The Tale of Our Three Marriages

The Tale of Our Three Marriages

A couple writing about their 30 years of marriage

4 Minute Read

“If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear cause I will be here.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago, and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later.  I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).

When we meet couples who are on their second marriage, sometimes we feel like we can’t relate. After all, what do we have in common with them?  But as Allen and I joke, we aren’t only on our second marriage, we are on our third…it just happens to be with the same person. Very different and also somewhat the same.

Our “Three Marriages” have been loosely marked by the decades we’ve been together. This past weekend, questions were posed to us by our Pastor when we were interviewed on stage at our church, “Tell us about the early years of your marriage. What came naturally… and what was a challenge for you?  Any Points of Conflict?”

My answer to him was hard for me to say and even harder for me to hear out loud and share with the audience. However, it was worth telling because vulnerability breaks strongholds and provides undeniable freedom.  (Sorry. I have kept you in suspense long enough with how I answered, so here goes.)

Our first Marriage was characterized by HIDING. We so longed to be the perfect Christians, the right kind of wife and/or husband, the ones everyone would look at and say, “We wish we could be just like them.  They have it all together.”  Needless to say, with this kind of pressure to perform, we hid from ourselves, our families, our church and mostly, from each other.   

We had lots of manners, not a lot of meaning. Lots of talk, not a lot of truth. Lots of outer, not a lot of inner. During that time, we actually did NOT have a lot of CONFLICT (which probably made my conflict-avoiding, peace-loving husband a happy camper), but we also did NOT have a lot of CLOSENESS.  And to be honest, it felt good.

Thank God He didn’t leave us there. It all “hit the fan” at the end of those 10 years.  

Our first marriage came to an abrupt end. With the help of some friends, Allen took a huge risk and shared some of his “not-so-perfect” stuff with me. I would love to tell you that I returned his risk with the reward of kindness, understanding and grace. Not so much. His reward was judgment and anger. After all, I liked my perfect, cookie-cutter world, where we were “godly” people and had a picture-perfect marriage and family.

Over the next months, my heart began to slowly change. Allen’s risk affected me. I was free to explore the ways I was hiding, the “not-so-perfect” parts of me. For the first time in our marriage, I felt safe and free to share those things with him.  If he wasn’t perfect, then I didn’t have to be either. What a relief!

This was the beginning of our second marriage, one characterized by a lot of HARD WORK. Transparency and authenticity came to the forefront and was mostly met with forgiveness, grace, and compassion, which required long talks and much conflict.  

We plunged headlong into books on authenticity, life groups that offered mutual transparency and trust (we have a couples’ group and we each have our own group comprised of just men and just women), and fought for these everywhere in our life: each other, our kids, and our friends.

As that decade came to a close, and our second marriage felt fairly successful, God called us to another, even deeper level in our relationship with Him and with each other.  With the help of a very safe and close-knit group of friends who regularly meet together and the decision to go to counseling, we found out that we “married the wrong person,” to quote Pastor Tim Lucas’ book on the subject.  

We began a slow undertaking towards HEALING, wholeness (I MEAN SLOW), another marriage, our third. Our small group went on an inner journey together exploring our pasts and how those played into who we are today, for both good and bad.  

Counseling revealed to us that we each had core wounds that affect most aspects of our lives and especially each other. That was tough. There was even one very scary night that stands out vividly in my memory. 

We were lying in bed, seeing very little light at the end of the tunnel, and asked each other, “Will we make it? Is there any hope for us?”  We actually weren’t sure and this made for a very dark time.

We pushed ahead with our group and with counseling.  This journey for HEALING seemed endless.  One evening during a session, we came right out and asked the question, “Do you see any hope for us?  Is this normal, that it gets much worse before it gets better?” 

Thankfully, our counselor answered with a resounding, “YES!”  to both questions.  That gave us the spark we needed to move (albeit slowly) forward.

We have found a few things during this time that have been huge for true HEALING in our marriage.

