“Our windows were steamed up — not from love but from hate.”
During our second year of Seminary my wife Shirley and I grew apart. There were several causes.
The first was a lack of privacy. We had taken in a boarder that was having trouble at home. Our heart to serve the Lord and the compassion within us to minister to people affected our choice to invite this troubled soul to stay with us. What we didn’t realize was that this person’s presence in our home crimped our ability to communicate with each other. That was one issue.
A second cause was our schedules. I was working full-time, going to school full-time nights, and doing schoolwork in my spare time. I saw my wife little, ate with her little and talked to her less. Furthermore, Shirley worked a full time job, making our ability to connect even more of a challenge. We were like ships passing in the night.
The third cause was the less we communicated the more we didn’t want to communicate. Every time we did talk we were snippy to one other. Other times we would outright scream in each other’s faces. It felt like our marriage had reached the point of no return. How could we endure feeling the way we did about each other?
I don’t remember what occasioned me saying to Shirley, we need to talk this through, or why I thought any talking would even work, since every time we did talk we fought. But that was my thought just the same. I scheduled a babysitter to watch our son and we went out…to talk. We didn’t go out to eat, or watch a movie, or go to an event. We didn’t go out to play miniature golf or watch the sunset. We went out to talk. I can still see the parking lot where the battle took place. It was a short distance from our home.
It didn’t take three sentences for the shouting to begin. For the first two hours we aired all of our complaints, and we didn’t do it nicely. We accused. We shouted. We shamed and we blamed. Our car was steamed up not from love but from hate. If anyone had been nearby, I am sure they would have felt compelled to intervene just to be sure we weren’t killing each other.
After two hours, however, our communication began to calm. It was like climbing a mountain and then going down the other side. Two hours of agony to the top and then an hour of easing down the opposite side. On the downhill side we began to realize that we didn’t really hate each other. We just didn’t know each other. Our inability to connect had caused each of us to assume intent in the other’s words and actions that weren’t there.
When she asked things like, “Where have you been?” She wasn’t accusing. And when I said things like, “Why were you late?” I wasn’t blaming. But we perceived those intents, and worse. We perceived them because we had grown apart and no longer knew each other. Consequently, we were just as untrusting as a country local mistrusts a newcomer to his area.
After three hours of the most verbally violent conversation either of us had ever encountered, we found that we weren’t enemies. Our marriage wasn’t on the rocks. And our love was still there.
I think we outlasted this battle and lived to love another day because of three things.
First, I believe we were forever connected, meaning, we weren’t entertaining divorce. That meant our result couldn’t be the “D” word. It wasn’t an option. Consequently, some kind of marital resolve needed to be the outcome. It happened that night. However, I suppose, if it hadn’t, we would have scheduled another night for “round two”; because we both knew divorce was not a consideration.
Second, we determined to talk until we found resolution. In other words, both of us refused to leave the car or the conversation until all of our cards were on the table and sorted out. Neither went outside to cool down, and neither played the silence game. No one exited and slammed the door, stomping off never to return; though we both were tempted to do so several times during the conversation. We both held the course until we found a place of agreement.
Third, the battle didn’t beat us because if it had, it would not have pleased Jesus. Frankly, the strongest catalyst for our marriage’s continuance was, and still is, our relationship with Christ. Sure we love each other. But a lot of people love each other and can’t seem to stay married. There has to be a greater love within us—His love.
Some may ask…What about all those other Christians who get divorced? Why isn’t God’s love in them enough to keep their marriages together? And I would have to say that I can’t answer for them. But I do believe if a Christian will dig deep within him or herself to draw from God’s love, that the Word of God says “dwells richly in our hearts” (Colossians 3:16), there will be enough love there to see us through the most challenging difficulties, circumstances and relationships.
Shirley and I have made a pact. We talk almost as much as we breathe. We settle disputes before they become World Wars. And we have never invited another boarder into our home since then. Our marriage can’t risk it.
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