Last night at Celebrate Recovery something that was said reminded me of a time I like to forget. A decision I made out of hurt, yes, but looking back more out of spite and anger.
It was several years ago but I see the parking lot clearly. Some details I’ve forgotten, but the important ones remain.
Rob had to serve 10 days in a local jail for something…I don’t remember what anymore…an old unpaid fine from a DUI I think…We were in the middle of about a 5 year period where I would get tired of his drinking and everything that came with that and make him leave. Only to let him come back a few months later when he either found a job or had his drinking “under control”.
I repeated this pattern over and over for around 5 years…starting when our baby, Savannah, was only 8 months old. I moved the girls and I out and told him he wasn’t coming with us. That I was done.
He never knew when the day would come. What would push me over the edge. Or how long it would be until I’d want him to come home after I’d made him leave.
Sometimes it was a huge fight. Other times I think maybe he was as relieved as I was to get away from the constant arguing over his drinking.
Except that one time. Yes, his drinking was bad. I was tired of living that way. I wanted to start over. I thought life was unbearable with him. I was hurt by things he said. I was angry at him for not even wanting to stop drinking. I didn’t want to go through another fight to get him to leave. I wanted it to be easy.
I deserved a clean break.
I was doing what was best for our girls.
So. While he was in jail. Missing Alex’s birthday. At her birthday party, I told one of his brothers, smugly. Seriously. . Smugly. That I was kicking him out. Those were my words. That I didn’t care where he went when he got out, but he wasn’t coming home.
I told his parents. He can’t come to my house when he gets out. At their granddaughters birthday party.
And. I. Felt. Relief.
And I was proud of myself.
And I Did. Not. Care. How it made him feel.
I wanted to hurt him. He deserved to hurt as much as he had hurt me.
I wanted revenge.
But more than anything, when life got messy, I wanted to run.
So more often than not, I did.
With my self-righteous, I’m doing this for the girls, attitude.
I taught my girls that when life gets messy…run.
I showed our girls that their daddy was not worth fighting for. That our relationship was not worth fighting for.
And now. When a wife comes to me and says. I don’t think I can take One. More. Thing. If he does it again, I’m done. I can’t say. I stayed. I stuck it out. Because I didn’t. I ran. As soon as it got too messy…too hard. I ran. And I ran for 5 years.
So what I say instead. With tears in my eyes still, every time.
No. I didn’t stay. And I will always regret not staying. Because my twisted reasoning that I was protecting my girls hurt them. Maybe more than his drinking.
It hurt Rob. I showed him over and over that he was not worth fighting for. That my love was completely conditional.
3 years ago, during a marriage counseling session that I went to alone because Rob was already drunk and didn’t want to show up at church like that, an amazing, God-led pastor talked with me and said something that went completely against every thing people had been telling me for years.
Take divorce off the table. You have to decide this is not ever going to be an option.
I argued with him. Pleaded my case. Asked him how can you tell me his drinking isn’t a reason to leave? Isn’t letting him stay, even if it’s good for him, bad for the girls? You don’t know what it’s like in our home. If you did, you wouldn’t say this to me.
debated…that’s not the right word. I don’t have the right word. He was right. I was torn. I knew in my heart he was right. I didn’t want him to be right. I wanted to be right.
Life was messy. And I was looking for permission to run. Again.
I didn’t get permission.
Rob didn’t stop drinking that day. That week. That month. It didn’t get easier by taking divorce off the table.
It got harder. I couldn’t just say, if you don’t stop drinking, I’m leaving. I had to stop threatening.
I’d like to say I never said it again. I’d like to say from that day I never threatened.
Except. 3 months later. After a few days of him “leaving to go to work” only to come back home after I’d left. The final straw. When one of his brothers called me and said. Rob didn’t come to work today. And I drove home. Found the car on the other side of the neighborhood. Unlocked. Keys inside. Floor boards all muddied up. Rob nowhere to be found.
He came home around 10 that night. Barely able to walk. Mumbling something about having spent the day “hiking” in the woods behind our neighborhood.
The next morning I left for work, waited until he thought it was safe to come back home from pretending to leave for work, then came back home. Told him the girls and I were leaving. That I didn’t care what he did. I wasn’t mad. I was just done.
As I was packing, he came back to the bedroom, crying. I’ll go to rehab. Please help me. Even if you don’t stay, please help me.
And I remembered what Pastor Steve had said. Take divorce off the table. It cannot be an option ever again.
So I stopped. Took him to rehab. Which is a whole other story.
6 months later. He relapsed. And this time. I didn’t take divorce off the table. Because it wasn’t on the table.
Life got messy. Messier than ever. And I stayed. And 5 months later. He quit drinking. And in 5 days, he will have been sober for 2 years.
Our marriage isn’t perfect. We still go to marriage counseling. We still argue sometimes. We don’t have it all figured out.
But we’re together. We made it. Our girls have both parents. We don’t alternate weekends. Or deal with step parent issues. Or blended family drama.
I love my husband. I am loved by my husband.
So when I say to someone ready to give up, I know where you are. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I tell them the rest of the story.
I give them the precious gift I was given by someone who cared enough about me, Rob, our girls, our marriage, to say what I didn’t want to hear and not back down.
Stay. Divorce is not an option.
It’s hard. I know it’s hard. It hurts. Oh, honey, I know how much it hurts. I don’t think I can take one more thing. You can’t. In your own strength, you will break. But in your brokenness, you will find healing and peace that only God can give you.
I can’t promise you your marriage will get better tomorrow. Or next year. Or ever. It took us 18 years. My biggest regret is the 5 years I spent breaking my commitment over and over. My greatest joy came from staying. Being broken. Empty. But staying. Waiting for God’s plan. His timing. His plan for my marriage.
Life’s messy. Everyone’s mess looks a little different. Sometimes a lot different.
Choose to stay. Stay in the messy. Stay in the broken. Stay when you can’t take One. More. Thing.
You never know what beautiful things will come out of staying.