September 14, 1991
24 years ago I met my husband
I wanted to write about our meeting last night but my thoughts vacillated between two songs– Let It Be Me by the Everly Brothers and Happy To Be Stuck With You by Huey Lewis. I wasn’t quite sure which way I wanted to write, so I went to sleep.
This morning, a tree service arrived to take down our neighbor’s ash tree that has been dying for years. I asked them for a bid to do some tree work in our yard and it prompted a discussion with David regarding a tree in the center of our front yard. It’s been dying since we moved here 21 years ago. The question is– is it half dead or half alive? That depends on which of us you ask.
If I had my way in 1994, we would have taken out the tree and a healthy tree would have 21 years of growth and be providing lovely shade by now. There was much about our house and yard that was in disrepair when we bought it. That is exactly what we were looking for– a fixer upper we could invest our handiwork to create a nice home. I have spent countless hours in the yard over the years. While it is lovely, I see so much work yet to do and I am often overcome with a weary feeling that I simply cannot do it much longer.
And this is the correlation to our marriage. For David, it’s good enough. For me, I see what it can be and have a hard time being content to just coast along. It has been this way since we met 24 years ago. The night we met, I asked him out.
He enjoyed my company the night we met but was dating a couple other women off and on at the time. Neither relationship was really ‘going anywhere’ (as he puts it) and he didn’t think it would be a wise idea to start dating another lady. He was a gentleman and walked me to the door as I was leaving my cousins wedding. I asked, “Would you like to do something sometime?” He got a shooting pain in his big toe at that moment and took it as a sign from God that he should agree. As he tells the story, for years he prayed to meet a gal like me but asked God to give him a very clear sign to know she was ‘the one’. Don’t mock me, I’m just telling the story.
A week later, we went on our first date. He took me out for a casual dinner to dispel my feeling that going out to eat on a first date was too much pressure–
Where do you go?
Do I eat all of my food or leave some on the plate?
If I take my leftovers, do I look cheap?
It was a traditional Wisconsin Friday night fish fry and he impressed me. Unlike many guys, he did not wear a hat during the meal and used both his fork and knife. He even used his fork to squeeze lemon on his fish and I’m certain his pinky was also extended. At that moment I knew he was different than many guys I had known. To this day, he is a very unique man and I do feel blessed to be his wife.
A few weeks later, October 3, we traveled to Door County for the day to enjoy autumn colors. I realized that day that I did love him in a way I hadn’t loved anyone before. He also revealed a secret– his age. Nine days before I stopped to see one of his fall softball games. I didn’t know it was his birthday and he never revealed his age. None of his friends knew his age either. Perhaps the other girlfriend who also came to the game that evening knew is real age but we didn’t meet each other. That is another awkward story in itself. I’ll move on. You might have wondered what happened to the the other flames he was fanning the night we met so I included a little snippet to appease you.
It occurred to me yesterday, I have been with David as many years as I was alive when I met him. I looked closer to 30 years old and he did too. It wasn’t apparent that we had a 17 year age gap and I wouldn’t have guessed it. I certainly did ponder it once I learned. I’ve written previously, my mom was widowed when I was just nine years old. I lived along side her through the struggles and had to wonder if I wanted to take a chance at the same probability. One of my older sisters had recently lost her second husband too. She didn’t seem to cope well with it, despite their age difference and the probability it might happen. I concluded that knowing true love was worth it, even if the life expectancy might be shorter than others. David proposed exactly nine months after our meeting (yes, to the day) and we married four months after our engagement.
As you know from my post last week, our marriage train derailed around the seven-year mark. We tried counseling but it didn’t seem to change either of us. David invested more time to the softball season and I took this to mean he didn’t want to invest in us. I filed for divorce in June of 2000.
As you may have read in my post last week, we were separated for over a year and a half. Was the marriage part dead or part alive? Like the tree in our yard, it depends on who you ask. I’ve always been the marriage partner with my foot on the gas while David rides the brake. His apprehension has prevented me from moving forward with all sorts of projects and ideas. In some ways this is good but it other ways [like from my vantage point] this is extremely frustrating.
He is one to carefully ponder and investigate.
I make quick assessments and decisions.
He has probably missed more opportunities than I’ve been saved from mistakes. There is no way to know.
So I’ve reached 1000 words on this blog entry and have only laid the groundwork. I’ve been told a blog entry should only be 500-750 words. Yet, I’m going to continue writing. I’ve been encouraged that there are people reading who want to hear more and I have more to say. I don’t want to just bellyache about topics without providing some worthwhile resources as well.
Our first marriage conference that made sense and helped us understand each other in clear terms was put together by Mark Gungor, “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage“. A new Christian radio station, 105.3 The FISH, interviewed Mark for his upcoming marriage conference in the spring of 2002. We were struggling more than ever and needed tools to make it work. This was a great foundation to start working together rather than fighting our differences.
A few years later, our church offered a class that also provided awesome insight into the roles men and women naturally fit in God’s design for marriage and why we often feel neglected. Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggeriches. They believe love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man. When neither is feeling what they need, they react by withholding love/respect from their mate. What ensues is a crazy cycle that spins and churns until one person takes the high road to stop the cycle. This is the only way to get a derailed marriage back on course.
