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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. 

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!

“I’m stronger because I had to be, I’m smarter because of my mistakes, happier because of sadness I’ve known, and now wiser because I learned.” -Unknown

4 Minute Read

If you’re a golfer, you’re familiar with the term mulligan. It’s an unofficial chance to replay a bad shot. Sometimes, all it takes is a fairly easy chip-shot to put you back in play, but for some of us… it takes more effort, patience and perseverance than we ever thought possible. 

This, my friends, is My Mulligan Story.

When I met my ex-husband in my early twenties, I knew marrying him meant I’d eventually move 5,000 miles across the Pacific. I’d always been an adventurous spirit, and Asia, in particular, fascinated me. 

It was all so new and exciting in the beginning. I fell in love with my adopted country’s customs, history, food, and most importantly, the people. I still have a deep affection for the Asian culture.

However, as the years went by our different cultural expectations surrounding marriage began to clash. While I thought of us as a partnership, my husband had very different views, and his family’s interference in our lives began to take a toll on me.

I’d been warned before we married “that I would always be an outsider” but I thought after my daughter and son were born, things would be different. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Even worse, over the years, my husband had become more verbally, and at times, physically abusive. I think I went into shock the first time he berated me, let alone hit me; I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I was too educated, too independent, and too worldly to be in an abusive marriage, yet here I was. 

Growing up, I naively viewed divorce as a failure, so I made a vow to myself to stay with him for my children’s sakeRegrettably, I remained in an unhappy and harmful marriage for years, even as the abuse escalated in frequency and magnitude.

I finally made the difficult decision to seek a divorce. I did not want my children to think it was normal for a man to throw insults or hit a woman… ever!

So, in the spring of 2008, I secretly returned to the United States with two suitcases, and my two most valuable possessions-my children

I’d spent twenty years immersing myself in the Asian culture, raising my children and creating a career I loved, all which had afforded us prestige and wealth. This country had become our home. With no good-byes to anyone…I left it all behind.

I knew it was going to be difficult, but I had no idea just how much...

Two days after arriving in the United States, my mother, my only living parent, passed away. I hadn’t even unpacked or found a suitable place for us to live; I was devastated.

Grief overwhelmed me, as I was still heartbroken over my 31-year old nephew dying unexpectedly a week earlier. All this, in addition to having recently lost my brother to pneumonia. Losing three close family members within six weeks was almost unbearable.

The loss continued to mount as I discovered my investments were half of what they were just a few months before we’d left Asia. It was 2008, and the world’s economy had gone into a free-fall, and my savings along with it.

The best option was to move into a trailer on my sister’s property for eighteen months until I was financially stable enough to move us out on our own; I was humbled to my core.

In just a few months, I’d lost treasured family members, a host country I’d grown to love, my life-savings and my beautiful home.  If it had not been for my kids, I may not have gotten out of bed for months. 

My children’s zest for life kept me going, as they needed me more than ever. They needed me to help them learn English, to navigate the American school system, and to adjust to new customs on this side of the Pacific.

The first several years were filled with angst. As a single parent, I worked a part-time job, attended graduate school to earn my teaching degree, and engaged in a never-ending, bitter divorce.  After two years of paying lawyers on both sides of the Pacific, I was emotionally and financially drained.

When you hit rock bottom, the only positive aspect is life can only go up, and it finally did…

I landed a full-time teaching position three years after arriving in the States, and we were finally able to move into our own apartment. We were genuinely happy for the first time in years.

In a relatively short amount of time, I had created a beautiful life with a rewarding new job, great friends, and of course, my children. My life was full.

My children were amazingly resilient through it all, and were now busy with school activities and going out with their friends on weekends. So much so, I often found myself, alone, on the couch playing online Bingo. 

My daughter, however, had a different view of my cozy-couch-life…

One Friday night as she was getting ready to go out with friends, and I was relaxing on the couch completing a small kite in Bingo, she announced, “Mom, it’s time to get life.” Translation: You should start dating.

I could not think of anything more dreadful. In fact, I’d already decided I would never marry again, and I definitely didn’t need a man to complete me.

Around the same time, a friend kept trying to set me up on blind dates. I didn’t think I had the time, energy, or desire to date, but my girlfriend was relentless.

So on one unusually warm spring day, I accepted her invitation to what I thought was a girl’s get-together, and surprisingly found myself sandwiched between my girlfriend and her handsome friend at a collegiate sporting event. 

This was the first time I was fortunate enough to spend time with Robert, and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed his company.  He was goodlooking, easy to talk to, and had a wicked sense of humor. He was so fun to spend time with; I’d never felt so at ease.

Many more wonderful times followed as we discovered we shared many common interests, including our love for beer, sports, and travel.  Also, our views of the world and our place in it aligned.

With Robert, I laugh all the time.

My kids took to Robert right away and before we were even married, they started referring to him as their “step-dad.” He blended into our family, and definitely stepped-in when he was needed most. 

From the beginning, our relationship developed so naturally, with such mutual respect, that after five years together we decided to get married.

Robert is my mulligan, my do-over…my official chance to replay a bad shot. 

We were married on a glorious sunny day on a golf course overlooking the 18th-hole. We’d found our oasis in the desert outside Las Vegas, following what had been the most difficult period in my life. 

Robert has made me believe in love again and I couldn’t be happier.

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If you or anyone you know is being abused, we encourage you to seek help. The Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 is available 24/7/365 to be a confidential resource for you. https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/

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