So many times I could have thrown in the towel. So many times. We met when we were both incredibly young, just 19 and newly ‘out in the world’. Initially, I wasn’t the least bit attracted to him. I always gravitated toward ‘bad boys’ and he was far too nice to fit into that category. We had both been recently assigned to a base in North Germany and shared an adjoining wall in our coed dorm. He knew a lot about me; whereas, I knew very little about him. He was quiet and shy and I was loud and gregarious. Before things became serious between us, I was actually dating his best friend (which made things a bit awkward for a time). However, after his best friend and I broke up, things slowly changed between my exceedingly shy neighbor and me. I’m not sure why, but he was the one I would go to for comfort when I became overwhelmed by life or people. He would lay on his bed and I would rest my head on his chest, and then as he quietly listened, I would talk at length about all of the things that were bothering me. I had never experienced anything like it before.
Eventually, our relationship became ‘official’. I started to see the loving, loyal, nonjudgmental, supportive, selfless, and kind person he was underneath and ‘fell’ for him. After going through a really difficult time (which I discussed in a previous post), he was the one person that treated me with kindness regardless of what bad decisions I had made. Shortly after we became ‘official’, I moved out of the dorms and he followed. There was a lot of drama in the early months; regardless, we ended up getting married 9 months after we started dating. Three months after our wedding ceremony, I found out I was pregnant. I then requested a discharge from the military, which they granted, and my title went from ‘active duty military’ to ‘dependent spouse’. Within a few short months, we received PCS paperwork and transferred to Spain. It was there, in a very small town on the outskirts of Madrid, that our first child was introduced to the world. So much happened in so little time! We had met, married, got pregnant, and moved to another country in just over a year.
It was a whirlwind of events and a lot for a young couple to ‘process’. I wish I could say that life was ‘easy’ but that wasn’t the case. We hardly even knew each other and we were living thousands of miles away from any family so we were essentially on our own. Once our first baby was born, it added one more ‘challenge’ to an already challenging situation. There was little money so I used my resourcefulness to furnish our apartment. Most of the things we ended up with came from the ‘Loan Closet’ (a program through the military that allows members to temporarily borrow furniture and other items), garage sales, or out of the garbage. Our first bed was purchased at a garage sale and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m referring to the frame and mattress (and we used both). I won’t do that again. The couple that we purchased it from was quite a bit larger than us and after we assembled the bed, we realized it had a permanent sinkhole in the middle.
Our baby’s crib, stroller, baby swing and other sizable items were acquired through garage sales, as well. I always gave everything a good scrubbing before it was put to use. I know what you’re thinking; you could care less about the stuff I purchased at garage sales. You want to know about my ‘dumpster diving’. Yes, I was a ‘dumpster diver’ but it’s not as bad as it sounds. The items were considered ‘garbage’ but I didn’t have to fish them out from under banana peels and tuna cans. The military had a ‘program’ that encouraged people to set their ‘unwanted junk’ out on the curb. It took place (I believe) once or twice a month. People set out dishes, old pots and pans, kids toys, furniture, rugs, you name it. Because we had so little money, I made a point to walk through base housing each time this occurred so I could see if there was anything we could use, and I often came upon some remarkable finds. I used to love it when my husband would arrive home from work and notice one of my new ‘treasures’ and ask where I got it. I never had so much fun saying, “The garbage!!”
How did I get so sidetracked talking about ‘stuff’? My intent was to talk about the relationship between me and my husband. In order to do that effectively, I wanted to paint a picture to help you understand all that we were going through at the time. Now that I have (hopefully) achieved that, I probably should proceed. Our marriage, for the most part, has been a loving one. It has also been rife with conflict and pain. You couldn’t put two more different people together. We were both so emotionally immature when we married and started a family, and the constant change that occurs for military members just made things that much more difficult between us. We each had particularly damaging and unhealthy coping mechanisms. My husband sought comfort in alcohol and I sought comfort in food. Day to day, we got by, but each day seemed to bring forth new and different challenges. Money, or the lack thereof, has always played a role.
