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By Patrick Fletchall

Our eldest son used to get frustrated with his Duplo set. His Duplo are comprised of many blocks, each of them distinct yet perfectly designed to fit each other. Most of the time he would patiently play, but on occasion he’d lose patience and angrily mash them together. The more he mashed, the less likely they were to click together. I’ll come back to that later.

My wife, Nicole, and I could not be more different people. After ten years, this is abundantly clear. She’s blunt and I’m circuitously wordy. She reads mommy blogs and I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She’s OCD and I’m slovenly. I could probably give 10 volumes of additional examples.

When we were first married these differences were exciting. During our first six months of marriage we lived in a 200 square foot room, and I discovered her the way that Louis and Clark explored a path to the West: exhilarating, breathtaking, and frequently dangerous.

At each step on the trail, I explored new territory and we learned more about ourselves along the way. Nicole revealed a different way of thinking, communicating, and looking at personal relationships. She viewed the world entirely different then I did.

For my part, I was thrilled to share my passions and interests with the woman I loved and admired. I was like a 6-year-old hosting his first sleepover. “Come look at all my toys!” It seemed like the perfect synergy: she taught me how to establish healthy boundaries within my relationships and I introduced her to the Die Hard movies. Either we fit each other like two puzzle pieces, or I had an extraordinarily munificent and patient wife.

I was like someone sipping a full cup of coffee while driving on a smooth road: I patted myself on the back for our steady marriage. But life, as we all know tends to throw a few bumps. Bump…recession. Bump…child #1. Bump…child #2. Lose job, downsize, sell car to buy groceries, global pandemic…bump-bump-bump-BUMP!

The circus of young children, careers, and school leaves very little luxury for reflective relationship-building. We all spin off each day and collide back together in sporadic bursts of energy. Nicole and I had less time to be able to have the deep conversations; our interactions became transactional. The cracks began to develop.

Over 10 years, our differences seemed less like doing a puzzle together and more like an unbridgeable gulf. The slightest interaction became the seed for bickering, and bickering became our new normal mode of communication. When you’re having five fights a day, saying “I’m sorry” or “I love you” ceases to become the first step in the process of reconciliation.

Through unemployment and pandemic, our lives became condensed into a 1000 square foot apartment. There are very few places to storm off to. We had started this thing living in 200 square feet and 10 years later we’ve gained only a little more space and two adorable, inconsiderate roommates.

When you’re quarantined and have nothing else to distract you, you start noticing more things. For example, you can tell a lot about a person based on how they extract toothpaste. There are numerous methods: flattening, squeezing, rolling, etc. Personally I’m a flattener: I press the tube from the bottom upwards using my palm on the counter. Sometimes, I use the edge of the counter to ensure maximum efficiency; but I sometimes worry about the 0.05 ounces of paste that squirt back to the bottom and go wasted. My wife, on the other hand, throttles the life out of the tube like she had an ex-boyfriend named Colgate.

We’ve always shared toothpaste. For a long time, I felt mildly protective of the poor toothpaste. However, recently I’ve been struck by how incredibly effective our conjoined methods of toothpaste extraction are. Each day, we alternatively choke and press the same tube, which results in the most efficient technique to get the last ounce of product. I was impressed by the fact that our efficiency was the result of not simply complimentary methodology, but a common goal.

I mentioned previously that our son would periodically get frustrated and slam his Duplos together. To date, I’ve never seen him swing two bricks together and have them match up perfectly. And if they had, I believe he would have been too upset to notice they had aligned before ripping them apart. My wife and I have been doing the same thing.

We were designed to fit together, but we collided with such velocity and frequency, how could we possibly come together and how would we know when we had? What would it take to shake us from our bad habits?

Like many, the last month has been extraordinarily challenging. But it has also made life uncharacteristically simple. Nicole and I are still learning to put the pieces together, but the monastic minimalism of our days has forced us to intentionally partner with purpose.

No matter how long it may take for the world to get back to any semblance of normality, our marriage (and many marriages out there I suspect) will never be the same. We’ve always unwittingly squeezed and pressed together, but now we realize that we were designed to meet this challenge.

