To Have and to Hold

My husband and I just received one of the best Christmas presents. Yes, I know it’s March silly, but for Christmas, my sister and her husband had given us a gift card to a nearby restaurant with the promise of taking our kids for the night.

While we were eating our yummy meal, enjoying each other’s company sans kids, I looked at him as tears suddenly welled up in my eyes, “You know, three years ago, I could not have imagined a moment like this ever happening for us again.”

The very simplified explanation of what happened in our marriage goes a little something like: Over time, there were things happening in my husband’s family of origin and some other stressors that lit several fuses which all ran to a powder keg of undealt with childhood trauma and chaos. The fuses burned slowly for a while with moments of what was that? popping up along the way. But when the fire finally reached the keg, the explosion was big and unpretty. I got a bit singed.

Suddenly everything changed and I was saddened beyond measure. The man that I had married simply disappeared before my eyes and in his place was some guy I didn’t know or recognize—or like. At all. The light in his eyes was gone, there was no longer any real smile and his kindness that I had so cherished was nowhere to be found.

I honestly didn’t know what to do.

Why God? Why would You allow this to happen? Your presence was so very sweet at our wedding. Even people who don’t believe in You commented to me that there was something intangibly sweet and personal about that day. How could You let this happen to us? To me? What have I done to deserve this? 

Unfortunately, I found myself considering divorce—something I never thought I would think about doing. I loved my husband, but I simply couldn’t go on with things the way they were. I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to be loved. I was really angry and I yelled at God, “YOU are the one who hates divorce. If YOU want this marriage to work, well then, YOU better fix it, because I’m done.”

Then, very clearly and lovingly, I heard the words, “You know, a marriage can’t last if you don’t see it through.” I knew it wasn’t a promise that everything would work out for us. It was just a statement of fact. If I left, then the marriage would be over, with no chance of healing.

It was in that moment, along with the words from Luke 13: 8-9, that I decided that I would step back and give God as wide a berth to maneuver in as I could. That was a decision that was difficult to stick with.

Some of the ongoing chaos in his family and a couple of other stressors had triggered something in him and we finally found out that my husband had post traumatic stress disorder and other factors at work in his life. The ways he had learned to cope with and get through his childhood no longer worked in adulthood. He had to learn new ways. He also had to remove himself from his family and its issues — a vital step to allow our family to survive.

It was a real struggle for a while, and just when I thought I might give up again, God sent my eighth grade Sunday school teacher back into the area. This man reached out to my husband and has since been a steady, reliable presence in his life, giving wise counsel and good company.

The road of healing in this has been long for me. In the darkness of the experience, I saw why so many marriages fail. I now understand it in a way that I never could have before this. I don’t blame people for giving up. During this time, I was surprised by the stories others would share with me about the difficulties in their married life. Shared moments about how they edged to the brink of divorce, but somehow eked through to a good marriage on the other side. It gave me a smidgen of hope that maybe, possibly things could work out.

I don’t know why or how our marriage survived this time, but I’m glad to see the light in his eyes again. I’m happy to see his smile flash my way more often and his kindness make a comeback. All is not light and airy, nor will it likely ever be I’m sure, but it’s a whole lot better than it was.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If  one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:10-12

4 thoughts on “To Have and to Hold

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