to ask for anything, when she does ask, I know it’s critical. I remember when we brought our first three home from Russia and we learned that the little girls had older siblings. We had spent more than a year in the “wringing” adoption gauntlet and bringing the three home to join our other four. Two of the three new ones brought Reactive Attachment Disorder with them. As I pushed forward to find and adopt the older siblings to our new daughters, Amy became more and more stressed. Eventually she broke down and cried. In between sobs she said, “John, if we are going to do this, I need more help.” My wife’s cry for help was the beginning of RAD backup in our home.
Using “needs” rather than “wants” or “fairness” to regulate a business was what taught me how we needed to use RAD backup in our family.
Fortunately, I had experience in business that directly translated into what my family needed. My two brothers and I equally shared a business that designed, manufactured and sold pumps all over the world. It was a feast or famine business so there were times that we got financially over extended. One of those times of financial stress was when Amy and I were at the peak of spending for our Russian adoptions. During that time, my brothers allowed me to take far more than my share out of the company simply because we needed it. Of course it was all eventually made good during times of feast, but when we were in need, nobody was keeping score. Whoever had the greatest need was taken care of, regardless of what was fair at the time. Using “needs” rather than “wants” or “fairness” to regulate a business was what taught me how we needed to use RAD backup in our family.
“Fair” was a place to go on rides and eat cotton candy. It had no place in RAD backup.
Amy had let the pendulum swing to an extreme of her doing more than her share when she finally said something. I wish it hadn’t taken that long. It wasn’t fair to her. But fair wasn’t the point. “Needs” were the point. I stepped up my game. I actively watched for ways to help. I watched for needs. I didn’t start keeping score so I would have ammunition to prove that I could avoid helping in a later situation. I didn’t worry about “fair” any more than my wife had. “Fair” was a place to go on rides and eat cotton candy. It had no place in RAD backup.
We tried to do the visits together, but sometimes one of us needed a break and RAD backup took over.
There were times when we took the one-hour drive to visit our oldest daughter when she would scream that she hated us and tell us to go away and never come back. We knew that it was just Reactive Attachment Disorder and that her brain was trying to keep her safe by not attaching. Still, it was unnerving. And when she would call three days later, it was always to tell us what we needed to do because she wanted something and we owed it to her as parents. On weeks like that, caller ID was like waking up to flames in the middle of the night. Nobody wanted to “field” that call. But in the battle against Reactive Attachment Disorder, if we were ever to teach our daughter that we were there to stay, somebody needed to take the call. And somebody always did. At least one of us (almost) always attended the meetings that discussed her progress and treatments. We tried to do the visits together, but sometimes one of us needed a break and RAD backup took over.
RAD backup was the only thing that kept our marriage and our family together. When marriages fail, it’s because someone in the relationship isn’t getting what they need. It could be love, appreciation, compassion, empathy, sex, attention, so, so many other things; and in the case of having children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder, almost always… RAD backup.
So why do we men have such a hard time when it comes to giving our wives RAD backup?
Guys, I’m a pretty logical and practical person but there’s something I can’t grasp about our gender. (Yeah, I’m gonna go sexist, now.) If our families needed us to work more hours to support them, we’d sign up for overtime at time-and-a-half. If we didn’t have that option, we’d work extra hours for minimum wage at a convenience store. If our child needed a kidney, we’d cut out one of ours with our own hand, if that’s what it required. We’d skip lunches to make sure our kid had a few bucks to spend at the church bazar. We’d physically confront any low-life who abused one of our daughters and gladly do the time for the “crime.” So why do we men have such a hard time when it comes to giving our wives RAD backup?
Make sure your wife is getting what she needs from you when it comes to RAD backup.
Maybe it’s because we can feel manly when we tear out our own kidney, but like failures when we can’t get our children to love or respect us or our wives no matter what we do. Maybe it’s because our gender struggles with continuing to put in effort when results are not immediately apparent; and that is always the case with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Yes, for some reason our wives tend to be better at working without apparent results. But because our wives are better at something, it doesn’t relieve us of doing the things that our families need us to do; even when it doesn’t feed our egos. We need to provide RAD backup for our wives. And wouldn’t it be novel if we even served as lead-dog on occasion? Our families need us, guys. And while we’ll never feel as manly in letting our wives show us how to best help with our traumatized children, I promise it won’t be as hard as tearing out a kidney. Having children with Reactive Attachment Disorder requires things and methods that are not typically needed in most homes. So, be the man your family needs you to be. Make sure your wife is getting what she needs from you when it comes to RAD backup.
Recently I had the opportunity to listen to an incredible leader named Carlos Vargas, the founder of an amazing organization called Hope of Life. Carlos says that God doesn’t speak to him from burning bushes, but with needs. He says that when he sees needs, he hears the voice of God. Maybe we should all be a little bit more like that. If you have a burning bush that delivers commandments to you, then by all means… keep listening! For the rest of us, perhaps we should make sure we see our family’s needs. Then we should do something about it as if God were shouting at us. Perhaps He truly is.
Often, readers receive as much help from other readers in the comments section as they do from the blog article, itself. Please be generous with your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. There are lots of people who need what you have to share. This is your chance to help them.
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