A couple of months ago, I was asked a difficult question by one of my readers.
If you could do [marriage] all over again, what would you do differently?
I froze. It seems impossible to deliver eloquent wisdom, when my answer seems to continuously change with time.
I feel as if I’ve gotten past the constant emotional state of my divorce, and towards a stable, steady path of healing and forgiveness. I don’t think of myself as “divorced” as much as I do “single”. But suddenly, a memory will pop up, or I’ll actually hear from X’s ass face. My blood pressure rises, and I immediately want to punch him out.
I may be a Christian, but I’m still human.
I’ve noticed still-tender wounds and scars in dating relationships. Recently, I found myself not believing that someone would love me for me. How would he not quickly discard me for someone else?
That’s fucked up.
But it’s all part of the process.
What astounds me sometimes is the fact I was married to X for ten years. That length of time is not something you can undo overnight. It helps to have little to no contact with him, and, despite the initial shock and hurt, it really helps that he re-married so quickly (albeit illegally). I want, very much, to wish him well. At the same time, I want nothing to do with him, ever. We will never be friends, and I’m quite fine with that. The person he became is grossly unattractive to me. And, to be fair, I’m probably equally as unattractive to him.
For as long as we both shall live, however, neither one of us can escape the fact we were married for ten years. Surely we had something good. I loved him fiercely. I know he loved me. I will never deny that. Yet, as time continues to march on, I can look back and see how different we once were — happy, in love and with similar life goals — and how quickly we grew apart. Sometimes I think we were just too young. I was as naïve as good little Christian girls get. I have often wondered if I was just a fool to have married my first love. But then I think about my best friend in high school – most definitely my very first love (I was too afraid to admit it) — and wonder, if I had married him, would we have survived?
There are no guarantees. Just choices.
As comically messy as my marriage became, it is very easy for me to point the finger at X and blame him for the entire disaster. Having been a part of his life for fourteen years, we knew one another deeply; intimately. I may not have had an affair(s), but I admittedly put my career above my marriage. I was selfish and dropped the ball, too. I am equally to blame for what went wrong. That’s marriage. It takes two.
Wow. It is not easy for me to say that. At all.
With all the self-awareness and introspection I have experienced over the past three years of my singlehood, I have come to the realization that an extramarital affair is just a symptom of a greater problem. It makes me profoundly sad my ex husband felt he had to seek what he needed outside of our relationship.
Yet Tim Keller says it best in his book, The Meaning of Marriage :
“Why discard your partner for someone else only to discover that person’s deep, hidden flaws?”
What I know of relationship now is so much different from what I practiced in my own marriage. For example, if I seek my identity in my partner, I will always be disappointed. I will crush him with my expectations, and he will crush me with his imperfections. Neither one of us will ever be complete in just each other. X would have never made me whole. Only God can do that. Consequently, any man with whom I enter into relationship again cannot fill that God-shaped hole in my heart.
I sound so cheesy right now. But it’s the truth. I am only just discovering the ability to enjoy being alone and not feeling empty. God is with me, always. I need Him, always. I cannot do this life on my own. Not for a second. He is the only one who can hold me when I’m hurting; He is the only one who can love me unconditionally and perfectly. I am wholly, completely His. Any relationship in addition to that is just an added blessing.
So, what would I do differently?
Everything and nothing.
I am grateful for a second chance at love, relationship, and hopefully, marriage someday. I will give it everything I’ve got, round two. Again, there are no guarantees, but I am ready to try, especially with someone who chooses to stick with me, and I him. It will be worth it. I believe it with my entire being.
I would not be who I am today were it not for my divorce, and all the moments – good and bad! — leading up to it. I wish my marriage hadn’t failed, but, four years later, I’m actually relieved it did. I wish hadn’t acted so crazy in the end. I wish I hadn’t said hurtful things. I actually imagine, someday, X will forgive me, and I him, and our lives will continue to drift in sharp, contrasting directions on the vast, unending sea of grace.
Leslie , that was/is powerful. Thank you for sharing your heart ….
