Better Together

Life is full of surprises. Cliche? You better believe it! But there’s so much truth in that statement. We plan for the future but never really know what’s waiting around the bend. Case in point: I’m getting married. Again!

3 years ago my marriage lay in waste with bleak prospects for reconciliation. Now, 1095 days later, I’m in the midst of wedding planning. In less than a week, I’ll be marrying my best friend and life partner all over again. But how did we go from a decade of marriage to the brink of divorce and back? This is that story.

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Before jumping in I do want to answer a question I’m frequently asked: “Why are you so open about sharing – isn’t it awkward?” The short answer is, “No.” Going through a separation from a spouse is a dramatic experience. When I first started to share, it was to invite others along for my journey. I wanted to open up about what I was going through because I needed prayer, love, and support. By seemingly making myself vulnerable, I was actually building up strength by gathering people around me. I had to fight the impulse to isolate myself. Being alone would not lead me down the right path. As the Bible says, there’s wisdom in a multitude of counselors, and what I really needed was advice! The outpouring of support I received was otherworldly. Phone calls, letters, meals, financial provision, legal advice, counseling, prayer, and more. Having this practical, emotional, and spiritual support from friends and family helped me get through the fog of those early days.

But that’s not the only reason I have chosen to share. Now that I’m on the flip side of this experience, I can extend the love I  received to others who are walking a similar path. Beyond building a safety net, sharing my story has also allowed me to take a difficult experience and transform it into something useful for others. It would be a shame to hoard the wisdom I gathered all to myself. There are so many people going through similar situations and my openness invites them to share, to seek help, and to seek support.

One more thing before jumping in. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention how David feels about all of this sharing. Isn’t it uncomfortable for him to have me writing about this openly? Throughout this experience, I’ve been careful to filter out certain details out of respect for Dave, me, and our family. Opening up about a trial doesn’t mean having to spill all the beans. Just some of them. People who are closest to us know the intimate details and we use discretion beyond that. I maintain my commitment in this way by having David proof any writing I do about this topic. It’s not just my story, after all, it’s his too.

So how did the rekindling begin?

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It all started the night the Cubs won the world series. Really?! Really. How very Chicago of us! The entire city felt electric that night and that energy was contagious. Cubs fans all over the city were on the edge of their seats, bleachers and couches, watching the game with bated breath. Meanwhile, we were sitting on the floor of the sunroom in my apartment talking. Really talking. We both expressed regret, made our apologies, and professed our love for one another. Sparks flew, and then, the fireworks started. Both literal and figurative. It was like the making of an early nineties rom-com. As we won the game the city erupted into a jubilee. There were explosives going off, people running into the streets, and crowds cheering for joy. We were celebrating too – but not for the Cub’s win. We were celebrating the potential of our marriage’s rebirth. This was the breakthrough we needed. There was hope again.

The Cubs won the world series on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. David and I had been separated for 5 months. It would still be another 20 more before we officially reconciled.

Picking up the pieces after a dramatic split is a long process. Think about how quickly a house can be burned down to the ground by a fire, and then, how long it takes to build it back up again. That’s how it was with our marriage. We wanted to make sure that if we got back together it was in the right way and for the right reasons. That took months of soul-searching, counseling, laughter, and tears. I was scared, unsure of how to proceed and what the reconciliation process should look like. But David gave me one of the greatest gifts possible in that season of doubt: time. He affirmed to me that he would wait for me, however long it would take. He respected my need to move slowly, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. 

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David and I both went to counseling, separately. It was intense but a lot of healing needed to take place on both sides. We had to rediscover our unique identities, understand our hurts, and find healing before coming back together again. We then started couples therapy. There were weeks where we made leaps forward and in a matter of days found ourselves back at the start line. But that’s okay. We knew that if we truly were in it for the long haul, it would require a lot of hard work to build a sturdy foundation for the years to come. Once our couples therapy came to an end we joined a newlywed small group at church and it was incredible! We giggled at first, knowing that we were quite the seniors of the group, but the practical wisdom we gathered up was invaluable. We learned about the basics all over again and firmed up the building blocks of our marriage.

All in all our reconciliation process took two years. It seems lengthy, but boy, are we glad to have taken all that time! Now, years after our original marital implosion, we can look back and see the fruits of that long, arduous process. Thanks to God’s grace, hope, and wisdom, and support from our community, we haven’t just pieced our marriage back together, we have completely resurrected it from the ashes. There’s a sweetness that we share, unlike anything we had before. Our dedication for one another is deeply rooted and stronger than ever. There are still those rare moments when we’re reminded of the tough times, but we work through those memories. Together. 

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The naivete of our youth is gone, and in its place is a calm assurance that we’re together, truly, because this is where we want to be. There’s no doubt, no bitterness. Just love. A deep root-watering life-filling love that pours out from each of us. A river flowing stronger, longer, than we ever thought possible.

