Our first year of marriage wasn’t what I’m assuming many newlyweds experience. Todd and I didn’t get to go on a honeymoon. There was no season where we were just blissfully and stupidly happy. Only two months after we were married, I slipped into a dark, consuming depression that I couldn’t see my way out of.
I thought then that marriage would fix me, and I was confused why it didn’t. I remember thinking that when I finally found someone who loved me enough to want to put a ring on my finger and make me his wife, that it would calm all of the stirred up places in my soul. I thought getting married might heal all that had been torn open and disrupted by everything that happened in my life before I met Todd. But it didn’t do that. I was still me.
Early on, I gave Todd permission to leave. I pushed him away and I pushed hard. I screamed at him to leave me alone and go away. This man, only my husband for a couple of months, and I was trying to shove him out of my life.
But he stayed. Somehow, he stayed and loved me through it.
About eight months into our marriage, I was starting to come out of this dark depression I had been under, but before I could really move forward, I knew I needed to lay it on the line with Todd, and he had waited so patiently for so long. I let him see the me that I tried to cover up, the me that no one else knew about and the places of my deepest and darkest shame. I expected him to leave and was shocked when he stayed and didn’t run out of the room in disgust. After I had finished, he gifted me with his own story of shame and I got to be the one to listen and hold on to him and not run away too.
That night was honest and real, displaying beautifully a picture of what love really means and how we are supposed to show up in this covenant of marriage. It was a picture of how great Jesus’ love is for us and how He loves us the same no matter what we’ve done or will do.
We made an agreement that night to always be this honest. To talk about and say the things to the other about what we really feel, what we’ve done, and where we have hurt each other.
We agreed to talk about our feelings honestly and to never keep secrets. If we could make it through this conversation, we could make it through any other one.
For five years, we stumbled and fumbled through our marriage. The same years that were full of sorrow and struggle were also full of joy and sweet memories. I was able to get much needed counseling and I felt like a different person, and the me that I had become wasn’t so sure she would have married and chosen the same man she did five years earlier. I felt as though I had grown and healed so much so, that I was starting to believe that I had outgrown my marriage. I asked questions and thought thoughts I never imagined that I would. I knew our marriage was hanging on by a thread, and it felt like I was holding the pen to our love story, and I was ready to write the very last chapter.
In March of 2012, we sat on opposite sides of our worn leather sofa in dim light, the silence thick between us. I was ready to ask my husband to move out and separate. I wasn’t so sure we should be married anymore, and maybe we never should have been married in the first place. His face told me he knew what was coming and what I was about to ask.
I wasn’t exactly sure how to ease into that conversation, so I thought about the beginning of us. I asked Todd what our first year of marriage felt like for him. I asked him what he did with those moments and the scenes where I tried to let him and our marriage off the hook. I told him that I imagined that it might feel disappointing – to wait 36 years to finally get married, for this. And he agreed. It had been disappointing. He poured out his heart and I listened to my husband express his disappointment and heartbreak over what was lost for him that first year. He told me of the people he talked to about it, how he coped, and what he believed about himself. Five years into our marriage, this was the first time I had asked him that question.
I walked away from that conversation in tears. Instead of asking my husband to move out that night, I told him I was sorry.
Some friends of ours a few years ago talked with us about how to move forward after conflict or disruption that comes within any marriage. When you find yourself on a sofa late at night ready to throw in the marital towel, you have a choice to try again. Their words were a gift to us and continue to be when we find ourselves talking about the same struggles and issues we seem to face over and over again as a couple:
Recommit and go again.
Sometimes, I am afraid to love. Marriage, in all of its beauty and glory and promise, is so fragile and needy, as if any moment it could all fall apart and end tragically. But when I remember the good, the places where Todd has shown up for me valiantly and bravely and the impact that has had on me, I still believe that we are worth fighting for. He is the man I still want to do life with. And it’s not just marriage I believe in – I believe in our marriage.
We recently celebrated our ten year anniversary. We have two amazing boys, and our life is full, complicated, broken, wonderful, and chaotic at times. We have both decided to hand over the pen of our love story to the One who brought us together in the first place. We want God to author it and write in opportunities for a deeper love and adventure greater than we could ever imagine. And I’m sure there will be pages and pages of the exact same line as we struggle and hit bumps along the way.
Recommit and go again.
Deeply rooted in South Texas, Jennifer Stamness is a sunshine-lover, wife and mother to two young boys. She enjoys creating beauty in places like writing, music, decorating and throwing parties. She desires to follow Jesus into the unknown places He invites her to and is thankful for His abundant and amazing grace. Jennifer writes, dreams and shares pieces of her story here.