1. Working on our marriage without recognizing and working on our own individual brokenness is pointless. They go hand-in-hand.

2. Removing blame from each other for our own wounds is huge.  Blame produces shame, shame begets blame and the cycle goes round and round (that might just be why our fights kept going in circles).

3. Neither of us is changing the basic core of who we are.  We have each had to (and are continuing to) grieve the things about each other that we wish were different.  To give you an example, I am just not a physical person and Allen’s highest love language is physical touch.  Even if I set alarms on my phone to cuddle and hold his hand, it just doesn’t come naturally to me.  It’s really sad for Allen.  It might never change, no matter how hard I try.   He is grieving what might never be.  The hope we cling to is that at the end of the stages of grief lies acceptance and freedom.  YAY!  We’re slowly getting there.  (Believe me, it’s not just one way.  I’m grieving too, but not throwing Allen under the bus this time around.)

4. The journey is SLOW. There’s no way around it.  It takes lots of time and needs the “long-view” approach. None of us can undo years of damage and bad patterns in days, weeks and even months. The good news is that this perspective calms hearts and gives the much-needed room for long-term growth and change.

5. The process requires struggle. It might be painful. There will probably be some conflict. It won’t be comfortable. On Wednesday, Allen reminded me of the image of a butterfly, my all-time favorite creature. Without the stage of the cocoon, there would be no transformation.  Scientists tell us it looks pretty gruesome deep inside the chrysalis, kind of like caterpillar soup.  Finally, after weeks of this and the butterfly is ready to emerge, it takes hours of struggle to get free and more hours of waiting to fly.  The result is sheer beauty.

6. The other person is worth fighting for. Each of us longs to have true intimacy:  being fully-known and fully-loved, naked and unashamed, as Genesis defines it. We want it for each other and for ourselves. This is the place where the most transformative healing can happen, inside true transparency and trust. This is the toughest and yet most rewarding path of all!

We wonder if we will have even another marriage, one where HIDING, HARD WORK, AND HEALING are over.  

 It actually sounds a little bit like HEAVEN to me!

Esther and her husband were interviewed by their pastor about the authenticity and transparency they have in their marriage today. The entire 51-minute video is excellent, (if you love This Is Us-you’ll love it) and the Goetz’s are interviewed at the 26-minute mark and last about 10 minutes. (Click “Here is the link”)  HERE IS THE LINK

*If you’re not connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section. 

The Place In-Between

The Place In-Between

3 minute Read

The in-between is where I reside these days. This strange place, not yet an empty-nester and not a young-mom anymore, either. Just here. 

Sometimes it seems like I’m just floating in ‘the in-between.’ Un-noticed. Fading into the background.

This wasn’t how I imagined this season of my life…

Don’t misunderstand…my husband and I have people in our lives, dinners out, events to attend, and parents we enjoy on the sidelines of our kid’s sporting events. Still, it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s like we’re just here, as spectators to all of it. Most of the time, I feel lonely— even in a gathering of friends.

We’ve talked about it, my husband feels it too. There used to be couples we’d get together with, at a moments notice, for game nights or spontaneous barbecues in our backyard. But as babies were born and our kids grew up, our social life began to revolve around their activities.

Slowly, without even realizing it, our couple friendships began to fade—maybe even taken for granted.  

You see, twenty-three years of marriage will do that sometimes. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, driving the kids around to all their activities, while my husband has been working long hours at the office. He’s been focused on our family-owned business, and I on our kids, and the business of everything running smoothly at home. 

In some ways, this may sound a little circa 1950, but that’s just how it worked out for us, in terms of sharing the workload. I feel our marriage is solid. We’ve enjoyed a date night almost every week for twenty-one years, and we have fun together. But still, we’re both finding ourselves in ‘the in-between.’ Is it a mid-life crisis? Perhaps. But neither of us is vying to buy a little red convertible any time soon—this feels different somehow.

We have one who just headed off to college and one who is currently managing his days wading through the muddy waters of middle school. So, empty-nesting may be a little further off for us than many of the people we know who have kids heading off to college. 