You are welcome! Thank you for commenting!
i had a strong reaction to this, and please don’t post if it’s counterproductive or wrong.. i am not feeling the sea of grace that you are, and i’m still mad at him for what he did.
i think that at the end he was such a coward – like a dog that poops on the floor and looks up at you for punishment. he was a liar and mindnumbingly passive – he couldn’t even say what he needed, and made you act on his behalf. what a man.
he took months-long trips for years with his friends – and usually they weren’t even for work, it was just hanging out and avoiding responsibility. you did go away for a 6-month job with his consent (people do that for work / military all the time!) – and he didn’t last a month before turning it against you. for all those other years, you waited patiently for him to come home, taking care of the house and pets. he found drugs and trashy girls. nice.
anyhow… this is just to say that i admire the strength that you have had and that you have developed – and that i don’t see you as equals, the one who stands bravely and the one who runs away. he chose a life of z-level “celbrity” (hardly) and drugs, whereas you are seeking yourself, god, strength, awareness, joy, life. he got a master’s degree in linguistics and then went into a world where most people have no education and can’t even write a sentence longer than “dude”. he went in not to help them, but to become one of them. something is seriously wrong.
he was wonderful when you met him – he changed and went black, a lying stinking piece of shit. so – i’m not feeling the grace right now.. forgive me for that. i wish he and his friends would stay in the sewer where they belong.
and you – keep shining and shining.
No need for forgiveness for speaking your heart. You’re absolutely right. You saw it all, you experienced the shit show first-hand; you know more details than I ever care to, about X’s affairs. Furthermore, you, too, suffered the manipulation of those little boys masquerading as Christian men.
I guess my point in accepting some responsibility is that I tire of people pointing fingers and playing the victim card. We’re all broken; we all make mistakes. Unless we face our failures, hurts and fears, we’re never going to grow.
It takes an extremely mature person to own it — and I might as well be the one to do it. I know, deep down, had I *not* left for NYC in February, 2009, the Ukrainian affair would still have occurred.
Yes, he *was* absolutely wonderful when I met him. I mourn the loss of that potential man. But not too much. I have moved forward and met *other* wonderful men. I will meet many more.
And, through it all, WE grew. Just like Andy Dufresne (“Shawshank Redemption”), you and I (and all those of us formerly involved with that cast of characters) “escaped to freedom through shit-smelling foulness no one can imagine, or would want to. We crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”
That was beautiful… Yep, I agree. That last line. Soooo profound. Thanks again for your vulnerability Leslie. It helps people. It really does. xo
You are welcome, Sara. Thank you for the encouragement! xo!
..vast, unending sea of grace. yep.
A truly Christian marriage is not held together as much by vows made to each other but rather by vows made to God. Infidelity rips apart not only the fiber between a man and a woman but also the vows we have made to God. There is never an excuse or reason for an affair that is good enough to justify it. We all do things wrong and make mistakes in our marriages but thank God those things don’t give the other justification for an affair in God’s eyes. Or in other words, Leslie, don’t take too much of the blame here. He crapped on you and there’s no other reason you got divorced.
Thank you, Lois! I agree with you, wholeheartedly, about infidelity destroying the fiber of relationship, and there is no excuse good enough to justify it. It’s even worse when someone wants out of a marriage and purposely cheats so they’ll have the excuse, rather than face the problems, head-on.
I’ll never know, fully, the reasons my ex husband cheated; what year he actually started. I really don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter anymore. However, looking back, I wish he would have just asked for a divorce instead of turn into the self-professed monster he chose to become.
At the same time, I hesitate at giving him any credit. Much to his literary chagrin, he did *not* destroy me. He cannot hurt me, ever again.
I accept some of the blame because, yes, we all make mistakes in our marriages. I’ve seen marriages survive infidelity, and it’s actually inspiring. But it takes two incredibly broken-yet-determined people to work together to repair a relationship after an affair(s). Not easy. It can be done, though. And the result is beautiful.
He crapped on me, Lois, but I like to think of the crap in a beautiful way, a la “The Shawshank Redemption.” The main character, innocent Andy Dufresne, chips away at his prison cell wall for twenty years, and finally escapes. His final leg to freedom is having to make his way through the prison’s sewer pipes.
Morgan Freeman narrates his escape.
“Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to. Five hundred yards… that’s the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile…”
“Andy Dufresne…crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”
Wow. Thank you for sharing. That was so helpful.
I’m so glad! Thank you, Jonathan!