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No one wakes up one day and thinks, “I’m going to have an affair today.”- Stacey Chenevert

An affair doesn’t just happen…

Have you ever wondered how an affair starts? In my opinion, there’s such a misconception as to how affairs begin. Most people I’ve talked to believe its when two people meet, flirt, and then bam they’re having sex. However, by the time an affair is usually discovered, the couple has been involved for quite a while. 

In reality, an affair starts long before the affair partners ever meet—the affair actually starts taking hold in the husband or wife’s thoughts as soon as emptiness and hopelessness set in, and the vulnerable spouse begins to believe their marriage will not change. In case you are wondering how I know how an affair starts, well the truth is…I’ve had an affair. 

I was young when I married my first husband, my high school sweetheart. Our relationship was definitely not the fairy-tale I had imagined. We were married seven years, and during those years my husband had multiple one-night stands and became emotionally abusive. Ultimately, I became very angry and vindictive towards him.

Even so, I never thought I could be the one to have an affair…

My first husband and I had a particular couple we often socialized with, and the husband happened to be my husband’s best friend. One day, my husband’s friend expressed an interest in me and we began “discreetly and innocently” flirting back and forth over a number of years. 

Regrettably, as my marriage began to deteriorate, I started confiding in my husband’s friend about what was going wrong in my marriage. One day, when we were alone, things crossed the line. Two years later, we divorced our spouses and married each other.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but at the time I was angry and hurt by my first husband’s unfaithfulness. I thought he deserved what he got for how he treated me all of those years. I didn’t realize at the time—no one deserves to be cheated on—even if they’re unfaithful themselves and not treating their spouse with respect. It was my response to my husband’s behavior that caused me to have an affair. I know now, I had a choice!

In the beginning, my new marriage was fun and exciting. We spent lots of time together, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. But as the years went by, and we added a couple of kids to the mix, and the stresses of everyday life intervened—our marriage began to take a back seat.

Then, about eight years ago, when my second husband and I had been married for nearly 10 years, we hit a rough patch in our relationship. I was busy raising kids and my husband worked hard to provide for us, but in the process, he became a workaholic and filled his free-time with hobbies on his own. 

Over time, I felt lonely and became angry with my husband for distancing himself from me. The closeness and friendship we once shared appeared over as we began living like roommates. By the time my affair partner entered my life, I was a shell of the person I was when we married, and desperate for attention.

Infidelity is not something you go looking for…its something you allow your thoughts to lead, and your actions to follow.

My affair partner was in the medical profession and had been caring for my children for several years before the affair started. It wasn’t until I began seeing him for my own dental needs that things between us became flirtatious. Never once did I think we would end up having an affair. I was just having fun, and it felt good to be noticed. He was also going through a similar situation, so as our discussions became more intimate, we bonded over our failed marriages.

The Lie: “We‘re just friends…”

Our friendship flourished, and it didn’t take long for us to seek a relationship beyond the phone. The more time we spent together, the closer we became. The affair became like a drug. I needed to feel wanted, and he needed to feel appreciated.

Both our needs were being met for the first time in a long time. 

My affair partner spent a lot of time talking to me and listening to my heart—he was very interested in ‘who I was.’ He made me feel very honored and accepted. I needed this quality time and validation from my husband, and he wasn’t aware I even needed this to feel fulfilled.

In contrast, I grew farther away from my husband and gave up on ever being able to have with my husband again, what I had with my affair partner. I convinced myself that I never really loved my husband, and we shouldn’t have married. 

I would tell myself it was “fine”; our marriage was dead, and we didn’t have anything in common anymore. I reduced our love to a feeling, and since I no longer ‘felt in love’ with my husband, it validated my belief that “it was time to move on.” 

Affairs start in your head—long before you end up in bed…

I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt my affair started in my thoughts long before my affair partner showed up. I felt neglected by my husband, and I began withdrawing from him about a year before the affair started. Looking back now, I see how hard my heart had become toward him.