Our kids and their activities have filled up our lives in so many ways and yet, I am not sure where I fit in anymore. 

I feel like I’m floating between two different friendship groups—the parents of college-age kids and the middle school parents. It is a strange place to find one’s self. Not knowing where I’ll land.

At 48 years young, I consider myself the pretty typical age for a parent of a college freshman. Yet, I didn’t make many deep connections with the moms in that group while my daughter was in high school. Many of them are empty-nesters now, and we never found enough in common to move our friendship forward—I never felt like they got me. 

No matter how many walks, coffee dates, or days I spent volunteering at school events, I never really felt a deeper connection with any of them.

I also have insecurities about feeling like the “old mom” in my middle-schooler’s class. For many of these parents, their middle-schooler is their oldest child, and most have more littles at home. And it certainly doesn’t make me feel any younger to have to pull my readers out in front of them, every time I want to look at my phone or read something.

While they are discussing American Girl dolls, Magic Tree House, and the intricacies of making slime, I am thinking about my daughter off in her dorm room. I’m hopeful she’s headed to her classes and college parties are not her main focus. So, college is not on many of the middle school mom’s radar yet; I wouldn’t expect it to be.

Whenever I talk to the moms in each of the groups, I don’t feel like I fit into either one. Don’t get me wrong—everyone is friendly, everyone is nice.

The ‘middle school and younger moms’ are in the thick of busy, driving every which way with car snacks and activity-filled days. The ‘college-age moms’ are mostly empty-nesters, focused on how well their college students will fair away from home. And a few seem concerned about how they’re going to reconnect with their partner after so many years of focusing on their kids.

I’m finding the rush of activities for my middle-schooler is humming along at a pretty relaxed pace for us right now. It’s low stress since he’s the only one in sports and after school activities. We drive around, talk easily, and have great conversations. I enjoy all of it. The craziness seems to have calmed.

But here is the real deal; my days are full spending time with family. I am content, yet still, I have a sense of loneliness—a sense of not belonging. My deep-rooted insecurity of wondering if anyone really “gets me” still nags at me from time to time.

I turn will be turning 50 in what feels like a minute, and my husband and I are still looking for “our people.” People to connect with on a deeper level, fewer surface friendships, and more real connections. We would like to develop friendships with couples that have found themselves in this same place. 

We can’t be the only people feeling this way, can we? We feel like we missed the window when we were supposed to make these deeper friendships. What do we do now?

Are there any other couples out there, caught in ‘the in-between’ like us? How do we go about finding those people? Is there an app for that?

We told our college freshman to “put yourself out there, meet new people, join clubs, and get involved! That is how you will make new friends.” She has taken our advice and is thriving. We are working on taking our own advice. 

Being a “joiner” is hard after so many years of not working at it.

Maybe you are out there too, feeling the same way? I hope we meet you soon. I believe we can all benefit from deeper connections and more intimate friendships. So, we aren’t giving up on finding our people just yet.

Maybe in a few years, there will be an app for that, but in the meantime, we’re trying to take our own advice…

My husband and I have been making time for more outdoor adventures, and we’re trying to play at the local golf course more often. We’ve made it a priority to attend sporting events and concerts at local venues—where our kids are not the main attraction. 

Now we attend, hoping to meet people like us who are still floating…hoping to meet people like you. 

Why Part Two?

Why Part Two?

Boating in Hawaii

3 Minute Read

So many of you have asked, why did I name this blog—I Do Part Two? 

Why, Part Two? 

Because ‘Part Two’ means something different to each of us, it’s as varied as all of our marriage experiences. I wanted ‘I Do Part Two’ to be a space where readers could relate to different couple’s stories and know they’re not alone.

Plus, don’t we all have those moments we wish someone would’ve stepped in and yelled, “CUT…Take-two!”

Wouldn’t that have been great? Instead of, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that…” We keep getting chances to say what we intended to in the first place. No harm, no foul. 

