My Christian marriage, which lasted almost 19 years, ended last year. Our separation and the year since the divorce have given me plenty of time to sit with my part in the demise of my marriage.
I, of course, also gave plenty of thought—obsessive amounts of thought—to my husband's role in our breakup, but as I am learning and relearning, there is always more than one side to each story. In fact, I believe there are three sides to every story . . . yours, mine, and God's (otherwise known as the truth). Then within each of those three sides, there's also my perception of each, your perception of each, and again, the truth.
I come to you, baring my soul and my faults in whispers. I am ashamed of myself and the ways I behaved during that union. And yet I come to warn you. My desire is to elevate the beauty of Christian marriage in our culture. So I come bearing the knowledge that only someone whose hard marriage ended has acquired. Please listen with an open heart, not necessarily to who I am and what I did wrong, but to see if you recognize yourself in the ways I related.
I yelled. A lot.
I was cruel and self-serving and critical with my words. Probably daily.
I looked out for "number one" and tried to protect her (me).
I didn't serve my then-husband enough.
I didn't build him up enough.
I didn't let him be who he wanted to be.
I cared much more about my living in perpetual pain than I did about the pain my then-husband was living in.
I didn't respect him. Let me take a moment with this one. I used to argue that once I felt he deserved respect, I'd begin to respect him. I now believe that there are two kinds of respect. There is earned respect and there is role-expected respect. For instance, I might not respect President Such-&-Such, but if he walked into the room, you'd better believe I'd stand and probably clap just because of his role. So if nothing else, I withheld role-expected respect.
I wanted the pain to stop, but I didn't want to have to do the hard work it would take to get us to the other side. (I did end up doing the huge amounts of hard work, but not until 15 years in.)
I prayed for him and I prayed for us, but I didn't do so enough. And when I prayed, the prayers said things like help me . . . change him . . . release me.
Harder to identify
Now things take a slightly different turn. With the above list, I was aware that I was messing up all the time. The list that follows are things that I didn't know how to do any differently until it was too late. These things used to not feel like things I was doing wrong.