24 years ago we made a vow…

Tim and I promised each other, twenty-four years ago today, that no matter what, come hell or high water, we would stay and fight for our marriage. Hell has come and the water has risen until it was so deep we had to learn to swim… or float… or doggy paddle; anything to keep our heads above water. We’ve struggled to hold true to those promises in various ways, and multiple times.

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Our first baby was born nine months, one week, one day and two hours after that ceremony. (But who’s counting? Especially when eight months and 3 weeks would have raised the eyebrows of more than a few.) In the 6 years that followed, God blessed us with five more healthy children, and carried us through losing two others. We cried. We misunderstood how the other grieves, and at times felt hopelessly lost in this thing we call marriage.

Over the years we both have been in situations at various times that, if we had been so inclined, could have led to infidelity and unfaithfulness. But we communicated and risked opening our hearts to each other. Sometimes it meant one of us seeing the risk the other was in, and sometimes it meant seeing it ourselves and together working through navigating those relationships… and ending them.

We’ve each failed the other. We’ve looked out for our own interests instead of the other. We’ve had to own our wrongs, and say “I’m sorry”. And, when we could have walked away from each other, always we chose to stay and forgive, and support each other.

We’ve had crises and challenges and blessings, all blended together into a sometimes confusing mosaic. But when I step back, I see beauty, love and grace. We’ve hurt each other and been disappointed, and wondered if we’d make it through. Yet we’ve never, even in the hell of life, stopped loving. Even in our ‘fights’ – such as they tend to be with both of us not liking conflict – we have kept our love alive. (Yes, you can be angry and love someone. You can hurt deeply, and love them. And you can look at them and say “I still love you… I just can’t keep doing life this way”.)

I am, by nature – or maybe because of past experience – a hedgehog with rhino tendencies. I extend grace, and more grace, and more grace, and then something tips the building blocks neatly stacked, and it all comes tumbling down. And when it all erupts, we haven’t much choice but to stumble through the mess on the floor and work through it. Tim is, by nature, a hedgehog. That’s how we did the first ‘many’ years of marriage, as two hedgehogs – one with rhino tendencies.

Gradually we have learned (and are learning still) that if we talk about things as they happen – which we have done times since all hell broke loose nearly two years ago -things are so much better. When I’m cranky, I take inventory about what’s happening to my heart. Sometimes it’s just hormones. (Seriously! this middle-aged stuff…!)  But it’s not all bad. As my naturopath Dr. Jim Farquarson told me, it’s a time when God invites us to the past and heals a lot of stuff that we’ve ignored. (Okay. I can do that!)  Sometimes when I’m feeling hurt it is the result of a subtle little thing that I’ve decided ‘isn’t a big deal’ because I want to be mature. Many times that works and such grace is good. But sometimes, if it lingers, the best thing for me to do is to tell Tim. I’ve learned that often if I tell him, it breaks that negative power, and it’s over “just like that!” with the little things that build up and cause explosions. So we have less and less ‘Mt. St. Helen’ moments in our marriage all the time, and more peace.

Through it all, we’ve never stopped holding and loving each other. Sure, a few times there were several days of space and distance while we sorted ourselves out, but rarely did that stop us snuggling, even if in silence, and often falling asleep in each other’s arms. That intimacy of physical closeness – with or without sex – has been critical to us thriving. (Please understand, Tim has never violated me physically or sexually. Not in word, not in deed, not in an affair, and not by using pornography. This deeply impacts my trust in physical touch. He has hurt me in other ways, but not sexually. If that is your marriage, I encourage you to seek help. And, in any case, please don’t compare with us. Every story is different.)

Our closest friends have seen our struggles, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t know if we’d have survived if we had kept it all secret. (Special thanks to these closest friends who knew the battles and loved us anyway. In part it is thanks to you we survived those times and came out thriving!) I’m good with confidentiality, but I’m not good at ‘hidden things’ and ‘secrets’, so having safe places to process hurt and anger has been a lifesaver for me, and for us. Twenty-four years later, I spend my life with my best friend because we pushed through those struggles, and are pushing through still.

Tim, you are my best friend. I can imagine my future a thousand different ways and be excited about it. From continuing in our ‘extraordinary ordinary’ life… to pursuing my PhD (scared as I feel at moments), or being rejected from the PhD program… From staying where we live now, to downsizing as our family continues to shrink… I can imagine staying home more, or working a 9 – 5 job, or pursuing my current line of work more – or some variation of it….

