There are many reasons why divorce “should have” happened through the course of our marriage. Chronic illness, business loss, the deaths (physical or emotional) of several children via miscarriages and adoption losses, infertility – each, statistically, more likely to destroy our marriage than not.

We had some tough seasons, to be sure, but in the final scope of things, our marriage was strengthened by each trial and struggle. There were days of pushing away, but typically we responded to stress by clinging tightly to one another

Until about two months after our 19th anniversary.

Becoming special needs caretaker and brain-injured childish invalid, rather than husband and wife equal partners, was a devastating blow we almost did not overcome!

During the season of about 6-18 months into the stroke recovery process, as more and more severely impaired brain connections rebuilt and I became a very weepy, ANGRY, forgetful, accusatory “mean drunk” (a valid description, as it is temporary impairment of the cerebellum, via alcohol, that causes symptoms of “drunkenness” like poor judgement, slurred speech, staggering walk, etc.) we dealt with HOURS of my irrational yelling at Rick:

Every. Single. Night. Months, into years, on end.

I lost my ability to cry at sad and needed times. Except for during any conversation with Rick. Somehow my brain transformed the idea that Rick had always been my “safest person,” into the inability to hold a rational conversation with him, on any subject, even as mundane as the color of the sky, without sobbing hysterically. This went on for about four years.

Tears still don’t come as appropriately or easily as they should, but I can talk with Rick without the constant torrent of leaky eyes and hiccup-y breathing, most days, now. For this we are both exceedingly grateful!

During the brain rewiring, angry stage, I asked Rick to leave. By God’s grace, he did not. When we could no longer hold onto each other, we each held onto Jesus as our only lifeline. We stuck to our tattered vows out of stubborn commitment, not to the promises we had made to each other, but to the promise we had made to God on the day we married. Ecclesiastes 4:12(b) became powerfully real to us as we came to understand that Jesus was the central person in our marriage, the one holding us together!

There were long stretches of months when it was a grit-our-teeth, physically painful experience to even be civil in public and nearly impossible to be alone in the same room together. There were no romantic notions of love. For several years we didn’t even LIKE each other any more.

Grace is the key here. From God, expressed by both partners. I have many friends in broken marriage where, though the issues leading to divorce are never only one-sided, one partner was really trying to hold on, and the other threw in the towel and walked away. That so very easily could have been us. If that is you, please know I hold no condemnation toward you and am deeply saddened over the trauma you have endured. Keep cling to Jesus, my friend!

About two years after the strokes, when I could still barely even shower without assistance (fun stuff when you don’t even want to be seen naked by your husband and you don’t have the capability to do needed self-care like wash your hair or shave your own armpits – eww!), I remember telling my counselor that even though it was, physically, nearly impossible to function without his help, I was tremendously relieved when Rick went on a trip for a few days. I felt like I had room to breath. To “be me” without apology, for a few days.

The Lord is restoring the years the locusts have eaten. I knew we were healing when Rick left on another business trip (takes 2-3 most years) between the 5- and 6-year-mark, and, rather than relief at the emotional freedom, mixed with dread over the physical dilemmas, as I had on every other occasion, I simply just missed him for the first time. Wow, that’s a new feeling! 

25 yearsOur marriage will never be the same as what it was before October 25, 2011. It is becoming, and will continue to grow, richer, stronger, more solid, more loving, and yes, even more romantic, than we ever could have imagined.

It will never be the same because it is becoming so much more!