Did I mention my husband and I are Christians? Well, we are, and when the affair started, we had just finished hosting a bible study in our home. To say the guilt and shame were beyond measure would be an understatement. I was so in love with my affair partner—I didn’t care anymore about right from wrong, I just never wanted to feel empty again.

I learned first-hand having the title of ‘Christian’ will not give you the power to not have an affair. I looked like I was doing all the ‘right things’ on the outside, but my heart was still leading me down a dark path. 

Eventually, change for me would only come from my relationship with the Lord. I know, I digress, but I wanted to bring up this point in case there are some Christians who find themselves where I was—feeling overwhelmed with guilt and shame. You are not alone, and there is hope for healing and recovery.

It’s important to note—an affair can happen at any time or anywhere—it is never the physical location you are in that causes the affair to start. What makes you vulnerable is where your heart is, how empty you are feeling, or how unhappy you are in your marriage. Affairs begin within ourselves.

We believe the lies we tell ourselves…

So over time, I began to have a negative narrative about my husband. Especially when he would hurt my feelings, make me angry, or wouldn’t listen to how I was feeling. 

The narrative running through my mind would go something like this:

  • You don’t understand me.
  • You don’t spend time with me.
  • Why don’t you like me?
  • I don’t like you right now.
  • I’m tired of arguing with you about this.
  • You never listen to me.
  • We don’t have anything in common anymore.
  • I really hate you right now.
  • You are such a mean person.

I believe you get the picture. But all of this negative narrative did was cause me to look at my husband negatively—I didn’t even want to be around him. Every time he hurt me or neglected me, I would put another brick on the wall-of-anger around my heart. 

It’s hard to love someone with all your heart, only to have your needs go unmet day-after-day. I was protecting myself from further pain, but I wasn’t actively seeking healthy strategies to repair my marriage.

How to recognize when your marriage is vulnerable to an affair… 

  1. When intimacy decreases significantly or is eliminated in your marriage. We crave a deep connection with our spouse and intimacy fosters closeness. Intimacy enables us to bond with our partners on many levels. If intimacy takes a back seat and we begin to neglect the quality time our relationship needs to survive, we can become vulnerable to someone else’s attention. 
  • We begin a negative narrative about our spouse– this changes our perspective of who they are and causes us to magnify their negative qualities more than their positive attributes. So much so, we can no longer see what we loved about them.
  • Resentment sets in– even if they apologize, we can’t receive anything positive from them because we’ve allowed our hearts to be hardened. This leaves our hearts open to someone else.
  • We meet the ‘perfect-other-person’ who flirts with us and makes us feel wanted and special.
  • Communication breaks down in our marriage, and we start thinking about how good this ‘perfect-person’ made us feel. We even begin to avoid small talk with our spouse.
  • Fantasizing begins- as the flirting continues, the fantasies about what it would be like with the other person intensify. We start imagining, “what if this happened or I wonder how this would feel and what it would be like to spend time with this person?”  So by fantasizing about these different scenarios, we tell our hearts (which is where our emotions sit) that we are enjoying this attention. “It’s okay” to prepare for an encounter.
  • An agreement is made—once the line has been crossed, what’s done, can’t be undone. We begin to search for fulfillment from this person who is meeting our needs, and a chemical called Dopamine starts to kick in. 

Dopamine is the reward chemical in our brains. It releases feel-good chemicals when we are excited about someone or something. A study was done on a brain in love, and someone addicted to a drug affects found that the chemical reaction effects the same area of our brains. You literally become addicted to your affair partner. This makes ending the affair incredibly difficult but not impossible.

Once you choose hope, anything is possible…

I believe that most people go into marriage with the core value of believing they’ll have a monogamous marriage and that they won’t cheat on each other. I had the same intention with both my marriages, so I had to question myself, “what made me cross the line of my core values?” 

Was it my response to life difficulties, or neglect in my marriage? I believe it was my response to the hard times my marriage was facing, and this is the area I needed to focus on healing.

