April 19, 2013

{Unconventional} Marriage Secrets Day 5

{Unconventional} Marriage Secret #6:  Ask For Help When You Need It

    I said earlier in this series that the main reason we have it on our hearts to write this is not because we think we have this perfect marriage, but because in our 8 short years of marriage, we feel like we have faced many more troubles and woes than many couples, especially for such a short time. And by going through these trenches, God has carried us through, all the way. And because we have made it, we know others can too.

    If you don't know much about our backgrounds, Michael's dad died when Michael was just 9 years old. His grandfather- aka "Grampy", and his Uncle Curtis both played a significant role in his upbringing after that. He was extremely close to both of them. He lived with Curtis for awhile even in high school. And even when I met him in college, he had daily phone conversations with Grampy. Six months into our dating relationship, Curtis passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 34. Michael, of course, was devastated. He had lost his dad already and now his uncle. Two father figures gone by the time my husband was only 21 years old. Luckily, Grampy was around to help fill up that gap.
      Fast forward about two years later. Michael and I were married in April of 2005. With his northeastern accent, Grampy gave a toast that normally a Father of the Groom would give, full of pride and joy. We all wiped a tear as the tough, Yankee old man told us "And may the only problems you have, be little ones that crawl on the floor." If only we knew at that time the truth that would come to fruition from that statement. :)

     It was early November when we found out. I honestly can't even remember how or when, I just remember thinking, 'NO!!! Not another one!!" We had been married no more than 5 months when Grampy was diagnosed with cancer. And not just one tumor or one area. He had cancer and his cancer had cancer. It was everywhere. Lungs, liver, and the worst place- the lymph nodes. In early November they told us that he hopefully would make it to Thanksgiving but more than likely not Christmas. It had already spread so much and he knew the treatment would be hellacious. He was prepared to kiss his full life goodbye.  He was a spirited old man and had fought many battles. He was done fighting. But funny and awesome how our God works.

The week after that Thanksgiving, Michael and I found out we were expecting......completely and utterly unplanned. We were actually quite frightened. We were planning to wait 5 years before starting a family. God's plan always comes out on top in case you didn't know. The promise of a grandchild gave Grampy the fight he needed. He started treatment right away and perked up for that Christmas he wasn't supposed to see. It was an up and down next few months. Me being pregnant, Michael establishing his career, and Grampy fighting for his life.  Grampy climbed a slow uphill battle and we thought he was going to pull thru and show us a miracle. Sadly though, around Father's Day of that year he took an instant decline and passed away a few days later. I was about 6 weeks before my due date. He almost made it. He wanted so bad to see his first great grandchild.

        There are no words to describe what my husband went through. Now, at the age of 25, he had lost three 'dads'. Now that is just not fair, right? Oh and he was about to have a baby. Oh and he was starting to blossom in his career. He began to sink emotionally. He was withdrawn. He was angry all the time. He worked and drank to drown the pain of loss. And that was about it for awhile.

He seemed to be a little better once the baby was born, but within a few weeks, he slipped back into his deep pit. He was angry all the time. We fought all the time. I was needy-- all the time. I had just had my first baby. I was adjusting to life as a stay at home mom for the first time. We were the first of all of our friends to have a baby and I felt completely alone. And I longed for my husband to be with me and to reach out to me for comfort instead of pushing me away. But all we did was push each other farther and farther apart. We got to a breaking point when Michael, jr was about 7 months old; this was one month before our 2 year anniversary.

Neither one of us could take any more. I had been begging and pleading to go to counseling for a few months and he refused. Then finally one day, to my surprise, he angrily said "Yes, but I get to pick the person."  I was fine with that. Anything to get him to go.

      The counselor, let's call him Mr. C, met with each of us individually initially, and then we started meeting together as a couple. The 2 of us went together one week, then he went by himself. We alternated like that for about 10 months until Mr. C. finally said we had graduated. When we were going through counseling at first we didn't tell anyone. We were so embarrassed and ashamed. What young couple has to go to counseling after being married less than 2 years? What was wrong with us? Why couldn't we just be the normal, happy couple I always dreamed of being? Slowly over the course of that 10 months we told a handful of people. But it wasn't until the past few years that we've been more transparent about those first 2 horrible years and the fact that we were in counseling.

     Now we look back on it and we are so grateful. So grateful the Lord put us together. So grateful that He carried us through such a tumultuous time. So grateful the Lord said "Hey guys this is not about you. Give me the reigns and let me handle it." And so we did. We gave in to the process. We learned most importantly to forgive. We also learned that if you make the choice to be married, you make the choice to figure it out. We learned to let go of the past and press on with tomorrow. And most importantly, we learned how to talk to each other. We had no clue how to communicate effectively with one another. It is honestly still something we struggle with. We will never be perfect. But now we know we are on the same team, not opposing.

      We look back now and say, "We didn't get help because we are terrible. We got help because we cared enough about our marriage."

Whew... this is a tough one. It's hard not to weep as I read this. Reliving the pain of those first few years is awful. Sometimes it's a blur. Remembering those times is like watching a Lifetime special and feeling so sorry for those poor people. I still fight shame and regret from those times. 

I remember the day my uncle died. We had all been awake and waiting at the hospital for about 36 hours. We had to take him off life support and let him go. Once he was gone, I went to the bar and drowned it out. I remember the night my grandfather died. One of the most regrettable nights in my life. He was at home on hospice. We waited, we watched, and I drank. As we waited for him to pass the time cut like a knife... I drank. 

By the time he finally died I was blitzed. My heart bled out loud. Then I got ugly and mean. I lashed out at everyone around me. No one was safe from the pain. This continued on for a long time. This is the world I brought my son into. This is the life I had built for my wife. Good money, house, cars, addiction, and strife. It was terrible. 

I don't even want to talk about the events that led us to our breaking point. I wanted out. I couldn't believe I had gotten married. I felt stuck because I had a kid. I carried mother wounds, father wounds, wounds of loss, and insecurity into my marriage and I wanted out. Our counselor was awesome. One day I was lamenting how I felt duped into marriage and now stuck. I'd like to quote him: 

Mr C.: "Michael, who had the gun"
Me: "Uh.. what?"
Mr. C: "At your wedding, who had the gun? Who held the gun and forced you down the aisle?"
Me: "No one"
Mr. C: "You're married; now let's make the best of it."

Sounds romantic right? Sometimes that is the great truth about marriage. This is not Disney. Becca is not a princess and I am far from prince charming. I sat astonished. I could not believe that this was the best this cat had to offer. "Make the best of it" Really????

This is when I began to learn about leadership and choices. This is when I began to learn love and grace. This is when our marriage really began. Prior to that we were two college kids that got in over our heads and were drowning in heartache. Then we got help. 

Look... I'm still no peach. Probably never will be. But by the grace of God and the forgiveness of my wife we have grown. We are a model of how to do everything wrong and still stay together. Ask for help. Raise your hand and scream for help. It is ok to have no idea what you are doing. I give you permission as your friend to be jacked up, broken, and mess up. Just get guidance. If someone has a problem and seeks to judge you, send them to see me. I have no problem removing a plank from someone's eye while they are looking at your speck of dust. 

Remember... we sin well He saves well. Be open, be honest, no when you are at your limit.