Less than three years into our marriage and so late one night it was more early morning, my husband and I found ourselves with a new baby and casually discussing our divorce. To my sleepless, hormone-warped brain, someone describing heat to a person who’s never touched a hot skillet was about as effective as hearing that ‘marriage can be hard’ inside our growing family. The beauty had been as indescribable, but also welcome, and not a shock to my system. We had believed happily ever after and I was not prepared for this actual real honeymoon’s-over, shoestring-budget, baby yack-stained life.
I had grown up accepting that divorce was not necessarily good or bad: it just was. But I knew that when things got bad for awhile (read hard), it was time to go. If I hadn’t been born a runner, I sure learned fast over the years and my mind was already exploring practical escape routes. I remember where I was standing in our tiny room, the invisible speck on the bookshelf my eyes were glued to, the way my voice wavered when I whispered:
’I guess this is it for us.’
I was just as cool about the assumption as he was laid-back about taking it off the table.
‘Divorce is not an option, baby.’
My pride-puffed heart wadded right up at the soft and firm way he said it and I believed him. I had learned in our newlywed class at church not to let the sun go down on your anger, and that night I didn’t care and I went to sleep still madder than a wet hen. But something shifted and divorce became not an option.
And we started over again the next day.
My friend Molly is collecting letters on marriage as a wedding gift for her newly engaged friend. Her text last week:
Will you kick it off for me??? :))))
She knows I am writing a book on marriage. I am writing the book I needed to read the night I tried to make my husband leave. I consider the weight and honor it is explaining to someone the best way to come down a road you have travelled before them. Knowing some of the good parts they should slow down and not miss and also the holes they’ll find themselves stuck in on occasion. Heavy on either side has never been the truth of the whole matter and a marriage hangs in the good tension: not too Cinderella and not too Nightmare on Elm Street. What is the very best advice?
Should I tell her the lifelong importance of pursuit? Friendship? How sometimes serving each other will feel like a little death and it’s fine?
Should I try my hand at eloquence? Or stay cheeky? Maybe reverent?
Should I quote Jesus, Johnny Swim or Johnny Cash?
I think maybe yes to all and spend the morning folding clothes and writing half-drafts in my head in hopes of pinning some of these words to paper later for her friend.
It’s later that same day and I am mad at my husband. Why? Neither of us knows for sure. Could be a deadline, holiday-tight jeans, the sting of a recent loss, or a teenager. A skillet can get hot for a hundred reasons and it still burns the same way. The temperature is below freezing outside and still warmer than I was to him this morning. I hear St. Benedict whisper in my ear as he always does whenever I am in a posture to listen, ‘Always we begin again.’
I smile and know that this is it, pick up my phone to call to begin to make things right. And we started over for the millionth time in all these years together.
As we will always do.