Unfortunately, that’s only in the movies.

Some of you also mentioned, ‘Part Two’ is about getting it right this time, and feeling confident enough to share the best version of yourself with your partner. And for others, ‘Part Two’ means finding love again after a heart-wrenching loss. 

For us, ‘Part Two’ is all about discovering what it’s like to be “almost empty-nesters” as our kids leave for college and beyond. Last time we were alone in the house, everything was new, and it was all so exciting—but we had no clue what we were doing.

Honeymoon 1992

How can we keep that excitement flourishing with more experience, wisdom and a deeper affection for each other than we ever thought possible? Personally, I don’t have the answer to that—I wish I did. But, I do believe we each have something to contribute to this conversation.

Like you, our marriage has it’s own story. I certainly have moments in the last twenty-five-plus years I would love to do over again, but I wouldn’t want a complete do-over.

A do-over might erase some of the best moments of my 27-year marriage to my husband. So, even if it were possible to start over, I wouldn’t want to. We’ve worked too hard to get to this place in our relationship.

Of course, there will always be those moments I wish we’d done it differently…

I would’ve loved it if, in our early years, I hadn’t always been the avoider and my husband the fixer

I wish I’d been naturally gifted with empathy, genuinely able to see through his eyes. Unfortunately, empathy wasn’t a skill I was even aware I was missing—let alone one I desperately needed—until a few years into our marriage.

I also regret not asking my husband for help more often, when the demands of motherhood, laundry, figuring out what to make for dinner every night, and running the kids to all their activities began to overwhelm me.

I wanted my husband to read my mind. I thought he should just know how to help me, but how could he—when I rarely asked. 

So for me, and most definitely for us, ‘Part Two’ is a process of learning from the past, forgiving, and moving forward… 

Instead of fixing and avoiding, we’re really listening to what the other has to say. And more importantly, we’re more aware of how the other is feeling. Even so, we still don’t always get it right. 

Sometimes feelings get hurt… but we’re quicker to mend and more vigilant to repair what we’ve mucked up.

I remember the first marriage counselor (yes, there’s been at least five, but that’s another story…) that introduced the idea of responding to my husband with empathy versus the silent treatment.

Our counselor literally had to role-play how I was supposed to be empathic. I didn’t get it, and it frustrated the hell out of my husband. How could she not get this? Apparently, empathy is learned and I must’ve skipped class that day. 

Our marriage will always be a work-in-process. So when we start to get off track, we have a little phrase we use.  Actually, calling it ‘little’ doesn’t give it the credit it deserves. Many, many times, it’s been our saving grace. It’s only five simple words, but it’s protected us from misunderstandings more times than I can count.  

“May I make a suggestion?” 

It presses the pause button. It asks permission to give advice—you may not like what I’m going to say, but trust me, you need to hear this—it will help us both move forward.

We’ve learned to trust each other, as it’s only spoken with the best intentions.

This season of our lives is also about unwinding old patterns, finding our voices, having fun together, being more intentional, and continuing to learn how to be more empathetic with each other.

We are embracing ‘Part Two.’ I don’t ever recall a time we’ve been more intentional with how we’re showing up for each other and anticipating the other’s needs. We’re excited about the future, and we‘re looking forward to planning more adventures—together.

What will Part Two mean for you? 

*Many thanks to Amy Leimbach, my friend for over 30 years, who thought up the name— I Do Part Two. We’d brainstormed countless duds, epic fails, and domain names that had already been taken. Then, I woke to a text from her in the middle of the night—isn’t that when most women come up with their best ideas? Amy, thank you for your support and creative genius!

Still Chasing (Her) Tail

Still Chasing (Her) Tail

January 7, 2020

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”-Spartan.com

My wife and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, and I am chasing her tail with a renewed sense of vigor.

You see, in the last few months we’ve come to enjoy trail running together, and my wife usually sets the pace, which means her backside is my focal point—kind of like the pacesetting rabbit at the greyhound races.

