The healthier I became (see the end of this post for a link to the previous post), the greater distance it created in our marriage. I wasn't behaving in ways that were enabling his addiction as I had in the past. More in a separate post on that.
Mark had yet to hit his personal rock bottom as I had previously. I was blessed with great strength and clarity at this time. I wanted to continue in our marriage. I knew I couldn't choose for him, though. My course was already determined and I intended to keep my covenants. I did not know what he would choose. I continued to let him know my intentions, what I wanted him to do/thought he should do, but left it to him.
It really hit me that this was not my decision to make, but his. As I continued on my path either he was going to make changes to join me or he would be repelled by my new and healthy behaviors.
Things finally came to a cross-roads. He was unwilling to go my direction and I could not go his. I shouldn't have been surprised that he let me know he was done with our marriage...but I was. His brother and sister-in-law helped him pack up all of his things. He moved in with his parents and told me he didn't want contact.
It hurt and I felt numb. Divorce didn't feel right, yet I didn't know what else to do.
Mark continued in "porcupine mode." He told me to get a lawyer. I schedule an appointment with a lawyer and also made the soonest available appointment with my bishop.
Our bishop had been working with us off and on as best as he could as things had been unraveling over the past almost year. He recognized that he was not the best help for us, so the majority of our work had been with counselors. I updated him and tearfully let him know that Mark had moved out and wanted no contact. I informed him of my appointment the next day with a lawyer.
He looked at me squarely in the eyes and said, "Katy, I cannot tell you what to do. What I will tell you is that if you go through with this, you do not have my blessing or support." I asked him what I should do then. I am eternally grateful for his answer: "I cannot tell you what to do. That is between you and the Lord. Go home and figure it out."
With a prayer in my heart that day, the thought kept coming to ask Mark to talk. Trembling, I got up my courage and texted..."are you willing to talk on the phone after I get the kids to bed?" His reply was yes.
Nervously, I tucked each of my beautiful children in bed and made the phone call. We talked that night from 9 pm until 6 am. Although a long road yet ahead, that conversation opened communication that had been previously locked closed. I knew I wasn't a perfect wife, but Mark had previously been unwilling to let me continue "practicing" on him. I could not improve in my many areas lacking as a wife without his willingness to allow me to do so. Our conversations that night dispelled misunderstandings and misconceptions. Mark could finally see my heart and make sense of my reactions to control as things had been falling apart. He could see my changes for what they were. He was willing to try. I was willing to try.
Before that phone call I thought my marriage was dead. I was surprised to find that it barely had a pulse and was in pretty critical condition, yet it still was alive. There was still potential.
We had been caught in a cycle of both feeling hurt and both hurting each other. That night was about hitting the reset button for us. Neither one of us could move forward until both of us were willing to do so. We both had to lift and own what was in our stewardship in order for the other to progress. We occasionally stumbled backwards, but for the most part, we have been moving forward since that night.
I need to throw in here:
I have dear friends who have walked a similar path as ours and were blessed to move forward together. I also have dear friends with the opposite outcome. Although they themselves were not perfect, their spouse was unwilling to continue in the relationship. It is heartbreaking, yet they have blessed my life with their examples of courage. We have dear friends we keep constantly in our prayers who are unsure where their marriages stand.
For those with a different outcome than our own, have confidence that God keeps His promises. Your covenants are not void because of a spouse who choose differently. Trust God, even when it feels like you have no reason to.
I have learned at a young age great lessons in marriage because of our being compelled to such.
Marriage requires TWO willing parties.
We cannot control our spouse.
Our willingness and ability to be a good spouse requires careful attention. I had been so caught up in worrying about my husband's willingness and ability that I was neglecting my own.
Having experienced what we have, I would counsel those with an "up in the air" marriage, to be completely sure that it is a dead end before ending it. Satan knew what was around the corner for us. He knew the potential for joy and union and did his best to thwart that. He almost won with us.
