Lonely, scared, angry, bitter, distraught, hope less, self-absorbed, desperate…
Those words all described me twenty years ago.
I married my teenage sweetheart, so excited about the life we would have together. He worked ridiculously long hours in a recording studio. Our marriage soon lost its newly wedded bliss shine.
We got into a rut of just getting through each week. I was mainly on my own and he was totally wrung out. Once or twice a year I would have a melt down and say I couldn’t carry on. Neither of us could see an alternative so that moment would pass and we would just put our heads down and plod on… and on… and on…
Proverbs 13:12 Hope Deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
I didn’t realize what effect that had all had on me until years later. In my mind (and to many around me) I became the victim, the abandoned one
Taking on that identity fed everything I did, everything I was, everything I felt.
I continued to be really involved in church life, and enjoyed much of what I was doing, but every so often it would hit me that I was doing it all mainly without my husband.
Something inside of me ached.
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A Dangerous Connection
I longed for that deeper connection. Longed to work with the person I had agreed to spend the rest of my life with. When God tried to heal my hurting heart with His love, I turned away as it was too painful.
Another man, also married and part of our church, started listening to me. He was engaging with me and extending friendship towards me. I lapped up the attention.
To begin with it was all so innocent – we were all friends: he and his wife and me and my husband.
Of course, my husband didn’t get to socialize with us that often, but I felt accepted by this other couple.
Then things began to develop one on one via email.
One day He told me he was leaving his wife the following week, with or without me. He needed to know if I would go too. I was shocked. It had come somewhat out of the blue, but, after a night wrestling with the idea, I said “yes”.
I jumped at what I thought would be a way to find happiness, a way to find someone who really cared enough for me.
After two very bizarre weeks, in which I swung from feeling loved and accepted to experiencing stinging loneliness and fear that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life, he told me he needed to go back to his wife.
I was left reeling, afraid and unable to really process what had happened. He had had the courage to do what needed to be done, but it left me feeling like a worthless worm – and I kept telling myself I deserved it all.
And all our friends knew too, so what would they say now?! What would my life become? I was staying at a friend’s house, totally in limbo…
I actually rang my husband without even thinking of the effect it would have on him – he had always been my go-to person (before all this had started) and my knee jerk reaction was to involve him.
The grace, care and love I received from him was what saved our marriage.
He dropped everything. Told his boss what was going on. He left the recording session he was running and came straight to me. Picked me up, grabbed my belongings and took me home. Then the very next day he drove me to my parent’s house, leaving me there.
It must have been so hard for him to leave me to return back to our home, not knowing if our marriage would survive or not.
Right from the time I had told him I was leaving, he had fought for our marriage in prayer. Now he was showing me in a very practical way that he meant it.
Time for healing
It took me a good few months:
- Wrestling with God
- Crying over the pain of loss of someone I had actually grown to love dearly
- I had to get to a place of working through
- Then letting go of all the hurt from the early years of our marriage
I had some well-meaning people tell me -I had to get back to my marriage and everything would sort itself out. I found that so unhelpful.
Eventually we did counseling (and renewed our vows) with a couple. The woman said to me, ‘You’ve experienced so much hurt. You need to deal with that before you can decide whether your marriage can be saved’.
Finally I felt heard. Validated. Given Hope.
Someone realized what happened had happened because I was still a hurting young child inside, who had been full of romantic notions of what marriage would be like.
I had to piece my life back together, hand in hand with God.
I had to admit I had been foolish. Admit I went my own way not listening to Him when He first spoke into the emotions of this situation. Admit I was wrong.
Then I had to get to a place of allowing Him to place hope back into my heart.
- Hope for my relationship with God
- That it could get to that place of intimacy He had laid out for me years before.
- Hope for my marriage
- That I could feel such deep love for my husband, Steve, again.
Steve was so patient, so gentle, so kind with me. I have learned so much during the years since this time. Steve revealed Jesus’ love for me in a way I’d never experienced before. That is what began to work in my heart. I knew that God had drawn us together from a young age.
God had great purposes for us as a couple – I’d just lost hope in that over the years.
I saw other couples split up and wondered, ‘Why won’t God allow our Marriage to end?’ I certainly wrestled with that question, but, deep down, I knew He had placed Steve and I together for a reason. He had a bigger plan for our lives.
Now I can see the way God has weaved His tapestry of grace in our lives.
My husband leads the church we are in. I am in leadership roles and work alongside him often. We are privileged to come alongside couples who are struggling in their marriages. He definitely does ‘work all things together for good’!
We have found that being real about how tough it can be immediately gives others permission to admit their own struggles.
Too often the (sometimes unintentional) message our churches can give off is that Christian marriage is perfect, and there should never be any struggles.
But the reality is marriage is hard! Living with someone who has many differences to us is one of the ways that God hones our characters – but the process isn’t easy!
Knowing that it is okay to voice our problems – to ourselves, to each other and to third parties who are supportive, prayerful and non-judgmental – allows us to keep hope alive! It gives us the courage to face and deal with difficulties.
For us, it meant a long journey, of repentance, forgiveness and learning to put God and our relationship first. We had to make many practical changes too.
Steve has again been so gracious in allowing me to share our story in a book, Taking Off the Mask, which is publishing in November (you can preorder it in the UK, or it will be available in the US on publication day. I will also be selling the book on my website.
An ongoing journey
The challenges of keeping ‘the main thing the main thing’ is difficult even now, even though we see a lot more of each other, and minister together regularly. But we are not completely floored by the pressures anymore. We’ve learned that God stands with us, holding us together.
We may have to regroup, go through the process of repentance and forgiveness again, but we know we don’t have to do it all in our strength.
God provides the wisdom, love, grace, courage, hope and energy that we need to make our marriage a success – in His eyes. And He has fresh supplies for us daily!
Thank you Claire for Taking your mask off and sharing with us so vulnerably!
You can find out more about her at www.clairemusters.com and follow her on twitter @CMusters. If you would like to be a part of her online launch group for her new book, and get involved with discussions as well as the chance to read the book before publication, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/730066273860021/