Thoughtful Thursday: Second Chances

My husband, Curtis, and I have been struggling in our marriage for quite a long time. We have been working hard for the last couple of years in counseling and had a good spell last year, then in October we hit another pretty rough patch. We’ve been married for 12 years.

We separated in November.

After a particularly ugly weekend, I closed my heart to him. I was done. For the 2 months, I just went through the motions trying to figure out how I was going to manage my life without him. We continued to go to counseling but had to take a break after Christmas for financial reasons. Last week we began talking about one of our core issues and I felt again that it was hopeless. Curtis gave me the space to be, to think, to process. He asked me on Friday for a decision. Work on it or walk away… though his wish was to work on it. The ball was in my court.

I was anguished. I didn’t want to stay married and be so unhappy. So many of our core issues are so big and will require so much work, compromise, and change that it seems overwhelming and daunting. Actually divorcing seems equally awful and it is hard to imagine the toll on our children (our separation has been less complicated since Anna and I are staying with my mom who lives 2 houses to our right). I truly didn’t know what to do.

I am not by nature a religious person though I do feel a connectedness to something bigger than myself. How I define God and my spirituality is an intensely personal experience and something I do not often talk about with anyone. But in this case, I really feel as though something bigger than me had a hand in my decision and I’m eager to share this with anyone who is interested in reading about it.

I’ve been using the analogy of a door to symbolize where we are. For a while, the door was closed… me on one side and him on the other. Around Christmas, it was cracked open and I could see a light. Last week, I could feel Curtis’s hand on the door… but I was still on the other side and not sure I wanted to open that door. Since he was willing to continue working on it and I was not sure, it felt selfish of me to say, “It’s over.” I kept coming back to that his hand was still on the door. How could I leave? We are a team, we took vows, we have a special needs daughter that will need us forever, we have shared so much, and have so much at stake. This decision would have to be OUR decision, not mine… and if he wasn’t making the same decision as I was, then I had to really consider my motivations. So I spent Friday in a torment of pain and uncertainty and loneliness wondering what to do.

In my own way, I decided to pray about it. I began thinking of what life is all about to me and what my purpose is here. For me, life is about love. It’s about what and how other people feel about themselves when interacting with me (I hope they feel good); it’s about being the best mom I can be to each of my children and recognizing that they need different things from me; it’s about being a good daughter to my parents and trying to pay back all that they’ve done for me; it’s about living in the moment, being truly present, paying attention, and being mindful; it’s about being kind, giving, and loving. It’s also about being a partner and sharing this experience with someone else.

Jenny always has a stack of books with her. I hardly ever have to pick out a book to read, I can rely on her to be my book finder and recommend something wonderful to read. What does this have to do with this weekend? Everything as you’ll soon see.

Jenny gave me a book to read called “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young. Her boyfriend’s mother lent it to her and she had started it and hadn’t finished it. I picked it up and read a few pages and thought it was a murder mystery. (If I had known the genre before, I’m not sure I would’ve read it.) The story started out sounding like a true story and it was a couple of chapters in before I realized it was fiction. If you’re not familiar with this book, let me summarize. A man’s young daughter is murdered and he is lost in pain, anger, and sadness for years. One day he gets a note, apparently from God, to visit the shack where his daughter’s bloody clothes are found. He returns to the shack to spend a weekend in the company of God.

I want to share some passages from the book that really resonated with me:

“When you choose independence over relationship, you become a danger to each other.”
“If you had truly learned to regard each other’s concerns as signficant as your own, there would be no need for heirarchy.”
The theory is that humanity should be in relationship with each other, not in power or heirarchy over one another. To me, this is how I would really like my marriage defined. I was considering choosing independence over relationship and I knew that path would bring me, Curtis, and our children definite unhappiness… whereas staying, there was a chance for healing and happiness. There has also been a dimension of power and control in our relationship that I don’t want present anymore, but perhaps that has been my own perceptions and filters and not reality. The other thing that hit me square in the forehead is that the word “relationship” is used as a verb in this context. We are in relationship with each other, not in a relationship. That feels very powerful to me.

“To force my will on you, is exactly what love does not do. Genuine relationships are marked by submission even when your choices are not helpful or healthy.”
Now this does not mean that I will be a submissive wife, lol! To me this means that when you love someone so much, that their needs exceed your own… that their happiness becomes your primary concern. When I read this passage, I kept thinking about Curtis’s hand on the door. To be genuine to myself and to our relationship with each other, I could not walk away from that. Because I love him so much, and he was not ready to let go, I needed to give this another chance.

“If anything matters, then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will every be the same again.”
I have always believed this and have tried to live my life in this manner from every interaction with strangers, to friends, to my family, children, and husband. If something is important to him, it’s important to me, and vice versa. It’s so easy to lose sight of this in daily living, easy to get caught up in petty drama, reacting instead of preventing, judging instead of loving. This is something in which I want to strive to do better. Life is all about this moment, this one right now! Being mindful about that helps to maintain my focus on my purpose.

Some of these messages are things I have been saying to Curtis over the years. I have been trying to live in a marriage like this and attempting to articulate these ideas but that magical moment of “aha!” had not yet happened for both of us at the same time. I read these passages out loud to him and was so excited to share that the thoughts I had been ruminating, meditating, and praying about were expressed in this very interesting book.

I have reached my “aha!” moment. I want a second chance, I want to give him another chance, I want to give me another chance, I want to give us another chance. Without taking risks, how will I ever know if this could bring me happiness? There are no guarantees, we could do all of this hard work and realize that our core differences are just too big and require too much compromise and that in the end, we can’t or don’t want to change so much of ourselves that we don’t even recognize the person in the mirror… but I do love him and I love him so much that his hand on the door has opened that door wide. Until we BOTH close the door, it will remain open.

Thank you for sharing in my profound moment and for being by my side in this process. Now go out there and LOVE!!!

“If anything is important, then everything is important.”

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