I cannot adequately praise God's name! Two years ago this week we were literally less than 24 hours away from a divorce. He is able to make a way when there is none. He is able to change hearts of stone if we but give it to Him. He can heal hurts and enable us to overcome hurdles. God is so good!
We finally had hit bottom, but had a long way to find the surface again. More yet to come. I hate to leave things hanging with a baby coming any time! Hopefully more tomorrow!
As far as marriage/divorce, I want to give you a caution to pray about what I have to say. The only person who can give you a definite answer as to whether you should stay or leave is God. After what we have been through, I would caution you to be sure that you are sure that you are sure. Five years ago I saw no way forward, but here we are with my every confidence that our relationship is now eternal marriage quality. Like I mentioned, I have seen it go both ways and have no judgement for what you decide is your right path. We thought our marriage was dead. It wasn't. Ours was neglected and malnourished to the point that it was almost dead, but it wasn't dead dead (isn't that a "Princess Bride" line?). :) The powerful clip (below) is of Elder Nelson giving the analogy of considering marriage as we would a sick or injured loved one. I know you wouldn't walk away from someone you love because s/he was "almost dead." So it is with marriage. When there are two good people, who although they may be very human, yet are striving to follow God, there is always potential for eternal marriage. There may need to be adjustments (usually on both party's accounts). It may be a process, like it has been in the five years since (and will continue to be for us). It requires care and attention, as caring for a deathly-ill loved one would be. I acknowledge I am saying this having no idea the details that have brought you to this point. I have no idea if either of you have a willing heart, etc.
Now being on the other end of it, I would say if there is any life left in your marriage, work in His strength to focus on what YOU can do and how you can breathe life into it. Even if it seems that one is at fault or most or more at fault, you only have power over your stewardship (which is how you feel, what you need, your relationship with God, what you will/have said/done). Elder Bednar (see below) talked about this dynamic being a triangle. As I focused on my husband... my happiness, stability, sanity, etc was dependent on my husband/what he was doing/wasn't doing. As YOU keep your focus on God and follow the promptings of the Spirit to know what you can do, He will tell you what you can do that would be helpful to your situation and you can work in His strength to accomplish it. I have seen it 100% of the time, that when one spouse rests on God, the other either does the same (our situation), or can't handle the dynamic and will naturally fall away.
Like my bishop, I can't tell you what to do. God knows the details and where you are both at right now. He has your answer of how to proceed. I DO know that it isn't an accident that the requirement to "all that He hath" is this dynamic of a man and a woman---together in the most vulnerable relationship we can experience. I know for us, that dynamic put our feet to the fire and has been one of the most efficient ways to show us our imperfection, errors, and dead-end patterns. At times it has been painful to step into the mirror we have held up for each other, and initially we didn't see it as a mirror. This is God's pattern. There is still so much yet to learn, but I can testify boldly of the truthfulness of eternal marriage, having learned these things for myself.
I have listened to this talk probably 4 times, but THIS didn't sink in until this last time I heard the talk (see below for Elder Hales): "...none of us marry perfection; we marry potential. The right marriage is not only about what I want; it’s also about what she—who’s going to be my companion—wants and needs me to be...dating and marriage aren’t final destinations. They are the gateway to where you ultimately want to go. "
Consider studying these additional resources:
Check out this movie clip based on President Nelson's talk where he likens a marriage in critical condition to how we would respond to a loved one in critical condition.
1. Elder Hales, "Meeting the Challenges of Today's World:" "...none of us marry perfection; we marry potential. The right marriage is not only about what I want; it’s also about what she—who’s going to be my companion—wants and needs me to be...dating and marriage aren’t final destinations. They are the gateway to where you ultimately want to go. "
3. Elder Hafen, "Crossing Thresholds and Becoming Equal Partners"
How are you doing as a spouse? If you haven't prayed lately about this, ask God how you can improve? What do you need to focus on right now (regardless of what you spouse may or may not be doing)? Would it be safe and productive to ask your spouse for suggestions? (not a good idea for every marriage unless it is safe and productive) Or anything else you have as a take away.
My journey. Previous post HERE