First things first. I am truly, madly, deeply in love with my husband. He writes me love notes on Post-it Notes, and he eats my burned dinners, and he lets me get emotional during movies, and he pulls me into his crook when we get in bed at night. He also references song lyrics and movie quotes in conversation (hence the “truly, madly, deeply” reference above). Dear ones, it’s the stuff of Nicholas Sparks novels. But like any good Nicholas Sparks reader knows, there is also some bad news that pushes the heroine to a fork in the road.
Here is mine. When I was 25, I did not marry a good man. I married a man that was lost, emotionally unavailable, drowning in lies, and headed down a path of self-destruction dragging me right along with him. I soon found myself compromising my values and trading in my emotions for indifference. It helped me survive, and I can’t deny that it was fun. But fun like that has a cost, and I paid a big price.
After I woke up to the consequences of my own bad behavior, I had a revelation of sorts. Being young, naive, and slightly disillusioned about faith, I thought being more positive, going to church, and serving more selflessly would change our circumstances. I was sure that our brokenness was my fault and that I could change our relationship. I was wrong. I know now that only God had the power to change our marriage.
About that time, I also found out that I was pregnant…and it wasn’t an accident. Remember the naive part above…yeah. Moving on…I wanted our little family to be perfect for this life that I already loved more than my own. But it wasn’t, and I couldn’t do anything about that.
Shortly after the birth of our first son, my world imploded. Secrets, the kind that destroy relationships, and harvest hurt and bitterness, and drive one to a full-on-Britney-circa-2007 breakdown, were brought to light. And all joking aside, I broke down.
Marriage is hard. Period. There is no “but” that follows. It is tough. Having someone that loves God and honors the commitment of marriage makes it easier. I didn’t have that. In today’s culture, you might guess that I got a divorce, kept my faith, and eventually God brought me a wonderful Christian man that has restored my hope in love, glory hallelujah, the end!
I stayed. Whew! Let’s take a breath. I stayed. Pause. Take it in (but don’t judge). Ok, let’s move on.
I wanted to leave. I did. I wanted to leave with all of my being, and then I looked down at the little boy in my arms, and I stayed. My husband had hit rock bottom, so I had that going for me. But for the first time ever, I saw sincerity, genuine repentance, and yes, a desperation to hold on to what he had so flippantly ignored for so long.
I’d love to tell you that I handled it with grace, humility, and dignity. Did I mention the Britney-circa-2007 breakdown? The next three years were about as rocky as Ben Affleck’s acting career when he dated J. Lo. Kinda like Gigli, we’ll just skip it.
Now, here comes the good stuff. The boy became a man! Can I get an AMEN? He took my hurt. He took my abuse. He took mine and his shame. He bought gifts…like really nice gifts. He also knocked me up again (this time it was an accident). But, HE STAYED! This is huge!
Over the past five years, I’ve had several women who were going through some tough situations in their marriages come to me for advice. Many of them were willing to work through the hard stuff, but the husbands couldn’t take it. Many of the men ultimately left because they couldn’t take the consequences of their own bad decisions.
The change was slow, and in many cases ongoing, but it was real and consistent. All of a sudden I was married to a man that most women only dream of marrying. In fact, they would tell me that. He is kind. He listens. He loves deeply. He stays, even when I don’t want to, he stays. He’s not perfect. God is still working on him, just like the rest of us, but when my world starts going topsy-turvy, I know he’ll stay.
I may not have married a good man, but I am married to the most amazing, Christ-filled, man that loves deeply and extends grace every day. Now, I kinda think that’s a pretty good love story.