Somehow, we got through the first 10 years. Don’t ask me how. In that time, we moved 13 times, lived in 3 different countries, and had 3 children. At the end of those ten years, my husband got out of the military and we moved back to his hometown. That’s when things got REALLY interesting! We had finally settled down and bought a home and were living among ‘civilians’. It was a real change and took some getting used to. But that wasn’t the biggest change, the biggest change was living about a half mile from my husband’s parents. I actually looked forward to having them as a ‘presence’ in our life but it turned out to be less of a blessing and more of a curse. I can tell you, a lot of things have tested our marriage over the years, but having his parents in our lives was the greatest challenge we ever faced. No, they’re not bad people. Not at all. But they, just like my husband, also enjoyed several glasses or shots of ‘liquid courage’ on a regular basis, which essentially was every night and all weekend long.
Having people in our lives that constantly encouraged this ‘behavior’ created some real challenges in our marriage. I think that’s the first time I seriously considered a divorce. Living with someone with a ‘drinking problem’ is not for the faint of heart. I have always loved my husband, but I really started to question if I even ‘liked’ him any longer because I hated who he became when he drank. He was usually so sweet and lovable, but the minute his lips made contact with ‘Jack’ or ‘Jose’, he became someone that wasn’t very nice. For someone that doesn’t drink (except for maybe once a year), I simply didn’t understand why he’d want to risk losing so much over a ‘beverage’. Of course, I wasn’t exactly treating myself very well either. I was shoveling food into my mouth like it was going out of style. He used to tell me that I ‘made him drink’, and I would tell him that he ‘made me eat’. What a pair! I cannot tell you how many times I thought of walking away but I continued to give him ‘second’ chances.
We got through another 10 years. And then another 5. I didn’t think things could get worse, until they did. It was the year we ‘celebrated’ our 25th wedding anniversary when the real sh*t hit the fan. I’m not going to go into detail because it was a very painful time and I didn’t think we’d survive it. But somehow, we did. I cannot explain how we managed to ‘clear that hurdle’ other than to give most of the credit to the fact that we are both incredibly stubborn. What transpired then is the reason we relocated to a new state. I knew that the only way we could go on was to ‘start fresh’ elsewhere and make new memories. Remaining in that town was too difficult, it was filled with ‘ghosts’ that ceaselessly haunted me. To my surprise, when I suggested we move to a town 1,200 miles away, a place he’d never heard of or been to before, he supported me. After flying out to the town I wanted to move to and placing a bid on a house, we returned to our home, put it on the market, and sold it in less than 24 hours.
I have to tell you, our marriage has had many challenges. We’ve even had several since we relocated. However, I cannot tell you how glad I am that we have ‘stuck it out’ and ‘seen it through’. My husband is flawed, just as I am, but he’s a good man. Anything I ask of him, he doesn’t hesitate. When I had my ‘kidney crisis’, he really showed up for me. He wanted to donate his kidney but he couldn’t because of his high blood pressure; regardless, during the 4 weeks that followed my transplant, he waited on me hand and foot. He cooked, he cleaned, and everything in-between. Not only that, he actually stopped drinking altogether! Yes, once and for all. I didn’t think I’d see the day. I wish I could tell you how many times throughout our marriage that he has promised me that he’s going to ‘stop’, only to fall off the wagon in a matter of days. It is truly miraculous. It has been well over a year and he hasn’t had a sip. The best part is, it has made our marriage so much better. I not only love this ‘new and improved’ man, I like him, too!
Why am I sharing this? I suppose it’s because I want to give ‘hope’ to those of you out there that feel like giving up on your relationship and moving on. Change is possible. There’s a quote by Susan Gale, “The longer you have to wait for something, the more you will appreciate it when it finally arrives. The harder you have to fight for something, the more priceless it will become once you achieve it. And the more pain you have to endure on your journey, the sweeter the arrival at your destination. All good things are worth waiting for and worth fighting for.” All I ask is that if you are in a relationship and you feel like walking away, fight for it first. If nothing else, go to counseling and see if there’s a better way to communicate with your partner. There are some things that are ‘non-negotiable’ and ‘deal breakers’ (such as physical abuse, that is NEVER ok); however, if you can find a way through the challenges and get to ‘the other side’, I promise you, it’s worth it. And there truly is nothing ‘sweeter’.