She was right. I did like him.
Well, I mean, I thought he was cool. We actually became best friends first. I didn’t “like, like” him until a few years later. I was 16 going on 17. We eased into dating just a few months before I was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Mike was the first person I called after I got the news. He was the first person I saw down the hallway after surgery. Outside of a few short-lived breakups in college, we’ve been together ever since. We tied the knot 5 years after dating. We’ve had many firsts together.
Our first years of marriage were so fun. We were living the dream we’d always wanted. We took trips, created traditions, went shopping and had lots of friends.
We thought when we said “I do” we’d naïvely escape the troubles marriage can bring - we were the couple who fought cancer as teenagers, what could possibly drive us apart?
After a few years in we learned.
Yep, Marriage Is Hard
My second cancer did quite a number on us. Combine that with our own selfishness and the stress of jobs and church. Mix in parenting and a good dash of sinful nature. Suddenly we didn’t feel so exempt anymore (especially around year 7-8… which I hear is really common).
We formed a great coping strategy: Disconnect. Avoid. Stay busy. Pretend.
For awhile we were fine. Not awesome, but not horrible. Not in love, but not fueled with disdain. But fine.
Then one day we were not fine.
As a couple that hadn’t really fought, we fought. As a couple that hadn’t really cried, we cried. And finally, we started getting really honest with one another.
Out came the hurt and pain. Soon followed the deep-seated fear: Why invest in one another if cancer’s going to take it all away anyway?
Reality looked very scary. The lies seemed so very true.
This was a few years ago.
It’s not been an overnight change, but a gradual process, that switched things around for us.
Basically, we had to get back to Jesus.
Our personal walks with Him led the way. When we humbled ourselves individually, we started to grow back together. Things started to change.
Communication doors slowly creaked open.
Hearts gently got sanctifyingly broken.
Love for God, for ourselves and for one another grew.
I looked forward to seeing him after a long day. I felt comfortable talking to him and sharing my thoughts again. I desired to sit and talk for hours like we had in years past.
The vision of building a life together came back.
What we had as teenagers still seemed lost but we got something new.
And the newness is still growing.
I share not to shame anyone who’s at odds with their spouse or who’s broken ties. (I’m a kid of divorce and blended families; I’ve watched God move and get us to focus us on Jesus again because of this suffering.)
I share because this suffering doesn’t have to be everyone’s story. Many who’ve lived through it would agree. Most divorced families hope others can avoid the pain they've lived through.
I share because I know I’m not the only wife out there who’s
- struggled to feel love for her husband and fought to keep her promises
- hoped nobody engaged her in the “love your spouse” challenge
- not felt “in love” anymore
- tried to fight off Satan whispering that she made a big mistake
I share because I’m tired of seeing attacks on couples and their unity.
I share because I know that light breaks darkness – and feeling unloved within a marriage is a really dark place. But it doesn’t have to stay dark.
I share because my lies have been silenced, and Jesus has brought his light.
With the Holy Spirit’s help, I go back to the beginning again.
God gave me Mike as a freshman in high school. We met through our friend Erin. She told me he wore a green “Fully Rely on God” bracelet and that I’d like him. She knew we were both Christians.
She was right. I did like him.