Five years ago today my life completely changed course.
“I’m not happy in this marriage and I want a divorce.”
As though branded like cattle with a white-hot iron, Frank’s words are seared into my memory.
On December 13, 2010, with my stomach still stapled shut recovering from surgery, feeling that something was wrong because he seemed very distracted all the time, I asked my husband what was going on with him. He tried to joke at first, but his heart clearly wasn’t in it – so I asked again. He hesitated for a split-second then said, “we can talk about it after Christmas.” A shiver of dread ran down my spine and ice cubes quickly filled the pit of my stomach. Christmas was two weeks away; I couldn’t live through two weeks of not knowing. Could anyone? My first thought was, “there’s someone else.” And as much as I didn’t want to know, I had to know.
He sighed heavily when I gently prodded a third time. (Three times a charm?) Crouched down in front of the wood stove, he jabbed at the wood he’d just put in a couple more times with the poker. Then he slowly got up, closed the door, took a few steps looking like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, sat down at the small, wood farmhouse table across from me, looked down, and quietly said, “ok, but just remember you wanted to know…” I’ll never forget the pained expression on his face or the sad tone of his voice as he looked up at me, took a deep breath, and said, “I’m not happy in this marriage and I want a divorce.”
And just like that, less than two months shy of our 18th wedding anniversary, the only man I’d ever really loved, the man I thought I’d be spending the rest of my life with and I were suddenly on different life paths heading in different directions.
I was completely shattered – I can remember thinking, “I’m never going to get over him and I’m going to be broken forever.” The only silver lining I could see at the time was that at least there wasn’t anyone else. It was almost unbearable enough to deal with as it was, but to be betrayed like that would have made things so very much worse. For the first few hours after he dropped the bomb it almost seemed surreal, like it was happening to someone else. But the agonizing pain set in pretty quickly. We stayed up until almost 3:00 a.m. I cried and begged him to please change his mind or to at least agree to counseling. Even in my despair it was plain to see the guilt he felt was real and ran pretty deep, still, although he said he loved me as a friend, he wasn’t in love with me so he wouldn’t be swayed.
I barely ate for days. Sleep became a thing of the past – I’d drop off into a fitful slumber for a few hours every couple of days or so out of sheer exhaustion. For financial reasons we continued to live together for another six months. A couple of times very early on I started drinking around noon to numb the pain and was completely trashed by the time Frank got home from work at dinnertime. But realizing how destructive it was, I stopped before it could become a real problem.
I chose to lean on God instead.
At the time we were both backslidden, but as soon as the words were out of his mouth it was like a switch flipped somewhere inside and the connection between God and me was instantly reestablished. I have a (deeply spiritual) theory as to why it happened the way it did, but I won’t derail myself by going into it here. I think that’s a topic best addressed in a separate blog post.
Let me tell you…I never would have survived without Jesus. Seriously. Never. I was not built to withstand the depth of heartbreak and emotional anguish created by my beloved husband ending our marriage.
God started working on me right away, but it wasn’t until I moved into my own apartment six months later that my healing really started. When I was at home I was able to shut out the world. It was like I was on my own personal retreat with my Heavenly Father every day – exactly what I needed.
It took a few years of choosing to forgive Frank daily (sometimes more than once a day), crying oceans of tears, countless hours on my knees, attending Divorce Care (Christian support group) for over a year, counseling for almost two, reading the bible (a lot!) as well as other books designed to help steer someone in my position toward healing, and lots of love and support from family, friends, and co-workers, but I can honestly say that my heart has healed; and while we don’t talk often, Frank and I are still friends. I went out of my way to make sure of that. Divorce is traumatic enough without adding all kinds of negative energy, anger, bitterness, and drama to the mix. It was best for both of us and for our son to keep things friendly. I have a few friends that told me we had the friendliest divorce they’ve ever heard of. But really, how could I say “I love you” on one hand and try to take him to the cleaners on the other? How would getting angry and making things difficult for him have helped the situation for any of us? I had no control over his actions, but I could control my own.
It’s a testament to how much God has healed me that on this five year “anniversary” that I feel like He’s letting me know I’m finally ready for the next phase of my life – whatever that may be. I never thought I’d be able to love anyone else, but I know that if He has someone for me, not only will I be able to love him, but I’ll be able to love him even better and more completely than I was able to love Frank. (God has done a LOT of healing!) Whether or not there is someone out there for me though, I will serve God wholeheartedly for the rest of my life.
It may sound crazy, but I am so thankful for the last five years. Everything has changed – but they’re good changes. I’m closer to Jesus than I ever imagined was possible, I genuinely like the person I’ve become, I’ve even been healed of a few wounds that have been plaguing me since childhood (!), and He has blessed me with a good life filled with wonderful people who care about me.
All that said, I am far (very far!) from perfect and have a long way to go yet in my “becoming,” but praise God, His mercies are new every morning; and I can honestly say I’m happy. I’m really and truly happy.
Thank you, Jesus.