If you’re feeling discouraged by betrayal or your own thoughts, there is hope for healing your marriage. It is hard work, but when two people want to fight for their marriage and are willing to do the work required to rebuild something beautiful, then the outcome is a stronger and healthier marriage. 

My husband and I worked really hard to get through the recovery process, and I can tell you it was worth every struggle and setback to be where we are today. 

To Read Part 2: 5 Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage by Stacey Chenevert Go to — https://idoparttwo.com/5-ways-to-affair-proof-your-marriage/

To find more about healing from infidelity, go to https://womenwithscarsaffairrecovery.com and connect with Stacey Chenevert

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*Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment or consultation with a mental health professional. Please note, I Do Part Two and Women with Scars Affair Recover do not have an affiliate marketing relationship.

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

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Story about how opposites attract and after the couple married they used the book the Five Love Languages to help their relationship

4 Minute Read

It wasn’t like he spoke French, or we had grown up on different continents, or had families who forbade us to date each other…but it was close. 

I was born and raised in a small town in Vermont at the base of the Green Mountains. So, it was kind of a big deal to be moving south to play soccer at a small, private college in North Carolina.

Just prior to departing on my new adventure, I was out shopping with my mom for all the essentials I’d need for school. Stopped at a red light, my mom turned to me and said, “Whatever you do, please don’t fall in love with a southern boy.” Well, like any teenager, I went right ahead and did just that.  

Jeff was a baseball player from Southern Florida, and at the time, it seemed like sports was about the only thing we had in common. It was not “love at first sight”…at least not for me. 

I mean, who would ever shave their own head, wear baggie Tommy Hilfiger jeans with stripes down the sides, a white tank top and sport a chain necklace with a cross?  

And boy was he loud! His energy was electric!  Jeff was that guy, yelling at the poor referee “to bend over and look out his good eye!” There were times I wanted to slink away, and crawl all the way back to Vermont.

I was not perfect by any means, but I was chill. 

I was a Vermont-girl, who thought she was looking for a typical Vermont guy. You know, the rugged outdoorsy kind of guy who wears hiking boots, Carhart pants, flannel shirts, and enjoys quiet conversation over a good IPA.

Not the Miller High Life guy, who drank “The Champagne of Beers” as Jeff would call it. By the way, do they even make that beer anymore? He’d grab a bottle of “champagne” as he sat down to watch his beloved NASCAR.

Jeff was so foreign to me; he might as well have been from another country. He’d say things like “fixin’.” Why would anyone say they are fixin’ to make a sandwich?  Is it broken? 

Or when he’d yell, “G.D!” Which, I assumed for months was a reference to the Grateful Dead, not the abbreviation for an offensive expression. 

The guy ate biscuits and gravy! He loved sauerkraut! He washed his shiny, silver sports car every Sunday afternoon while I tooled around in my beat-up truck which was nicknamed Swiss Cheese because of all the rusted-out holes caused by the cruel Vermont winters.  

He liked fast-food, I liked fresh.  

He cheered for Tampa, I bled red for Boston.  

He loved Jesus…Who?  

He was very conservative, and I was quite liberal.  

He was so…Southern, and I was so…Not.   

So, you know how magnets work…when like poles of two magnets are placed near each other, they repel.  But, when the north pole of one magnet is placed near the south pole of another: Boom!  We were magnetic! 

As different as Jeff and I were, we were drawn to each other by a force that was quite literally out of our control.  

In the beginning, all of our differences were part of what kept our romance exciting.  We were the epitome of the saying, “Opposites Attract.” But, like anything in this world, when there are strong, opposing forces involved, life can get complicated- fast.

We knew we had to figure out a better way to communicate after we realized our love and excitement for each other could only be stretched so far.  

Thankfully, around this time someone recommended the book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman; it was a game-changer!  

Mr. Chapman explains how every person has a different way of feeling truly loved and there are five primary ways we feel loved by our partners; rarely do a husband and wife have the same love language. So, the challenge is discovering the primary language of your spouse. 

