When I was going through these months of pain I really wondered if anyone else had ever felt what I was feeling? Had anyone else in the church or christian world been where I was? Because if they had they certainly weren’t talking about it. The whole point of the gospel of Christ, as I imperfectly understand it, is that we mess up and God saves us. We are not perfect or great or good or capable of negotiating this life without mishap or disaster. I wanted to put up my hand and identify with fallen humanity. I wanted to stand up at the front of my church and say, hey I did this, and I did it because I thought I wasn’t loved, and my husband and I are trying to find our way through and we really need you to love us and support us and share your stories and cry with us and pray with us and get rid of your picture perfect ideas of marriage and life because they are not real.
That didn’t happen.
So instead I hid away. I didn’t go to church , I withdrew from friendships, I increased my dose of anti-depressant medication. I tried to work but it was difficult. I was scared of staying at home and I was frightened to go out. Contrary to his promises to me, the other had remained in the area and having received abusive messages from his family members I was terrified of them appearing at my door, or meeting them when I was out. I was ashamed and grief stricken.
The most I was capable of was to choose each day that I would stay, and I determined that I would keep doing that for as many days as I could. I told myself that each day I stayed would be one day less that my children had separated parents.
I remembered the words that had been given to me by our marriage counselor friend on holiday; ‘when you make decisions try to choose the option which helps you face towards each other rather than away’. I was frightened by the thought of big decisions but it turned out that every day was made up of small decisions which could turn us towards each other or away from each other.
Would we choose to drink a cup of tea in our bedroom together first thing in the morning, or would we begin our days separately? Would we talk about what we were both going to do during each day? Would we eat our evening meal together? Would we spend the evening in separate rooms and go to bed at different times? Would we share the chores and parenting, or would we act as a tag team and never be in the same place at the same time? We began to make the small changes. That was my way of allowing the possibility of hope.
They sound like easy changes, but they were so difficult. We had not been living like that for a long time. To help you understand how very damaged our relationship was I want to tell you about the most challenging thing we undertook to do together in those early weeks of adjustment.
Every Saturday morning one of our children had a swimming lesson which involved one of us sitting by the pool for thirty minutes. Taking our child to swimming became our one commitment to time together each week. 30 minutes beside a swimming pool. The awkwardness of sitting with each other in a public space was almost unbearable on the first few occasions. I didn’t want to identify as part of a couple. As part of that couple. But by the pool we couldn’t get away from each other; our child kept looking up to check that we were still there. I didn’t want to talk so I brought my diary and used the time doing household planning for the week ahead.
It was all I could do, and I’ve discovered that that can be enough when God is also involved.