It’s been 20 years ago today. Twenty years ago my first husband left me.
I had actually almost forgotten the anniversary of the date, had my friend not mentioned her son was turning 20.
She was in labor that evening 20 years ago and called to tell me, not knowing that my marriage and the life I had known to that point were crashing in on me.
I laugh now about the phone conversation she and I had that night. She excitedly told me she was in labor, and then enthusiastically asked me how I was doing, unaware of course of the events that had unfolded for me right before her phone call.
Not wanting to rob her of any joy, I tried through shock and sobs to steer her away from asking about me.
“You know, you’re trying to get a human being out of you. I don’t think this is a good time to talk about me.”
I laugh now when I think of that conversation, the one I tried to assemble amidst shock and deep sadness. And such horrible aloneness.
I drank nearly a whole bottle of wine before one of my other friends could come console me.
I was numb thinking about the turmoil I was facing, as my toddler son slept soundly in his room in this home of ours. You know, the home where I thought we would add more babies and more memories.
As our marriage unraveled and the legal formalities played out over the next few months, we sold the house, found a home for our dog, and each settled into temporary living arrangements. And then we tried to get our bearings as two parents living separately, but still trying desperately to provide stability and love to our beautiful son.
It was a horrible time in my life. I still feel sad when I think about it, and I think that’s okay—to feel sad about something and at peace with it, all at the same time.
Why on earth am I sharing all this with you?
Certainly I want to be real with you. Lord knows, no one is served by shiny exteriors and nicely-wrapped angst. But it’s more than wanting to be real with you.
It’s about encouragement and hope, too. I never cease to be amazed at what the human heart can endure. It’s almost unfathomable—the resolve we can find to breathe again and muster courage to do hard things when there is no other choice but to do hard things.
My ex-husband and I were able to be cordial and even friends again. One of his friends astutely and comically observed that my ex “divorced up,” meaning he couldn’t ask for a better ex-wife. I laugh when I think of that. And unabashedly know it’s true.
I know it’s rare that exes can get along so well when a marriage ends, so I am particularly humble and grateful for the kindness between us. And I am proud of our son, such a tender and enduring reminder of what we shared.
My heart is simply to say that God wastes nothing. Whatever difficulties, losses and profound heartache you have endured, God is always in the process of refining us and redeeming us and growing us.
I often have said that I never would have asked for the pain of that time in my life, but I wouldn’t trade even one lesson I learned because of it.
I learned deep truths about God’s love for me. And the devotion of authentic friends who didn’t flinch in the face of cluttered grief. They came along side me as I swam through emotional upheaval and what felt like at the time endless amounts of crying.
When I got some distance from the loss, I was able to reflect on some of the ways my husband and I had drifted and ignored underlying problems. Don’t get me wrong. I put it on him that he didn’t want to fight for the marriage. That’s all him.
But I know one of our big struggles was sexual intimacy, and my tendency to naively believe we would just figure out those struggles “someday.” Neither of us put much heart into figuring out our sexual struggles.
I don’t know if everything happens for a reason. But I do know this. God wastes nothing. He hasn’t wasted my divorce. Because of it, I vowed that if I ever married again, I would never take sexual intimacy for granted. I would be intentional about it.
My current husband and I have never regretted the tenacity of that vow—the one I made before a second marriage was even on the horizon.
And because of my divorce and my remarriage, I was compelled to reach out and help others, to use my gifts of writing and speaking to shed light on this area of sexual intimacy in marriage. I’m glad for that. Even in awe of it sometimes.
Twenty years kind of feels like a long time. And it kind of doesn’t. I think even if another 20 years pass, I still will be grateful for the lessons I learned along the way.
That’s my hope at least. And God willing, I still will be writing and speaking about sex in marriage.
And I have a 5 video series available on building better sex in your marriage. Great way to invest in your marriage! You can find out all about it at this link: Better Sex in Your Christian Marriage.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.