So why take up an activity like this now?  Having both passed the half-century mark, what possessed us to begin running up and down the hilly trails around town?  To answer that, we need to go back 15 years…

Like many families, my wife Amy and I were busy with work and raising kids.  We pursued an active lifestyle, coaching our kids’ athletic teams, and playing outside as often as we could.  Amy and I were both raised in active families and just naturally continued that lifestyle with our children.  However, we never had a formal “exercise regimen” as part of our schedule.  Life had settled into a routine of sorts.  

Then, I received a heart-wrenching phone call.  Amy and the kids had gone to spend a couple of days with friends on the coast.  Not long after she left she called me, and as I answered the phone she cried out, “We’ve been in a horrible car accident, and Andrew is dead.”  Andrew is our oldest son.  Within seconds she said, “Oh, he just jumped out of the car and is okay. Gotta go.” And then she just hung up… 

It turned out they’d been slowing down on the highway to turn across traffic and were rear-ended, totaling the two cars they were in. Amy and the two younger children were in the first car, and Andrew was in the second. She assumed Andrew couldn’t have survived the accident based on the impact she felt in the lead car.

Amy’s van was pushed off the side of the road but these cars were not so fortunate.

While our three children, aged 6, 4, and 1, and Amy had no visible injuries, it was clear to the paramedics that Amy was confused and was developing a headache and neck pain.  She was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where she was evaluated and diagnosed with a concussion.  

While Amy didn’t appear to be injured, she’d suffered a serious head injury, leaving her unable to remember how to use a phone book or even perform simple addition, much less any of her graphic design work.  Her headaches were often debilitating, and we eventually discovered she had injured her neck as well, which would require a fusion a few years later.  

As Amy struggled to recover, my responsibilities at home increased significantly.  Life became simply about survival.  

In order to keep up with work and a busy family schedule, we ate a lot of prepared meals and takeout.  And exercise? It was non-existent.  

Amy tried her best to keep up, but physically demanding activities were too much for her.  I tried on multiple occasions to begin an exercise program but could not sustain a routine.  

During that timeframe, we had the help of an excellent counselor.  He warned us that 80% of marriages where one spouse has suffered a traumatic brain injury, end in divorce.  To combat this, he impressed upon us the importance of maintaining good sleep patterns, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.  

I can’t say that we really excelled in any of those areas, but Amy did make some major progress in recovery from her brain injury.   We also hired a personal trainer and were working out as a family once a week. Plus, I was trying to work out on my own several days a week. 

Then, four years ago, I flunked a life insurance physical.  I was stunned.

Sure, I was carrying a few extra pounds.  And I knew that the stress from work and some related projects was less than healthy.  But being told my blood pressure was elevated and my blood sugars were in the diabetic range was a complete surprise.  

Now a good diet and exercise regimen wasn’t just a good idea, they were a necessity.  Amy helped to overhaul our dietary regimen and worked hard to cook healthy meals while I began rowing a half an hour a day.  I lost weight, and my numbers came back down within three months.  But I got bored—rowing nowhere fast.  

Amy’s father, who has always been an inspiration to us, asked us to do a mud run along the way for fun—which it was. Who knew getting dirty exercising could be so much fun?  

Then a year into our lifestyle change, a friend invited me to join a group running in a more competitive obstacle course race.  I found this race not only fun but invigorating. 

So in 2017, I started searching for my own races to compete in and found a Spartan Race close to home. (Spartan is a brand in the growing sport of obstacle course racing which involves running over varying terrain with obstacles thrown in along the course.  Think basic training.) 

I signed up for a 4-mile/23 obstacle course race in Portland, Oregon, and ran it in memory of a college roommate who had recently committed suicide. I knew if I wanted to be around for my own family, I needed to improve my own physical health.

I was hooked.  

Mark completing the ‘Fire Jump’

In addition to winning a medal for completing the race, I earned 1/3 of a Spartan Trifecta medal.  If I could finish two more Spartan races, their middle distance, and the longer distance called the Beast, I would complete the three-piece medal and earn my place in the ’Spartan Trifecta Tribe.’  