In 2008, a movie hit the big screen and revealed further evidence and truth about marriage. It offered hope that a marriage could be turned around given time, patience, and perseverance. Many couples still are still working to Fireproof their marriages.
In order to communicate, we need to speak to the heart of our love in a language they understand. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is another essential tool to include in your marriage toolbox. Just this morning I asked David, “In all the years we’ve been together, have you ever washed my car?” You see, the love language I use to communicate is ‘acts of service’. When David started making my morning cup of coffee each day (in recent years) it was a huge “I LOVE YOU” to my heart. In contrast, I am constantly in motion doing things around the house but David longs to hear my words of praise. He might tell you his love language is physical touch as I’m sure many men assume. But I know from Mr Gungor’s teaching and from my own experience with David, he needs to hear my praise and know that I appreciate everything he does. Every. Little. Cotton-picking. Thing.
Herein lies the problem. I know what I need to do to make things better on the home front but I can’t do it alone. Somehow my tanks needs to be refueled to have energy to keep things moving forward. If my husband is oblivious to my needs and both of us are feeling spent, how will we ever get things moving in the right direction?
I am a believer that the true evil in our world is what takes our focus and energy away from what is progressive to keep us from that which God wants us to achieve and enjoy. I’ve used the term spiritual warfare to explain what so often happens in daily life. Truly, prayer is what is needed to counteract evil forces. Having an army of prayer warriors, those who are fervently lifting you in prayer, is essential. There is another phrase that is common– ‘New Level. New Devil”. Meaning, as you make progress in Kingdom work– that which brings Glory to God– you will often find opposition with each step forward. The further your advance, the more outrageous the circumstances seem to be. Looking in from the outside, or the world perspective, it often makes no sense that bad things happen to good people. Either that or we judge one another with a healthy heap of ‘you got what was coming to you’. Schadenfreude.
There was something about my separation that still troubles my heart– those that felt the need to take sides. The world is filled with folks who need to see things as either black or white with no gray matter whatsoever. I’m going to tell you that I know full-well that I am a difficult person to live with. I can write a positive column from my vantage point and it might be natural for some to wonder why things don’t iron themselves out. Trust me. I live with myself every day and cannot escape myself on my worst days. If I have an ounce of pride, a child in their senior year of high school can surely assist in knocking you down a peg or two. It’s how they spread their wings. I am grateful beyond words to have been braced for these years and to have a compassionate daughter. I know many folks raising kids with britches far too big for their behinds.
I’m not going to solve our issues overnight. As a recovering Type-A perfectionist, this is difficult for me to come to terms with. I know our marriage has more life and is still worth saving (although the tree needs to come down). I also know there are many of us trying to cope with our issues silently. We have our Christian sisters that we cannot always talk to about this. Commiserating isn’t productive and it isn’t wise– this is the world’s reaction to marriage issues and the livelihood of many stand-up comedian routines and overdone sitcoms. How can we talk out our issues in a healthy way? We cannot commiserate but we should seek wise counsel from a friend or someone who can support you in prayer.
In writing this out, this is what I’m asking of those who are reading… Please pray for me to have patience to work through our marriage issues appropriately so that we can support one another and work together. Pray that conversations [calm and productive conversations] will transpire so we can work out the kinks.
Part of my determination to stay out of the corporate world for a season has to do with elevating David to the leader of our home. For all of our married life, I’ve provided a fixed or stable income and health insurance for our family. The night I met David, I asked him what he did for a living since he was my cousins friend and weekend limo driver. He said he was kind of an entrepreneur. I replied, “this either means you’re hiding wealth or you don’t do much of anything”. Ha! I just realized, maybe this is why he hesitated to ask me out?!
I had no male role models in my life and David came from a very traditional home. After 40 years of bachelorhood, having someone step in to pick up where is his mom left off 20 years earlier was natural (and probably refreshing) for him. I came from the Enjoli era believing I needed to do it all. I’m really tired.
Last summer when I was downsized, I kind of had to put a foot down to say I wasn’t going to fix our insurance crisis– I needed him to investigate ways to provide coverage. It’s been tricky and I’m both grateful for the option we have and sad at the same time. There is so much that needs is imbalanced in regard to healthcare, society, entitlement… so much to discuss. The point of raising this issue in this column is to help you understand why things are off kilter in our home. I will be writing more about the role of the Godly wife in todays world, but not today. I can attest to what I have found is that I discovered more about David that I love when I was ABLE to step down from the role as the fixed income and insurance provider. Because of this, I want to tackle our personal debt together so we can have some freedom and options as he gets closer to retiring from full-time work. The problem is, the baggage we packed for marriage 24 years ago is still in our trunk. Until we can unlearn the bad behaviors, we will not begin to see the goodness God has waiting for us.
Can you pray in this regard? I know God has something on the horizon for me and for us. I need to be patient as I know this is a season of waiting. A season of learning. A season of growing.