Shortly after my divorce, I bumped into an old friend who had himself been recently divorced and remarried, and when we talked about our experiences, he shared with me that he learned in his second marriage that a marriage relationship can be far different from what he had experienced in his first marriage, and tried to encourage me that it really can be different. In the throes of heartache at the time, I was highly skeptical, and he had to give me some specifics of how he felt his new marriage was so much better and different that his first. He then proceeded to share some of his experiences about his apparently much more healthy, new marital relationship.
At about the same time, another friend’s words of encouragement to me were that there is a dream called marriage, the old “happily ever after”…or probably more realistically, “healthily ever after.” As he knew my first marriage had been a difficult one, his comment was that my marriage had died, but the dream did not die, it was still real, and still something worth pursuing. Again, I didn’t really feel that way, and it was way too early for me to be even interested in taking a chance at another relationship. But with time, and some intentional efforts at working on my own issues to heal some of those deep hurts and struggles, there came a day when I did meet a woman and we started a relationship that grew into love and the start of a new marriage that has lasted 12 years so far...and that is what I want to encourage you about.
Some of you reading may be recently divorced and uncertain about your future. Other readers may have friends who are struggling after divorce, and you want to express your concern and encouragement. While those words from my friends may have been a bit premature for me to hear (although clearly they still stuck with me), the value they had was to open for me the idea of possibilities. But it was only an idea. I could hear people discuss the differences between a healthy marriage and one that is dysfunctional in one way or another, but it wasn’t until I experienced these years of a completely different marriage relationship that I came to understand on a personal level what that difference is. And to believe that my friends were right, it really can be different.
Okay, some may be wondering what I mean about different. Well, examples (not just from my own marriage) could be things like being treated with respect, have an assurance that you are valued and cherished, not having to always be on edge about whether or not you will say or do something that will cause your spouse to lash out at you in anger, feeling secure in your relationship and free from any fears or suspicions, or maybe just having more actively shared common values in such things as attending church together having times in prayer together.
There are lots of materials out there that can help you learn to distinguish between health and dysfunctional marriages, and those can indeed be good resources to consult. But this blog is not about that, this blog is about hope. It can be encouraging to know, when a marriage falls apart and you are in the throes of anguish and loss, that even though you have lost that relationship, it does not mean you don’t have the possibility of discovering something different, something special in your future. Don’t rush it, or try to force it into happening, but know that in his perfect timing, God can bring to you a person with whom you can experience something special and precious, a fresh kind of loving marriage. Don’t give up hope, if that is something you long to have. Work on your own issues, let God heal the wounds, teach you better ways of responding and communicating yourself, and then when you have learned a more healthy way, you will recognize the possibility when that special someone comes along. And let me tell you straight out, by the way: my friends were right, it really can be different. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for my new wife, Nola, and the experience of learning first-hand how great it is to be in a more healthy and loving marriage. We keep working on making it better, and have our own issues and need for growth, but I have found when you have a solid base of genuine love and respect, that growth can be pursued together. The dream has still not died…take my word for it, marriage CAN INDEED be a wonderful experience!