Never one to pass up a challenge, and irritated by missing two pieces of the medal, I signed up for two more races, one at Big Bear and one in Sacramento, California.  I started training for the obstacles, watching videos, and doing research and apparently talking about it—a lot.  My kids accused me of “geeking out” over my new hobby.

I traveled to California twice before the end of the year and raced on my own.  With all three pieces of the Trifecta medal, I had joined the Tribe.   I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, but it was also lonely, crossing the finish line without anyone to help celebrate the moment.  

So, what does this have to do with marriage in the second half of life?  Everything, thanks to my amazing wife.

Amy is smart and intuitive and understood how motivating these races were to me.  With our kids about to leave the nest, Amy realized that if this was important to me, she wanted to give it a try as well. 

Running up hills, climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire, carrying buckets of rocks, and throwing a spear didn’t sound like fun to her (well, maybe throwing spears), but she signed up anyway for me, and more importantly, for us.  

Our first race together was with a group of friends.  The challenge stimulated her competitive nature, and she agreed to go back to Sacramento with me to do the middle distance race, 8 + miles, and 25 + obstacles.  

We finished the race together, sharing in the sense of accomplishment and celebrating together at the finish line.  

Couple running in the Spartan obstacle course race
Finishing hand-in-hand

As we were driving home, feeling that good sense of tired and sore, it occurred to me that our weekend spent racing fulfilled another desire that we had — to have a weekend getaway.  While the purpose had been to run the race, we had enjoyed the entire weekend together, talking, eating out, and just being together.  

In 2019, Amy wanted to take on the challenge of finishing her own Trifecta.  So we started working out together at Orange Theory, which we found was a good fit for both of us.  After encouraging Amy to actually do some running before tackling the Spartan Beast, a 12+ mile race with over 30 obstacles, we started trail running on Saturdays, slowly building up our mileage.  

Initially reluctant, as Amy didn’t think she enjoyed running, she’s found that running together through the trees on the trails around Eugene, Oregon energizing and a lot of fun.  

As I write this, we are traveling back from SoCal, where we combined our racing with an opportunity to see our college-age kids.  We spent dinner with them on Friday night, and our youngest hung out with them during the day while Amy and I raced, then we all celebrated with dinner.  On Sunday morning, we all went to church and then finished with brunch before heading back to Oregon.  It was a rich weekend with family. 

And even more amazing, Amy finished the third leg of her Trifecta, earning her membership in the “Tribe.” 

A couple who won a Spartan Obstacle course race and renewed the passion in their marriage
After both completed the Trifecta

When you consider where she was 15 years ago, with a traumatic brain injury and a neck injury requiring a fusion, this is an incredible accomplishment, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She said it was the most challenging thing she has ever done, physically, emotionally, and mentally—but well worth the effort.

Our mutual love and respect for each other, and pride in one another’s accomplishments have grown immensely. This is all because Amy was willing to try something new, out of her comfort zone, to spend time with me.

Finding an activity we both enjoy, and competing together, has renewed our passion for one another and has definitely brought us closer together.  We are blessed that it has become something we both love to do.  

Our goal going forward is to complete at least one Trifecta a year and expand our travel horizons to include international races.  Sparta, Greece, is foremost on our bucket list.  And hopefully, someday soon you’ll see the two of us up on the winner’s podium for our age group.  

In the meantime, my life is so much richer than two years ago when I finished my first Spartan Beast in the dark, surrounded by strangers and feeling oddly alone, without anyone to help celebrate my accomplishment

Having my best friend and partner cross the finish line, holding my hand, makes it infinitely sweeter.  And it doesn’t hurt that I get to chase her tail up the hills every week – she even lets me catch her once in a while. 

*If you’re not connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section. Please note, neither the Meyers nor I Do Part Two has a marketing affiliation with Spartan.com or Orangetheory Fitness.