Just a few weeks ago, we had a fight that turned into four days of not talking. We actually don’t fight that often (although in our early marriage we fought a lot). But my selfishness turned into his passive-aggressiveness, hurtful words flowed and old wounds opened up and it was painful. And lonely. And it felt like life caved in around us.
When we were still newlyweds, I was shocked to learn that life wasn’t as easy as “You fall in love. You get married. You have babies. You live happily ever after.” I learned it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. People are messy, and it’s a lot of work to even stay on the same page, let alone grow together. (Or for us, grow UP together – we got married at 20 and 21).
I had multiple miscarriages. We had opposite ways of dealing with conflict, and instead of meeting in the middle it drove us each to the opposite ends of the earth, emotionally speaking. After of a few years of not working together, we found unhealthy ways of dealing with the pain and loneliness of an empty marriage. When my husband shut down, I turned to one of his best friends for comfort and emotional connection. Boundaries were crossed and I made some bad, irreversible choices. So after five tough years, there we were – on the verge of falling apart. In our mid-twenties with a baby who neither of us was willing to give up. And because of our faith, neither of us wanted to consider divorce as an option. But it was certainly on the table. (Either that, or my husband just prayed I would die. Yes, I was that evil. I – we – can laugh about it now). For a while we just went through the motions, dead inside, smiling on the outside. It took looking at a past history of wounds and scars and BOTH of us being willing to get real and be vulnerable enough to admit our part in the giant boulder that stood in the middle of our path. (I think the loneliest thing in the world is lying next to someone in bed knowing your hearts are far, far apart and your marriage is empty.)
Then slowly, with the support of good friends and lot of help from good counselors, we started working on removing that boulder. Not blowing it up with dynamite, but more like digging our way through with a spoon. Bit by very small bit, almost dying from lack of oxygen in the middle as we tunneled through that boulder.
And now, after being married almost 30 years, we can live each day heading towards the sunshine at the end of the tunnel. Occasionally we are stopped by an unexpected cave-in, but rather than ignoring it and living in an uncomfortable pile of gravel, we get out our little spoons and remember how to dig. It’s dirty, messy work, and not fun, but the reward of the sun on our face and fresh air on the other side is so very worth it – for each other as well as for our kids.
So that’s our story. People are messy. Live in grace, walk in love.