I can imagine my future a thousand and one different ways and be excited. But I cannot imagine a future without you…  without my heart breaking.

You are my best friend, my lover, my constant support. In the past two years you have carried me through deep loss and grief. When my heart was so crushed it physically hurt to breathe, you held me. I don’t cry easily, even when life hurts like hell, but in your arms the tears unlock and I am comforted by your love. You have healed me and built confidence in me. You’ve showed me that amazing men exist; men who don’t worship sex, porn and control. (And as I said last week… thank you for staying away from that stuff. In this you honour our marriage so well, and spare me the shame and betrayal many women feel.)

Because of you I generally view men as trustworthy in spite of my past, and because of you I feel respected by all men. You have taught me the stability of faithfulness through the certainty of your love. You call out my strengths, you challenge, you encourage and above all, you bless me. You have learned to fight for me… for us. And you have, in all of these things, showed me the heart of God. Because of you, I trust Him with all that I am… because you have showed me that He is trustworthy. Your faithfulness replaced fear and terror of Him, with love and trust, and helped me see that He adores me.

And if next week some hell hits, or the crick begins to rise, we will paddle and swim and float… And we will fight our way forward. I love you, with all my heart! Happy 24th Anniversary!

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

Pain; the door to joy, love & feeling again

“Will it hurt this bad forever?”

Those words, the initial response of a victim of sexual abuse when they first allow themselves to face the pain and devastation of past experience, is common. The victim will become an surviver, and then an overcomer. But at first, when raw pain invades, they are truly victims, for a moment in time. And that moment can all but knock the breath out of body, spirit and soul. Just for a short while.

As the initial agony gives way to the long haul of hard work, of facing waves upon waves of grief, nausea and anger, resilience is tested; the heart weary, and longing to return to the numbness of the past.

“Can’t I just close this door and never think about it again? Can’t I just go back into denial, and stay there?”

That question, after a while, is just as common as the initial one. And to this question I always, always respond, “Do you really want to?” And inevitably the answer is, “No, not really. But sometimes I think I do.”

And as we explore the advantages, without fail the upside, and the thing that makes them not ever want to go back to that denial, is the ability to feel joy and to really love.

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For couples, when one partner moves from denial and being ‘shut down’, the marriage often comes alive in a whole new way, all else being equal. (If the spouse is abusive or was molested and has not dealt with it, this does not hold true.) *Love awakens in those situations,  into a thing of celebration, beauty and wonder, and sexual intimacy a whole new ‘party in bed’. And what a gift that is!

It’s almost as if we take the painful memories, and everything we felt at that time, and push it all in a secure box–a very secure one, made of metal–and then lock it all away.

The tragedy is that we lock much of our ability to really feel, at a meaningful level, in the box with the bad. And then, when we dare to look at the dark and painful things, we rediscover our ability to feel… To feel loved and to love; to feel secure and accepted and offer that to our loved ones; to feel God move within us, stirring us to life.

The beauty of unlocking pain is the ability to feel joy and love in a whole new way, painting our world in vibrant colours.

Love,
~ T ~

* I have worked with situations where couples struggled for most, if not all of marriage, with intimacy. And when healing happens on the front of sexual abuse, dramatic positive changes transpire. I have also worked with several situations where that struggle  with intimacy continued intensely, for various reasons–some obvious, some not. If you continue to struggle, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. We should not be ashamed to talk about our sexuality, and get help from doctors, counselors, and mentors. Don’t settle without a fight.

 

© Trudy Metzger

 

 

Daily Grace for the Wounded

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Life is overwhelming, from time to time, for victims of sexual abuse and violence, when past memories haunt the mind, or trauma threatens to spill its pain in blood red all over our present. When flashbacks intercept the sweet wonder of a lover’s touch, and run like a thief with a moment blessed by God in marriage, leaving black footprints all over the marriage bed.

Or when the single heart longs for relationship, desiring that friendship of marriage, but fears of past loss invade those desires, and shut down a beautiful heart with lies. Maybe, for another, the desire itself has been covered over with feelings of worthlessness, hate and resentment. Desire, too soon awakened and having robbed little girls of sweet dreams, and little boys of adventures, has fled, leaving them empty with hollow eyes.

Life is overwhelming, from time to time….

Only God’s mercies keep us from being swallowed up, because His compassions never fail us. They are new each day and as fresh and tender as the morning sunlight that carresses the earth each day; Your faithfulness is boundless. Lamentations 3:22-23 (Paraphrased)

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger