"Larry, we have to talk," I said as my husband prepared to go to work. Our argument from the night before still hung in the air. "There's something wrong with our marriage."
"Judy, I have to go," Larry said, clearly irritated.
"Don't you love me?" I asked.
"Sure I do. I have employees waiting to be let in."
"Larry, if you love me, why don't I feel it?" I needed him to put his arms around me and reassure me.
But he didn't. He just walked out the door.
What had happened to us? Two years before, when we'd committed our lives to Jesus Christ, Larry and I had been like newlyweds again. I was sure with God as our partner, our journey through life would be smooth.
But it wasn't. Our first child, Matthew, who was born shortly after we became Christians, needed major surgery when he was six weeks old. A few months later, Larry lost his job. I thought about going to work, but then discovered I was pregnant again. I was scared and needed Larry to reassure me, but he couldn't because he was dealing with his own fears.
We started to fight, sometimes over the most ridiculous things, such as the way he read the newspaper or ate his cereal. I felt guilty for my angry outbursts. Christians didn't act that way, I reasoned. So in the name of peace, I swallowed my feelings and prayed God would make Larry more thoughtful, open, loving, and romantic. But with each passing year, our fights grew in frequency and intensity. We became like strangers sharing a house.
I slogged through two years hoping things would change for the better, but they didn't. Surely this wasn't what God wanted, yet I could see no hope of happiness with this man.
In the heat of one of our arguments I said "divorce." Larry hardly winced. Maybe it was the solution to our problems.
At the end of my rope, I confided in my sister Barbara how unhappy I was. She and her husband, Dave, arranged for us to attend a weekend marriage retreat. They took our kids and even paid the deposit. While both Larry and I knew it was a waste of time and money, we figured this would prove to everyone that we'd tried.
During that weekend, one of the speakers talked about his fear of being unable to live up to everyone's expectations. After that session, each couple had some time to communicate with each other their thoughts about what the speaker had said. In a rare moment of courage, Larry dropped his defenses and shared how he identified with the speaker and how hard it was to please me, his employees, his customers, his friends, and his family. He even told me about the pain of unmet expectations he carried from his childhood. As I listened to his openness, I could feel the wall I'd built toward him over the years begin to come down. Through several tearful conversations that weekend, we were able to forgive each other for the pain and hurt we'd caused and start over.