The Five Love Languages are:

  1. Receiving Gifts
  2. Quality Time
  3. Words of Affirmation
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

For some, it’s a mixture of two or three of them but most people have one primary love language which really makes them feel treasured by their partner.  

For me, I always appreciate it when Jeff washes my car (Acts of Service), or surprises me with a small gift, but these acts rarely “fill my love tank” as the author describes.

As we discovered through the book, I feel most loved when my husband takes time to sit and talk with me, with no distractions, or when we go for a walk together. (Quality time) 

Conversely, Jeff certainly appreciates it when I make him a tuna sandwich or I stop and pick up something at the store I know he needs. However, he feels most loved when I tell him how grateful I am for all he does for our family; what an incredible dad he is to our three kids or how wonderfully he provides for all of us. (Words of Affirmation) 

Over the last 15 years, our marriage has been a continuous journey of learning to love and appreciate each other’s differences, all while trying to make our marriage thrive. 

Understand each other’s emotional love language does not mean our marriage is challenge-free, or we have it all figured out, (especially since we’ve added three strong-willed, high spirited kids to the mix) but it does give us a road map to go by when we get caught up in the craziness of our life.  

It is that simple? Of course not.  

We still have our days.  Like when Jeff’s been gone and I’ve been driving the kids in all different directions, dinner’s not ready, the dog hasn’t been walked, everyone has practice or a game, and there are no clean uniforms.  

Then there are those times when the dishes are still sitting in the sink from breakfast, the laundry is overflowing, homework hasn’t been touched, field trip forms are missing, the floors are sticky with patches of who-knows-what, and I’m trying hard not to trip over the last thread I am hanging on by. 

On those days, when I am trying to regain my footing, Jeff knows he can gently take my hand and go for a quiet walk together to hear my heart.  And through this simple act, the pace of my heart rate lowers, my tank refills and I’m reassured of his love for me.  

This didn’t happen by accident or overnight. It has taken us both time and a deep desire to invest in each other and our marriage. Sometimes we don’t do as good of a job of filling each other’s love tanks.

But, we have discovered over the years that keeping this simple idea in mind has helped immensely in keeping this Vermont-girl and Southern-boy…walking hand-in-hand.  

Now, if ya’ll excuse me…I’m fixin’ to make Jeff a sandwich and then I am going to thank Jesus for all He has done for me.  

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3 Minute Read

I sat there on the couch, my counselor across the coffee table from me. Her “office” didn’t feel like one. It felt more like my great aunt’s living room. Relaxed and inviting, warmly lit and messy. Imperfect

“Solace?” She trailed off…. she took a breath, a big one. I could see her shoulders lift heavily upward, as she prepared for her next words.

She was going to ask me what I knew the conversation had been leading up to, the question I’d been dodging and moving away from.

“Solace, do you love your husband?”

Boom. 

She knows me, I thought to myself. She knows everything. I’ve told her all of my struggles, in life, relationships: the thoughts deep within my soul.  I’d convinced myself over the years, that if anyone knew all she knew, I’d surely be unlovable. Like this room I sat in, I was messy and imperfect. I hated knowing that about myself.

I chuckled, “Of course!” 

“Why?”, she asked.

“He’s a great dad and provider. We share similar values and our faith. We have the same life goals. We’ve built a life together that’s remarkable!!” 

She wasn’t going to let me dodge any longer.

“Okay”, she said slowly, “you just outlined why you are compatible. You just told me you like the life you’ve built. But, do you love him?

_________________________________

Mr. Solace travels two out of four weeks, on average, each month. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But, he travels… a lot. 

During this same conversation, my counselor asked me if I miss him when he travels. Of course I did, I said emphatically. I miss his help: I carry the load alone when he is away. 

Again, she pegged me: but do you miss him. Did I still feel that ache I once felt early in our relationship, did I miss his presence, spending time with him: being around him?

I wasn’t sure. 

Did I? Or did I just miss his help at bath time, with the dishes, and taking the trash cans to the curb? Did I miss him and love him or did I just miss his help?

I struggled with these questions for a number of weeks. I wrestled with them. I wanted my heart to feel that tug again. 

