Sometime between when I saw her last and today, her marriage had fallen apart. She mentioned it as we stood in a salon full of people so it was unclear whether she didn’t share more because of the extra ears nearby, because she wasn’t ready to talk about it yet, or she just didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with me .
I didn’t press her.
“You guys make it look so easy.”
EASY??? Wait… she’s talking about me and David?!
My brain went offline for a minute, bombarded with information it couldn’t compute. I must have stood there blank. Confused.
“I’ve watched your videos and read your blog. I don’t know… you just make it look easy.”
Her words took the breath right out of me.
I stood, mute.
I flashed back to the early years of endless fighting and despair. Of wondering if we’d ever understand, let alone enjoy, one another. I drifted back to when holidays and weekends were something we dreaded, rather than looked forward to and when anger and pornography nearly tore our marriage completely apart.
I remembered that time, I was so mad, I threw a bowl full of cereal at his feet, and how our foolish pride ruined Disney World for my entire family. I thought about how, in the darkest times, I fantasized about what my life would be like if he weren’t in it, and the years of counseling driven by the fragile hope of having a healthy, happy, honoring marriage one day.
It’s astonishing how many thoughts you can have in a matter of seconds. I traveled a million miles and never moved. I covered so much distance, but there she was standing right in front of me.
Willing myself to engage, I fumbled out something lame like: “Noooo, marriage is really, really hard.”
I couldn’t think of anything else.
After I left, and the shock of her words dissipated, I understood. I remembered all the feelings I had when I was in her shoes. I remember experiencing the deep ache of longing and utter dullness at the same time. Suffering enormously while everyone else seemed to be living on love. I swear, all I saw when I looked around were people holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, laughing, enjoying love while I had no idea if my heart would ever experience the joy of it again.
Because when your marriage is that far in crisis, it’s hard to identify any possible way the wreckage of your relationship can be redeemed — you aren’t even sure it should be. All you can see are the ashes of trust and destruction of intimacy. The pages of your life devolving into a story which was supposed to unfold much, much differently.
More like a fairy tale than a nightmare.
Remember in Marriage Often the Better Comes After the Worse
I still don’t know what I could’ve said that would’ve eased her pain. Maybe there isn’t something.
I don’t know the details of her story. I don’t know if abuse or infidelity has eroded the foundation of trust in their marriage or if only one of them is willing to work at it. I’m not nieve enough to believe that every marriage can be saved — David couldn’t save his first marriage, regardless of how hard he tried.
All I know is, for most of us, the road to unity, trust, and connectedness is bumpy. And that in marriage, often the better comes after the worse.
David and I are crazy about each other, it’s true, but the path to this place in our marriage has been anything but “easy”. It’s hard work, you know, learning to give your spouse the space to be imperfect and in-process. Letting go of expectations and obligations. Practicing communicating in a way which honors and builds rather than defaulting to old patterns of anger, manipulation, and control.
I’m not sure where you are in your marriage right now, but I guess what I wish to communicate is this: Having the relationship you want doesn’t just happen. You don’t fall into a satisfying marriage, and the passage of time doesn’t manifest one for you. You have to be tenacious and work towards it because the reality is, a perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other!
TAKE ACTION: If you’re struggling in your marriage, be honest with yourself about the small (or big) ways which you’ve believed the lie that if things are hard, maybe it’s not meant to be. Reengage, get help, and stay in it if possible — your love is worth fighting for!