After my series on the Care and Maintenance of Marriage, I received many personal emails. The emails shared a common pain and one that is becoming more and more prevalent in our Christian marriages. Today's blog is by my beautiful second daughter, Emma. Yes, it's a little long, but in it she shares her heart about marriage, struggle, and forgiveness. I wish this story wasn't her story…but it is. May God bless those of you who face a similar situation and may He be glorified as you honor His name in your marriages. I love you, Em!
I used to daydream about what it would be like to be married. I used to picture how I would look on my wedding day, and how my husband would smile when I walked toward him, and how after we said I do everyday would be filled with flowers and love notes. I would plan little things I could do to make my husband feel special. I would imagine myself getting up to make his lunch, and smiling and waving as he left for work.
I wanted the perfect marriage, with the perfect house and the perfect husband. I wanted 3 perfect little children and I wanted a lifetime of happiness with one man.
Honestly, who doesn’t want that? When you daydream about the life you are going to have you don’t picture it as sad or boring or filled with work. You don’t picture arguments and miscommunication.
Yet here I am, 2 years in and sometimes that is exactly how it feels. I work long, long hours and always at night. My husband works all morning. I come in at midnight and we talk for 10 minutes before he crashes from being so tired from work. We have had to hit the reset button on our relationship because of sin in our lives.
We married young and we were immature and selfish. If I were being completely honest, I would say that I married Steve because he made me feel good. He made me feel pretty and smart and funny. I would not say I married him because I thought we would grow to be more like Christ together, although I want that. I would not say I married him because I thought I could help him be the person God wanted him to be, although that is something I am working on. I would not say I married him to be his suitable helpmeet, although I do want to be that.
I married Steve because he made me feel good and I wanted to keep feeling that way.
Oh, I said all the right reasons for wanting to marry him, and I do want all of those things. However, I thought those things would just happen. I thought that I would automatically submit to my husband. I thought that we would go to church and serve and grow without any problems. I thought I would help him be a better person just by being me.
I was so prideful that I nearly missed my husband’s cries for help.
I want to share a struggle today that I am afraid more and more common in the marriages of young couples.
My husband is addicted to pornography. I knew this before we married. We had gone to premarital counseling and Steve was talking to the counselor and “getting help”. Problem solved. I thought that after we got married and Steve had an outlet for his sexual desires that there would be no more porn. I thought that I would be enough for him. Like some kind of magic switch would be turned and "POOF," no more problem.
I was very wrong.
As a new wife, I was often awkward with Steve and not sure how to ask him if he was still struggling. So I just didn’t ask. For the first 6 months of our marriage I chose to leave him alone and assume that the problem was solved. Then one night, when I could tell that things were not right between us, I asked him.
I have never been so hurt in my life.
I suddenly realized that I was not good enough for Steve. That I would never be good enough for him. I knew that I could not compare to the girls he was looking at and that he would always be disappointed in me.
The first thing we did was to quickly get a guard for his computer. We thought that if he didn’t have a way to access it, then there wouldn’t be any more temptation.
Problem solved…right? Wrong again.
This time only 3 months went by before I asked him. Again, the same answer. Again, the same feelings of hurt and betrayal. The same feelings of “God must have made a mistake.”
I had done the right things. I kept myself pure for my husband. I tried to please God.
This time we talked to our pastor. Steve said he was going to deal with this and it would no longer be a problem. I’m sure at that moment he meant what he said. But, this pattern has gone on for 2 years.
I know now not to wait for months to ask him how he is doing. I know to pray for him and I know to trust God to help him.
Now however, for the first time since we got married, I see a real change in my husband. I have hope. Let me tell you what changed.
The last time I asked him and learned that he had yet again failed, I decided that it was time for me to leave. I was ready to pack my bags and go. I was visiting my folks and I started for home making my getaway plan. But as I drove home to get my things, I started praying.
I prayed for 4 hours as I drove and I felt God telling me to stay.
I knew that I could not stay in my own power, and to be honest, I didn’t even really want to stay. Marriage had not been what I had dreamed it would be.
There were no flowers, no love notes, and no breakfast in bed.
There was not constant laughing and vacations and dinners out.
We were dirt poor and lucky to be able to pay our bills.
We did have fun times together, but those were not the norm. Our norm had been work and school and sleep. We went to church, but we were not involved. We had devotions, but only occasionally. We loved each other, but it was not the passionate love I had envisioned as a child.
On the whole I was disappointed, hurt and tired.
I felt that I was not good enough for my husband and that he didn’t want me anyway.
So when I felt that tug on my heart to stay, I fought it. No! How could I stay?
He can’t even keep his eyes off of other women and You want me to stay?? Why? What has he done to deserve that? No, God You are making a mistake. I have to go!
But yet again, there was the gentle tugging. “Emma, “a still small voice said, “What have you done to deserve Steve’s love? How have you been his faithful helper?”
I couldn’t answer.
I knew that I had been acting like a spoiled princess because I had a picture of how marriage was supposed to go. I knew that I had seen my husband’s struggle as the greatest offence against me and I had been bitter.
I also knew that when I got home the decision I made would change my life forever.
So I pulled over and I prayed some more. I decided to stay. But, I was not happy about it.
I got home and we talked and I told him that, “This is it buddy. One more strike and you are out! I don’t need you hurting me all the time and I will only stay married to a faithful man.”
I regret those words more than anything else.
I should have held his hand and told him that God was bigger than this.
I should have said that I was by his side no matter what.
It took me several weeks to realize that Steve was not the enemy here. Nor was I. The enemy here was the lust of the flesh. God can so easily overcome that if we just let him.
Steve was broken after our conversation. This time it was different. He was no longer just sad that he had hurt me; he was truly broken over his sin. We decided to move and get help. We started going to counseling together. We started praying together. To be honest, with the busyness of our summer schedules and the move, we see each other less now than we did before, but our marriage is getting stronger everyday.
To all the women who are dealing with this issue I say this, God can overcome.
God has created us to be helpers to our husbands and we are the only ones who can truly give them the support they need. Steve has to do the hard work of purifying his mind, but I have to stand beside him and cheer him on.
I have to pray for him daily.
I have to give up my selfish desires to help him grow stronger.
It will be so worth it when in 6 months we can look back on this time and say God gave us victory.
When faced with the decision of stay or go, I say this:
God is never going to look at you trying to make your marriage work and say that you made the wrong call. God wants us to be in this for life, and He wants that life to be happy and fulfilled in Him.
This pain is for a season, but God will use it to make your marriage the shining testimony that He meant it to be.