__________________________________

Through the process of being mindful within our marriage, we’ve also become intentional about our time as a family and the core relationships of our unit of four.

We’ve started saying “no” a lot more. As a result, we’ve made space within our family for relationships and activities that feed us, sharpen us and rebuild our foundation.

We are getting to know each other again. 

When Mr. Solace left recently for a two-week trip he said, “This last week has been remarkable. I’ve enjoyed you, the boys, our time together…

We’ve all been mentally and emotionally present and available. I think our work within ourselves individually is really starting to show…

By rebuilding our individual foundations and our marriage, I can see the fruits in our family relationships and our life.”

This was earth shattering. I was speechless, and my heart seemed to freeze in that moment, unable to beat. What Mr. Solace shared in this moment of vulnerability, from his heart, floored me. 

He was right. We were both more present and intentional. Mindful in our interactions. Protective of our time and the priority of our family. We stopped worrying about expectations of outside influences and instead started to focus inward.

_______________________________

Weeks later, there I sat again, in the same warmly lit room. 

My counselor, in her chair, sipping hot tea. She asked the same question she always did, “So, what’s been going on with you?”

“Mr. Solace is traveling again; he left last Friday. So, you know, just the normal day to day routine, now.

Nothing major….”, I answered. “Well, actually….there was this one thing that happened.”

“Okay? Tell me about it…”

“Well, I went for a run on Saturday. Since Mr. Solace is traveling it was just me running and pushing the stroller. You know, zoning out.

Before Mr. Solace left we’d had a really amazing week as a family; we both agreed it felt rich and full. It was entirely about being together and enjoying each other.

I was just thinking about the week as I ran, and then I passed this couple pushing a stroller together.  They were talking, I think they were drinking coffee and just clearly taking the Saturday morning slowly, together. And…”

I trailed off. I knew it was coming. An unfamiliar feeling washed over me, tears welled up, my heart beat a little quicker, and my voice trembled.

“And….I missed him. I wished in that moment more than anything in the world that he had been there. With me. I missed him.” 

I cried. And as those hot tears rolled down my cheeks, my heart in a moment of pure joy, leapt.

I missed him. I loved him. I felt joy again….I felt the tug.

________________________________________


Friends, marriage is work and it is ongoing. The process of rediscovering the love I have for my husband isn’t something I could calendar out, it’s not something that I add to a to-do list, or put on a timer. 

It’s happened as I’ve chosen to make my husband and our marriage a priority, a mindful and intentional priority.

I’ve decided to keep up the fight, to continue to persevere through the good and bad days. Remembering to stop and recognize the joy I feel in loving my spouse, and I can finally say it aloud.

I love you deeply Mr. Solace. Thank you for sticking with me.

*Anonymous Writers for I Do Part Two have been thoroughly vetted. We applaud all our writers for the courage to share their stories. If this story touched you, please ‘Like’ and comment on FB, Instagram or you may comment below without social media. Thank you so much for reading this story.

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4 Minute Read

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t.-Rikki Rogers

It burned as it went down…I’d been here, in this place, before. It smelled and felt familiar. Like a knowing friend greeting me: but, there was no friend here. Never kind and never hopeful; only unrelenting in its demand for my full attention.

It whispered with certainty, “You will not win, not today. You don’t have the courage, the strength. All you have is me. I own you.”

_______________________________________________________________

Slam. The door closes jarringly in the hallway. My husband’s home. I’m pulled from my thoughts as he passes through the kitchen.

“Hi! How are you? How was your day?” I ask with too much fervor and excitement. I can tell he knows, but pretends anyway.

“Oh good. You know, just another day. What’s for dinner?”

“Oh right….dinner! Yes! I was just getting it started. The boys are upstairs playing. So I’ll just go check on them and then…yeah I’ll get it going!” 

“Whoa, 5:30 already? ” I rush by him, looking down, avoiding eye contact and any physical touch he may try to initiate.

I make my way up the stairs. I say something to the boys, loud enough for my husband to hear. To know, I’m still there.

