No One I Loved Had Ever Wounded Me So Deeply: grieving the reality of a marriage

Before my husband and I were married people told us, “Marriage is hard.” Along with these people, another camp kept telling us about how wonderful it was too. So, which was it? We got along so well, had so many common interests and tastes, and we wanted to be together all the time. We were in love. But reality slowly brought the darkness. A few days before our wedding, my soon-to-be husband began displaying a level of anger I had never witnessed before. I stayed quiet, though, taking comfort in the fact that I at least was not the object of wrath. But on the way to our honeymoon destination, I forgot an important item of ours on the plane only to realize I’d left it behind when we arrived at the honeymoon suite.

A slow subtle stream of passive-aggressive anger began to invade my husband and permeate the air. As I sensed the anger in the heavy silence I felt afraid and confused. I sat on the bed crying as he silently sunk deeper into the bubble bath across the room from me. Later he came over and held me, but there was no explanation or resolution to the incident. Even after a month of being back home, there was no resolution when I asked him what happened. I felt deep shame and kept the incident a secret. I didn’t want anyone to know the real man I married. I didn’t want anyone to think badly of him. So I buried it.

I expected my past to be my future.

At that point in my life, no one I loved had ever wounded me so deeply. I grew up with a father who never hurt me or disappointed me. He rarely showed any form of anger to me, and even at the slightest bit of discord he would confess his sin and ask my forgiveness. My mom and dad had a generally healthy relationship. I would hear the occasional argument from my room, but none threatened the unity of their marriage.

I grew up in the church and my dad led me to the Lord at the age of twelve. I had times of rebellion, but my life never seemed to spiral out of control too much. I stayed in the church and remained strong in my faith. My family valued our relationship with one another and honest communication. My parents were not just physically present, but spiritually and emotionally involved with me as well. My family roots were strong and stable, and this formed my expectations for my husband and our marriage.

I expected my husband to talk with me, share his struggles, and even confess his sins. I expected my past family experience to be our foundation at the outset, instead of it being a process we worked towards together. But I was naive. I didn’t know about how my husband’s background and family experience would affect our marriage. I didn’t take his past baggage into account as we started our life together. And it left me confused.

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Mourning the Death that Change Brings

I couldn’t wait to marry my husband. Most of our relationship had been long distance, and I wanted to be with him all the time. But after the wedding, I had to move from Orlando to Philadelphia. I left all my friends, family, a church I loved, and a well-established life of fourteen years.

Though I was happy to be with my husband, I was also very unhappy with my new life. I cried a lot. I cried when city life and marriage struggles got overwhelming. I cried thinking about the father-daughter dance at my wedding and how I had left those whom I was closest to. I cried because I had no friends, except my husband. And I had never suffered a shortage of friends in Florida.

I became a different person in Philadelphia. I was always so outgoing, and I suddenly grew more reserved and quiet around my husband’s friends and acquaintances. At the time, I didn’t stop and process or even admit something was wrong with me. I just tried to get through the unacknowledged struggle. It wasn’t until five years into my marriage that I could look back and see what had taken place. And I realize now that it was a death and resurrection.

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Infertility in the Arms of the Church

I was a miracle baby. After fighting infertility for two years, my parents’ prayers were answered. I grew up, got married, and had babies of my own, but around me were friends crushed by the heavy hand of infertility. I’ve known suffering, but not the specific suffering of those struggling with the deferred hope of children.

My parents’ story is the one we like to share, because it has the happy ending of God answering prayer and fruit born of long-awaited desire. Like a neat, clean, and perfectly tied package, the happy ending is satisfying in film, literature, and even life.

But what about the stories of continued suffering? Stories that leave you hanging? Stories with loose ends?

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Lightning Book Reviews on Suffering and Adversity

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Here are short (lightning) reviews of recent books I’ve read. Each one has a similar theme of trusting God and loving others in the midst of suffering and brokenness:

A Path Through Suffering: Discovering the Relationship Between God’s Mercy and our Pain by Elisabeth Elliot

If anyone is an intimate friend of suffering it is Elisabeth Elliot. She experienced the anguish of delayed desires with her future husband Jimthen after two years of marriage Jim was killed by Auca Indians in the jungles of Ecuador, and lastly her second husband passed away from cancer. Her path was through suffering, but Elliot shows us the light on the path that guides and comforts us, and ultimately transforms all our grief, loss, and heartbreak. She weaves in analogies from the life and death cycle of nature: the breaking of acorn shells, the plant’s first stages of leaves and shoots, seasons, falling leaves, and bearing fruit. Elliot helps us see meaning in our dark night of the soul.

A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul E. Miller

Paul Miller traces the life of Ruth in a way I have never seen done before. He highlights biblical truths, ancient history, cultural underpinnings, and symbolism, while also using Ruth as an archetype of loving sacrifice and unconditional love in the center of personal isolation, hardship, and grief. This is a great book if you are in the midst of a broken relationship and figuring out the part you can play towards restoration, if you struggle to love people (especially those who are difficult to love), or if you are experiencing any kind of relational hardship and pain.

Trusting God: Even when Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges

This is probably considered a Christian classic, but I never read it because as a young naive girl I didn’t think I needed insight into trusting God in life’s hardships. Honestly, I never experienced anything that hard, until I moved across states away from friends and family to marry my husband and start my own family. Life got hard. And life hurts at times, like the subtitle to the books says. Bridges builds a thorough theological, and yet practical, case for trusting God. He addresses the sovereignty of God over people, nations, and nature, and even in relation to our responsibility. He asks hard questions like, “Can you trust God?”, and “Is God in control?”, while helping us grasp God’s love and wisdom, even in adversity.