It took 3 years after we separated, a year after we were divorced, for us to start talking to each other again. Oh, we’d had some conversations during that time, over the phone – once we’d started court proceedings in the early days, we didn’t see each other in person. It was just too hard, and never ended well. We had a few phone conversations, but primarily any communication was via my mother-in-law, or brief notes.
A few times, I had asked my husband through his mum if he wanted to start meeting face-to-face when we dropped the kids off and picked them up, but he wasn’t ready. And in hindsight, I probably wasn’t really, either. Throughout this whole time, I thought I was coping with everything fine, that I had ‘gotten over’ our marriage breakdown and was looking ahead to all the possibilities life had to offer. I certainly wasn’t living in regret and wallowing in self-pity – I was studying for my nursing degree, I had (and still have) a wonderful new family within my church and was loving the discovery of living life in Christ, I started running and had a great social life. For the first year after we separated, I went to counselling regularly and that was a huge help in learning how to live life day-to-day in the aftermath of the death of a marriage.
But there was always something missing, and for the longest time, I couldn’t work out what it was. Not in my head, anyway, but deep within, I knew what it was. I just chose to ignore it completely. He was missing, my husband, my love, the boy I knew I was going to marry even before we began. The part of my life that had grown to envelop him and his love for so many years was empty, a ragged, gaping wound. And I just ignored it, as much as I could. I thought it was easier to just pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, to fill it up with other things and to believe that a new relationship would make everything better, would make me whole again.
In fact, not at all. God wouldn’t let me ignore how I felt, wouldn’t let me pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, and slowly, over time, He led me into that space I kept trying to run away from and taught me how to just sit there and let Him love me in that place. And to do that, He started by bringing my husband and I back together, in the most uneventful of circumstances.
My mother-in-law was going to be away for a few weeks, and there wasn’t anyone else who could facilitate the kids going between our homes, so the time had come where it was up to us to start making it work. And to put it simply, it did. 3 years of being apart had given us the time and space – and grace – for the rawness of our wounds and hurts to settle, to start to heal, and we were able to feel safe with each other again. We started by meeting in a carpark and then at his mum and dad’s house, and I smile now at thinking how polite we were with each other. From the first time we met with the kids, I felt such peace and a very real sense of God’s presence, and I knew that it was His perfect timing.
And I knew that I still loved him. That I had never stopped loving him, as much as I’d tried to convince myself that I had. I perhaps didn’t love him as I did when we were married, but that deep, true, forever love was still there, and I only wanted to see the best things in life happen for him. Which, to my mind, included him meeting someone new and forming a new relationship, because he deserved that. Just like I did. I fully believed that we would both be happy in new relationships, and that we were in a place where we’d each be ok with that happening for the other.
See, I had it all planned out, because I thought I knew what would be the best thing for all of us. And really, it’s easier to start again with something new than to repair something that’s broken, isn’t it? Isn’t that what our throwaway culture tells us? Don’t worry if it’s broken, you can always get something shiny and new? It’s what I saw in broken marriages and relationships all around me – broken hearts trying to find healing and wholeness in something new, in someone new. It’s what had happened for my parents after they divorced, in that they both remarried. I thought that’s what you did after a divorce.
I saw new relationships and new marriages after divorce everywhere I looked. I didn’t see people holding onto hope for their marriage to be repaired after its’ destruction.
I didn’t see anyone believing that people can change, that what is broken can be made new.
I didn’t see people living the reality of love – myself included.
I didn’t see people fighting to hold onto what they once declared they were to committed to.
I didn’t see ‘for better or for worse’ being lived out in all its’ brutal reality.
I didn’t see people saying ‘This was my fault, too, and I know I need to change’.
And yet I still saw the beauty of love being lived real in the marriages of my friends and family who got it. Who knew that marriage was a lifetime deal, through everything that life threw at them, and that you don’t give up on your marriage or your spouse just because of how you feel.
Who knew that love isn’t a feeling, but it’s a verb, an action, a choice you make every single day.
Who were living love and marriage as God created it, a promise and a covenant that binds hearts and lives together forever.
That is where my hope came from, where the glimmer of possibility started to emerge. Not just in the words I read in scripture, not from something someone tried to tell me, but by seeing love and marriage lived for real. The good, the bad, and the ugly, the easy and the hard, the joy and the sorrow.
As my husband and I got to know each other again, I became more sensitive to everything related to love and marriage around me. it was like my senses were heightened to everything I wanted to know, I was hungry for information and examples of how to love someone, how marriage works, how you keep your commitment of ’till death do us part’. And yet I still didn’t believe that I’d need any of that for my husband and I, that we were still destined to be married to other people. Yes, I know, you can say it – I was a slow learner. Which was ok, because God is infinitely patient.
But at the same time, my senses became more attuned to the hurt and wounding that happens in marriage, and it was through this time that I developed a heart for seeing marriages not just work, but thrive. I have often said that I’ve learnt everything I know now about marriage from being divorced, and I am very grateful for the lessons along the way (although you wouldn’t have heard me saying that at the time!!!).
So my husband and I continued to get to know each other again, and slowly and cautiously started to believe that we could actually make this work, that any part of life we created to work together in wouldn’t collapse around us again. And it was in taking this risk, in having to trust God completely that I started to learn about real love, about living out love for real every day. He was making something new, bringing out beauty from the rubble and ashes, and creating new life in us.
It was only the beginning, and we were in for the ride of our lives.
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