April 11th, 2005 was a Monday.
After months of awkward silence, where I was desperate to understand what was happening under my roof, and hearing almost nothing, he asked me to have a conversation with him that evening. It’s odd when your family looks the same, but the foundation has been rocked, is likely crumbling, certainly not being rebuilt, and there are no status updates.
I was gonna get what I’d been hoping for…some information. But I wasn’t excited..the sense of dread overwhelmed me.
The void of information would be filled somehow, that day.
I did not have a good feeling about it. The months of waiting to hear how this husband of mine was doing, where he was at on this inner journey that I knew very little of were indescribably, brutally hard.
And now to know? Would that be harder?
I went to work, a full day of clients ahead. I stewed and wondered, almost beside myself with wondering what would happen.
Monday was full, but the next day, Tuesday, was scheduled to be even busier.
I feared the worst, that day on April 11, 2005…and in preparation for that, sent my first love an email. I told him that I had worked hard to maintain normalcy during the long hard winter that had passed, but I was stretched and tired. I told him that I had 6 hours of class at the university the next day to facilitate and lead. If he was leaving, I needed him to contact the course coordinators to let them know of a family emergency.
I didn’t think I could be with students for 6 hours the day after my husband would tell me he was leaving.
I didn’t want to know that day if he was contacting the university. I had clients that evening…couples working to save their marriages, ironically. I wanted to have my head in the therapy room with my clients.
How can a person help clients to stay married, while waiting to go home to watch theirs end?
I needed to not know until I finished my clients for the day. I just needed to have my teaching load cancelled the next day if I was gonna find out I’d be facing life without him.
At 2:24 pm on April 11, I got an email from L at the university:
I received the phone message from your husband this afternoon about being unable to attend the tutorial session tomorrow morning. No worries, we will figure something out. Hope everything works out OK with your family member!
The wind was sucked out of the room. I had two more couples to see before I went home to find out he was leaving me.
It was an odd feeling, it was, to help couples restore their marriage just before I go home to experience the blowup of mine.
But in an odd but powerful twist, it was the couples that day, and in the months ahead, that taught me that marriage is still beautiful.
That many couples struggle and fight the good fight. That there is hope for making it through if you desire to make it through.
Over the coming years, it was my clients who taught me to stay believing in marriage. They showed me that marriage is hard. But so many fight the good fight. Clients showed me so much:
That two imperfect people enter into it, and in the process of living, are gonna step on each other’s toes. There will be misunderstandings and hurts, but the beauty of it, is that committed couples can figure it out.
That husband and wife both enter marriage with sharp edges that cut and harm…and over the years, those edges get worn and smooth–but the process to get there isn’t always that smooth.
That marriage is a place where grace is extended because of love. Grace, by definition, isn’t “deserved” or “given with merit”–but simply offered because to offer it to a loved one feels profoundly right.
That a spouse can mess up, but forgiveness is offered, and relationship restored…not easily or quickly or lightly (at least that’s what I see in the office, because we know that forgiveness offered quickly and lightly isn’t the real thing) but solidly…often replacing the innocent, often fragile, bonds of new love with a strength of mature bonds that have been forged out of challenges.
He needed to leave our marriage, and I understand that.
It wasn’t anything to do with us, or me, but who he discovered himself to be. And that wasn’t compatible with being married to me at all.
I believe it wasn’t easy for him.
I know it was brutal on me.
Often April 11th has been a day that has been full of remembering the horror of that day.
This is my first April 11th to be married again…to Husband. Husband, who loved his late wife, Car, through thick and thin. Because of that, he was a man whom I trusted before I loved. Trusted him to the depths of my belly in the way I wouldn’t ever have thought possible. There were lots of ways I healed in the decade after he left, but there was additional healing made only possible when everything in me dared to trust another…and Husband provided me that opportunity.
He woke me up this morning gently. Handed me a latte he had made just for me, and visited with me as we started this day like we start most others.
It’s gonna be a great day, this April 11th.