Thursday, August 20, 2015

That time my marriage fell apart...

I'm not sure how to start this post. I know that it's going to be raw, it's going to be intimate, it's going to be difficult to read at times. But I also hope that it's going to be helpful. I hope that it's going to be encouraging. I hope that it's going to be the right amount of honesty and transparency, so that it becomes relatable and impactful.

I'd like to say I could jump right into the purpose of this post (and its sister post, yet to come) without any background, but I can't. As much as this is about the present and the future, it is very much about the past. Our history. My husband and I started dating when we were 17. The weekend after high school graduation, we moved in together. Within the next year, we bought a house together. Shortly thereafter, we were engaged to be married and my husband joined the Navy. Within months we were married and he was gone--off to become a sailor. A few short months later, we were back together and within days we were expecting our first son. Over the course of the next few years, we moved several times, faced three deployments, suffered a miscarriage, and had another son. We piled so much triumph and so much heartbreak into a very short span of time. It would have been impossible to go through all that without it having some effect on our relationship. Over time, the strain of normal marital conflicts became heightened by the somewhat abnormal situation we were in. For years at a time, he was either gone or we were preparing for him to leave. Neither one of us really had time to adjust to being parents, that is, not as a team. We were young, we were naive, we were struggling to keep our heads above water. He'd leave for awhile and when he came back there would be a period of confusion as we settled in. On some level it was like reliving the honeymoon phase over and over. On another level, it was like having an intruder come into your life and rearrange it, just when you thought you had it under control. Just as things began to even out, he'd be gone again and the process would start over. Issues arose between us--I want to say they were your typical issues that you deal with in becoming adults, parents, and learning to live in a life-long partnership. But those issues were never addressed. It seemed wrong to spend any time fighting when he was home, yet without addressing the issues, the distance between us grew and grew until even when he was home, we were miles apart.

In late 2013, he returned from his third and longest deployment. It was a whirlwind for us--we changed duty stations shortly thereafter. We were under a great deal of stress but we were trying to find our new normal. We were both trying to adjust--him to being back to the daily grind, to having two little boys constantly needing him and watching his every move, to being face-to-face with a wife that was overwhelmed and anxious--me to being hundreds of miles away from the family and friends I had at our last duty station, to trying to enjoy having my husband back but feeling terribly alone at the same time.
2014 was by far the most difficult year in our marriage. It seemed like everything that had been building up finally came to a head. He was angry. I was hurt. We were both confused. How had everything gotten so tangled up?
We had made up our minds--the other person was the enemy. We fought daily--big blow up fights. Screaming, someone was always storming out and driving off. I look back and I think about our sweet boys, what we put them through in those moments and I feel a knot in my stomach. We welcomed their daddy home and ushered them into a world of constant chaos. We both had our minds set on retribution. We knew that we weren't innocent, but the other person was definitely more responsible for the pain and discord in our marriage. We waited for each other to "come around" and while we waited, we drifted further and further apart.
I remember one day, I walked into the bathroom to put away a stack of towels and instead of placing them on the shelf, I stuck my face in them and sobbed. I felt, in that moment, that it was no longer a matter of "if", it was a matter of "when". I truly believed my marriage was over.
We'd talked it out a hundred times. I'd prayed. I'd called my mom crying at all hours of the day. I'd sought advice from friends. We even went to marriage counseling. What else could we do? It seemed damaged beyond repair.

One weekend in early November, my mom had taken the boys to give us some time to spend alone. Our date night ended with a huge argument, he left the house and I went to bed crying. The next day we didn't say a word to each other until late in the afternoon. I approached him and said we needed to talk. After talking a short period of time, we both came to the same conclusion: It was time to call it quits. We sat down and began to discuss a plan for the boys and for our finances. Most of that conversation is a blur to me, but I know at one point he said "Well, this is what we both want."
God, those words sounded so foreign. They felt numb and empty and at the same time they cut like a knife. I looked at my husband and said "Is this what you want? Not having you, not being together as a family..that's the last thing I want."
I don't know what it was about that moment but our relationship that had been so murky and muddy for months suddenly seemed crystal clear. We sat and cried together, we hugged, we put on our song and danced and cried some more.
Somewhere along the way we had forgotten that we were working toward the same goal. Somewhere we had forgotten that we were not competitors, but teammates. We were both so concerned with our own hurt feelings that our focus became on fixing the past rather than securing the future. We vowed in that moment that we weren't going to be those people anymore--we were going to hold on to what we had, we were going to fight like hell, and we were going to love more fiercely than we hurt.

We continued counseling and truly put all our efforts into it. We realized that until we were real with ourselves, we could never be real with each other. I'm not going to say it was easy but it was such worthy work. Within a matter of weeks, things were different. Now, some 9 months later, things are worlds apart from what they were last year. Our relationship is stronger and yet more tender than it has ever been. Our love for one another is easier and yet more intentional than it has been in years. I could not be happier and I'm actually thankful for the difficult times we faced. After being in a valley, the mountaintop seems that much more rewarding. I believe I know my husband better than I did before our hard times. I see more of him..I understand him better..I love him to the deepest depths of my heart.

I want to share with you all a bit of insight into how we turned our marriage around--some things I wish I would have known all along but am so very thankful to understand now. But, as you know, I can be long-winded and this is probably enough for one post. Lol.

Here you've seen the history and in my next post you will see the future. To be continued, my friends... :)