“Hon? Do you want to change and shower before dinner?” I ask hopefully. Say yes, please, pleassse, say yes…

“Umm. Sure, I guess so.”

He stops in to see the boys on his way up while I rush by, “I need to start dinner!” I say a bit too loudly. Trying to explain what I imagine he must be thinking, “why is she avoiding me?”

_______________________________________________________________

It’s chasing me, or maybe I’m chasing it. I can’t tell anymore.

We circle one another. Like sharks smelling for first blood. Who will break first? Me. I always do, I remember.

I find myself alone with my thoughts again. I know I don’t have long before they boys will be down, asking about dinner.

Will you ever figure this out? Doubtful. 

You’re too weak and incapable. Just throw the towel in now. Accept this. Accept me, you need me.

Like a master and his slave, I can’t tell if my thoughts are my own anymore. We’d become one, and I was burdened into a slavery that I could not escape.

_______________________________________________________________

We’d met many years before, in my early 20’s, I was at once enamored. I’d never experienced such shiny and glamorous things in life. I was funnier, more confident and self assured. The relationship brought me contentment and offered new opportunities.

At first, it was just a fling; just being reckless and young. Soon, it turned into something more serious and then, controlling and abusive. 

Before I knew it, I was wrapped up: nothing else mattered. Once a relatively prudent and thoughtful young woman, I found myself throwing caution to the wind; all for this new relationship.

Through a series of events, it became clear this, I, wasn’t healthy. And so, we parted ways. I was met with a sneering, “you’ll be back.”

But, I didn’t return. I met my husband, we married within the year, had two beautiful boys and built a remarkable life together.

Something happened though. A life change. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I found myself at home, alone, with two small children. 

Day after day, the same routine. It pained me to admit, I was bored, dying, and uninspired. And so, I found myself going back to my old fling.

Let’s be real: I wasn’t the victim. I knew how unhealthy the relationship had been. 

What would make it different now? Not to mention how unfair it was to my husband, my marriage…my boys.

Familiarity breeds contempt. Indeed, contempt is what I felt. I hated this path I’d found myself wandering on again. I couldn’t break the chain; I’d become a slave again.

_______________________________________________________________

Some like it sweetened for disguise, others like it on a hot summer day, still some prefer it in the cold of a winter night.

I preferred mine straight from the bottle. In the middle of the day. Brad Pitt once said, “I can drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka.” 

Me too.

For months I tried to disguise it. But eventually, like all things, it started to show. I had to have a little more each time to numb the pain I was running from, the person I couldn’t stand to see in the mirror. 

Before I knew it, I was going through vodka like water. “You need me…” it would whisper. Cunningly and deceivingly, “you might beat me someday…but not today.”

_______________________________________________________________

This second time, the consequences were much deeper; more significant.

The trust I’d lost with my husband, slowly had to be rebuilt. The partnership and deep union we’d once felt, had started to crack at the foundation. 

The ramifications of my choices, I’m afraid, may never fully heal.

Like most “affairs”, my decisions were made emotionally and recklessly. And as a result, the most important relationship to the health of my family suffered at great consequence.

After seeking individual and marital counseling (something we should have done earlier), my husband and I have almost fully healed from my choices.

We work daily to guard of my past affair, just as we do with other situations in our life that may lead to unhealthy behaviors on either of our parts. 

Today, I dance a careful dance with the “tiger” that is alcohol. It lives in a cage in my life, and we are learning to co-exist with one another.

By the grace of My Savior, I can say with full conviction and confidence, I no longer am a slave to sin. I was given a renewed spirit and a second chance.

As painful as it is to remember those moments in my life, I force myself to come to terms with them each day. 

As a result, now when I look in the mirror I am proud of the wife and mother I have become, and the marriage I am continuing to build with the man I love so deeply.

