Have you ever gone through bumps in your marriage? Do you know how normal you are, even if the bumps are much more like mountains?
You don’t hear about the ones who make it…
Normally we only hear about marriages that didn’t make it, but rarely do you know when someone went through a funk and got through it. We told VERY few people when we went through our struggles because we didn’t want to be under the microscope when we were with family or friends. I had just a couple of close friends and one family member who knew as it was happening, and I don’t think Kent told a soul. Now we’re totally open about it with anyone who will listen because we want to help others who need to know that funks are normal and you won’t always hurt so much. There is light not so far down the road. God can do the impossible, don’t doubt it for a second. I’ve seen it over and over again and it happened with us.
Here’s what happened in our lives about 14 years ago now…
When our oldest son was 2 years old, Kent and I were so madly in love with him that we focused more energy on him instead of on each other. At the same time, Kent’s job was very stressful and when he’d come home tired, weary, and ornery, instead of giving him some empathy and not taking it personal, which is not easy to do, I would return every jab with venom. (No one was going to treat me that way!)
Soon this spiraled down into both of us not feeling much love for each other anymore.
To be honest, at times I couldn’t stand him, and his negativity wore on me. We were in different places though. I felt that it would pass, I thought we could somehow get through it, and just knew that I’d never want to separate our family and turn our son’s life upside-down. We were both so close to him, I couldn’t imagine either one of us only getting to be with him part-time, or taking turns on holidays, I didn’t want divorce to be part of our family legacy!
Kent, however, wasn’t so sure.
At the time he bought into what society told us, “Kids are resilient, they’ll come out just fine…” He was thinking about leaving but never actually voiced it… I just knew. I could feel it, it was palpable, and I was scared to death. The depth of my pain felt like someone close to me had died, because a deteriorating relationship that you thought was so solid IS like a death.
About this same time, as our lives were spinning out of control and I was quietly crying myself to sleep into my pillow most nights, I happened to talk to my Aunt Karen…
I was still afraid to tell anyone, but just hinted to her that things weren’t great between Kent and I. She had been through a very painful divorce years earlier and this brought her to her knees, crying out to God, so she caught on easily. She cried with me and prayed with me and told me that Jesus wanted our marriage healed even more than I did. She pointed me to some good books (like this one), and Focus on the Family stories about marriages saved (I hung on every word) — these resources taught me how to be a better wife, to be more selfless, to be the person Kent needed, even when I didn’t feel like it, and how to close my mouth more and pray! It was truly a sacrifice, because someone who is snapping your head off or acting cold toward you isn’t exactly easy to treat with kindness and empathy, but for our son I kept with it, and if I failed, I just got back up and tried again.
The turning point
My heart was slowly turning toward Jesus, the only one who could help me through this, and who would never leave me, no matter what, even if my husband did. Things certainly didn’t get better overnight between us, and I wasn’t convinced they would improve – the doubts and fear about where our lives would end up could be all-consuming at times. I’ll never forget the two of us sitting on our living room couch one day, with our two-year-old playing nearby, and tears running down my cheeks. I calmly said, “If you really want to leave, just go and be done with it.” It was the hardest sentence I’ve ever uttered, but it was definitely our biggest turning point. Kent said, “But I’m afraid I’ll go and then find out that my problem wasn’t ‘us’ – you’ve been great lately. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, something is missing.” I knew just what to say, “I know what’s missing, Kent.” He knew what (who) I meant. He’d seen me reading my bible more, and for the past year or so we had been going to church again, but he didn’t have a deep connection with God yet.
One book I found through Focus on the Family was “Love Must Be Tough” by Dr. James Dobson. You MUST understand what I learned in this book: when someone feels trapped, human nature wants to get away. Not always, but often, when the door is opened wide and they are free to go, they begin to wonder if that’s really what they want. They may even begin to fear losing what they have, if you play it right. It may sound immature to ‘play games’ a little, but if you are wise, you’ll realize that even the best of us are still humans who don’t want what comes too easily to us, or who will go after what we perceive that we “can’t” have. In a solid, healthy marriage none of this is necessary, but if you want to make it through a bad spot, you’ve got to know this. First make the sacrifices to be the spouse you need to be by serving them and denying yourself so you can imitate Jesus, and then think about what I’ve explained here.