So there you have it! The final saga in our separation story and how everything came back together again. In just a few days we’ll be exchanging vows again and publicly recommitting ourselves to our marriage. We cannot wait because we know, we truly are, better together.

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Suddenly Single: Surprisingly Sweet

I’ve been a single mama now for just under 5 months – and you know what? It’s not so bad!

The aftershock of separation aside, I’ve found that there are some surprisingly sweet things about being a single thirty-something adult. This in no way means that being married or in a long-term relationship is bad. I will be the first to tell you that I’d love to have a dapper gent of integrity sweep me off my feet! Having someone to share your life with is a beautiful thing – so I don’t want this post to diminish that. But, in those moments when life sends you a curve ball, and you suddenly find yourself alone, there are some benefits. Here’s my here and now list of what I’m enjoying in this current season of my life.

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Setting My Own Bedtime: I am an early riser and konk out pretty quickly once the day is done. My favorite nighttime ritual includes a cup of tea, animal cuddles, conversational prayer, reafing God’s word, and then something leisurely. On those nights when my eyes are too fatigued for extended readimg, a little Mindy Project or Star Trek (re-watching Voyager currently – I love Janeway!) is my night cap. That flow usually puts me in bed by 9 p.m.. Being single means getting there with no guilt. Yay to that!

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Dressing My Nest: No surprise here – I love decorating my place! I’m always looking for eco-friendly and stylish ways to update my home. Sometimes that means dumpster diving a new mirror and repainting it to hang in the hallway. At other times it may include completely rearranging a room while August naps. Being single means getting to change things up whenever I want and not having to worry about another person’s tastes. I can arrange the furniture how I want, put up any kind of art I’d like, and can change it all at a moment’s notice with no one to consult but myself. Sounds like a win to me!

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Taking Care of Myself: With a toddler on the run, this one may surprise you. But the truth is, being the only adult in the household means I’m the one that makes all of the decisions regarding where we live, how we live, what we eat, when we eat, our activities, sleep schedule, and more! I can choose to keep a weekend plan-free or book us solid with interesting activities. I can fill the fridge with fruits and veggies and don’t have to be tempted with a refined sugar stash. It also means that I can focus on how I’m feeling inside and out. Instead of catering to another adult’s whims, I can journal. Instead of having to stay home with the babe while the partner’s away and plays, I can hire a babysitter, and go out for yoga. Instead of sleeping in I can rouse early, dress the tot and dogs, and take a long stroll along the lake. I can slow down, speed up, and tune out whenever and however I want. Sounds like a gift, no?

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Honoring Routine: I am a person who savors ritual. I enjoy routine, no matter how trivial or seemingly insignificant. August and I are very much alike in that way. Now that I’m the only adult, I get to set the stage for our daily schedule, and there’s something so very soothing about that. Saturday mornings are for long walks through the park, Sundays include an indulgent breakfast, church, and a laid back afternoon. Weekdays I’m up at 5, take care of the critters, and hustle August to daycare and myself to work. This is done with a steamy cup of chai in hand. And then weeknights are for dinners with friends, library visits, farmers markets, and all the little things in between. No matter the surprises of the day,  we always end it the same way, and at the same time, and there’s such comfort in that.

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Adorning Self: This one may seem silly – but it’s the honest truth. When you’re single you only have to look good for one person: yourself. You can glitter up your nails, pop on that red lipstick, and wear a vintage lacey frock with complete abandon. There’s no one you have to impress but yourself, and there’s something (maybe ironically) so incredibly empowering about that. You learn to love yourself, and dress yourself, without compromise.

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Rebuilding Identity: After being in a relationship for an extended period of time, you lose the “me” and develop a “we” vernacular that extends well beyond language. And while that’s a beautiful thing when you have two happy, healthy people, it becomes suffocating should one partner neglect the other. One of the more unexpected blessings of sudden singledom has been shedding that “we” persona to establish one of my very own. No longer am I part of a unit, I am my own person, with my own faith, intellect, passions, and purpose. I no longer have to compromise on preferences, tastes, or ethics. I can live a full life with an attitude of gratitude, holding firm to God’s promises, all while keeping negativity at bay. To have the opportunity to start each day afresh, accountable just for yourself, is a beautiful thing indeed. And while there’s a time and place for a “we” life, in some situations, you realize your blessed to simply be by yourself.

Just to be clear – being a single parent definitely presents its challenges (ahem costs and availability of daycare!), and maybe one day I’ll write about those, but for now, I want to focus on what I’m actually enjoying about my newfound independence. I want to savor this season, no matter how unexpected. And who knows! Maybe I won’t be single for long – so I should take advantage of it while I can!