I met my husband in seminary while working towards a Masters degree. We graduated with our Masters’ and Greg went on to get a Ph.D. Today, we have 2 beautiful children. On the surface, it appears that we are living the happily ever after of a fairy tale life. I would like to share what is below the surface of our happily ever after.
Dating as seminary students was exhilarating. Marriage, on the other hand, was exhausting. We struggled with unmet expectations, disillusionment, and miscommunication. We argued about everything including where to put the bread! The arguments often ended in confusion, sadness, and hopelessness. A few years into our marriage, I began to look outside our marriage to fill my loneliness. There was a man at work who encouraged me and made me laugh. I began sharing more intimate details with him and he understood me. I realized I enjoyed being at work with him more than going home with Greg. I was so emotionally invested with this other man that I told Greg I didn’t want to be married to him anymore.
In this explosive statement, my work relationship ended abruptly and my marriage shattered into a million pieces. I was alone. Greg was alone. I picked up my broken pieces and moved out. We stumbled around in shock for a few days before showing up at the counselor’s office, completely heartbroken and hopeless. How could Greg love me after this? How could I regain my love for him? Surely our marriage was beyond repair. The counselor agreed with us. Our marriage was dead. However, she had faith where we had none and asked if we would like to work toward a brand new marriage.
This was a crisis of belief for me. I believed in the resurrection. I knew the Spirit brought new life from death. Would He bring new life to our marriage? Greg and I slowly began working with our counselor. We spent nine months sacrificing our time, money, pride, and personalities.
During this time, Greg and I learned some valuable communication skills. For example, one of the reasons we fought so much was because we took things so personally and reacted defensively. When we learned that our emotions are the result of the actual event plus our own evaluation of the event, we were able to understand ourselves better. Once I articulated the message I received from the event, Greg could empathize with how that message may lead to sadness, guilt, or shame. Receiving empathy and a heartfelt connection, I could see beyond my evaluation of the event and entertain other interpretations of the event. As a result, we could accomplish clear communication.
Since I struggled mostly with guilt and shame, I evaluated most events through this grid. I felt guilty for giving up on our marriage and seeking fulfillment in another man. I also felt shame that I would never be fully accepted by Greg or others. I thought I would always be identified as the guilty one who was graciously received back into the marriage. I knew I could be forgiven, but I wasn’t sure if I would ever feel fully whole again. As Greg understood that I received most events through the grid of guilt and shame, he was able to speak to my heart and remain with me in my feelings until I found healing and restoration.
The turning point came when I saw how diligently Greg worked on himself, confessing how he also played a part in our failed marriage. I realized that I was not alone in my guilt and shame. More importantly, I was not alone in our marriage. We made a decision to forgive each other and we allowed God to make changes in us. My identity was no longer stained with guilt and shame, but rooted in love and newness of life.
Then one Saturday, Greg took me away and asked me to marry him again. Did I say yes out of duty to save the marriage? Did I say yes out of guilt because I was so relieved he would accept me back after what I had done? No. I said yes because the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead raised our marriage from the dead. Jesus took our sacrifices and made all things new. I give Him all the praise and glory for His gracious gift of new life.
*Author’s name is a pseudonym