_______________________________________________________________

*Anonymous Writers for I Do Part Two have been thoroughly vetted. We applaud all our writers for the courage to share their stories. If this story touched you, please ‘Like’ and comment on FB, Instagram or you may comment below without social media. Thank you so much for reading this story.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or mental or emotional health, I Do Part Two encourages you to reach out and call a trusted loved one, friend, co-worker or member of your church or visit:

SAMHSA’s Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services  1-800-662-HELP (4357) or www.aa.org: Alcoholics Anonymous


3 Minute Read

“Cuddle with me so I can put my freezing cold feet on you and probably use you as a pillow and steal all the covers.  K.  Thanks.”  (Pinterest)

On our wedding day 28 years ago, my husband’s father and our best man, implored us in his toast that the THREE MOST IMPORTANT words in our marriage to come would be these:  Pirates.  Penguins.  Steelers.

I can’t say he was entirely wrong.  Having been raised in the Steel City, my husband IS all about these black and gold teams that grace the small city of Pittsburgh. 

Little did I realize the sacrifice he was making on our honeymoon when his precious Penguins were in the Stanley Cup final (that’s the Super Bowl of hockey) and I was completely oblivious (and possibly admonishing) to Allen’s frantic search for a newspaper some mornings to find the score of the game the night before (this was during those olden days without internet or cell phones)! 

Happy to say they won their VERY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP that year and don their team name on the trophy!

Heeding Allen’s father’s advice, I have embraced these three words (well, two of them fully and one of them only if I can get to a live game because watching baseball on TV is akin to watching golf…not heart-pumping enough for this wiggly, mile-an-hour girl).  They have been a tremendous plus to our marriage, and as many of you know, I am now almost a bigger Steelers fan than he is!

Fast forward.  Four houses.  Four kids.  Four jobs.

Unhealed, hidden selves (very hidden on the day we said “I do”) bubble to the surface and bump up against one another.  As our marriage clock tick-tocks, the bumps get stronger and louder and more painful.

Words of defeat and shame are uttered (by me).  “Are we going to make it?”  “What is wrong with me/you/us?”  “Is there any hope?”

THREE choice, sacred, life-giving, hope-gathering words are voiced (by my husband).   “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

I am taken aback, the words bouncing around like a super ball, uncatchable.

“But,” I whisper to myself, “we’ve been at this for a long time.”  Defeat and shame creep back over and over, sometimes kept hidden inside, other times shouted in anger and most often, spoken desperately alongside tears of fear.

Again and again, time after time, the three words of life and hope and healing pour from my husband’s mouth.  “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

These simple THREE words:

  • allow grace to cascade over us like a waterfall in the middle of a marriage drought
  • bring mercy to the unhealed selves that keep banging into each other
  • remind shame (in no uncertain terms) to “GET OUT of our house and our lives and our marriage!”
  • spark forgiveness as we stop demonizing and begin humanizing each other
  • usher discovery, newness and life into what seems unchanging, decrepit and even dead
  • grant bravery to our fearful parts, allowing for a life-long journey of change, growth and healing
  • energize our hearts to experience freedom from the past and anticipation for the future
  • breathe desperately-needed and longed for HOPE to the deepest parts of these two souls and bodies, uniting them again and again in ways previously unknown

Today, on our anniversary, we headed on a hike through a windy, periodically smooth, sometimes unmarked, gloriously scenic, often rocky, difficult-to-navigate in spots, kind of scary, breath-taking trail in Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Our favorite part of all was two swans (did you know they mate for life?) with their babies!

We talked about our favorite memories of this marriage we’ve shared. 

Two things we noticed:  most of them were hiking of some kind and lots of them were when something didn’t go quite as we planned (like the time we ended up in some woods filled with mosquitoes and we had to sprint from one end to the other, laughing and swatting as we went).

Marriage is like hiking

It’s windy.  It’s periodically smooth-sailing.  It’s unmarked in places.  It’s gloriously scenic.   It’s difficult to navigate in spots.  It can be scary.  It definitely takes our breath away at times.  We need hope every single day. 

We need all that these three simple, yet profound words speak to. 

Today, this best gift of my husband, “WE’RE STILL LEARNING,” wash over my soul afresh, hope and life breathed anew.

Here’s to AT LEAST 28 more years!

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