After that day something changed in him.
I kept playing it cool, drawing closer to Jesus, staying quiet and kind, and praying my guts out, but it wasn’t long and Kent was reading his Bible, too! Soon he got to know another Catholic Christian guy named Dave, who showed him what it looked like to be a real man in love with the Lord. (You don’t have to be a “weirdo” to be a committed Christian — as Chris Stefanick says, “Yes, some Christians are weird, but they were also weird before they were Christians.”)
One day he came home and told me he quit his job and had no prospects for another. Believe it or not, I was thrilled! The job was way too stressful and he worked too many hours, so I knew this was a great move for our family. Within a week he had a better paying, less stressful job, and with regular hours.
I was thanking God like crazy for how He was moving!
Soon things slowly began to heal between us. We were both reading our bibles, so God was working on each of our hearts and our lives. We got more involved in our church, and found friends that we are still very close to today. We went deeper into our faith and had discussions about things that didn’t make sense to us, so we searched out the Truth together. It’s difficult to explain how right and good and deep the connections are in your marriage when you grow together in faith as a couple, and with other Christian friends – it truly is “the abundant life” that Jesus promises when we follow Him. We are blessed with close families on both sides, a lot of good friends, with Jesus as our very best friend, of course, but here on earth, we really are each other’s best friend.
How different life would be had we given up…
We have 4 kids now, and all of that seems like a lifetime ago. I often think of how different life would be had we done what society said was okay and gave up when it was difficult.
It was the worst thing I’ve ever gone through, yet now I’m thankful it all happened, because it’s what brought me to really fall in love with Jesus. What’s neat is how He then used the muck we went through to help others – over the years other couples have come into our lives that we’ve had the chance to help through their own tough times and lead them closer to Him.
We feel so thankful that God brought us back and He can do the same for your marriage.
Here are more links and resources that might help you:
- Read Kent’s much shorter version of this story. (Scroll down at that link toward the bottom.)
- Is there passion in your marriage?
- Is your marriage in a bad spot? Don’t believe these lies.
- Helpful Marriage/Sex Books– That link has a list of books by Michelle Weiner-Davis. I’ve only read her book, “Divorce Busting”, and while it isn’t Christian-based, it still made great sense and helped me a lot when Kent & I were having marriage trouble. Also, scroll down at that link to see other books she’s written called, “The Sex-Starved Marriage” and “The Sex-Starved Wife”, both books that I think will help commenters at my post about Passion in Marriage.
- The first thing to do if your marriage is feeling rotten: rent this Fireproof movie. All the answers are there. There’s a new one out that’s really good for hurting marriages too: War Room.
- Good News About Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions About Catholic Teaching by Christopher West – another book that explains very well what the Catholic Church really teaches on often misunderstood topics.
- Hidden Keys of a Loving Lasting Marriage — this book has one section for husbands and one for wives, do not read the part for your spouse or you just get depressed for all the ways they’re not “perfect”, only read your part, so you can find new ways to be “perfect” for your spouse!
- For many marriages the problem isn’t stress-related or an emotional problem, instead their issues are in the bedroom. Remember that the estrogens from our diet (drink healthy milk without hormones and find a local source of healthy meat without hormones), along with estrogens in our environment (such as in the unsafe types of water bottles) can all lead to low libido! (Click here for safe meat if you don’t have a good local source.)
- Read how a diet without enough healthy fats can also contribute to low sex drive.
- Stressed out? Health and nutrition not high on the priority list right now?
- Read about my “food conversion” story (I used to sneak even more chocolate than I do now.)