I have never done something so terrible, never made such a horrible mistake, if it could even be called a mistake.
I stood, my feet glued to the floor and perfectly still other than the shaking which defined who I was in the months after my husband left, and I watched in open-mouthed horror at the elderly couple on line in the local grocery store. The old woman literally beat her husband over his back with her flyer and cursed him out loud. The language was atrocious. Her attitude was demeaning. His posture was stooped and seething. Neither was living up to God’s purpose for their lives.
And I, a newly abandoned woman, pregnant and alone with our fifth child, watched in horror thinking to myself that I had NEVER treated my husband that way. I would NEVER have humiliated him, berated him, belittled him in such a manner. I could not understand why my husband had chosen to leave when this man had chosen to stay, why this woman could not value her husband when I’d have done anything to have mine by my side again.
But I too was missing the point.
I was not to compare myself to these two. It was not up to me to think I was better than them or try to understand what had driven them to this point in their relationship.
And yet, here I was, doing just that.
By thinking, “I would never…” I was justifying my own pain, my hurt, my disappointment, my terror, my absolute agony in my situation, but I was not helping my situation nor was I helping my children.
If the hard truth must be known, I did make mistakes in my marriage, in my family, in my faith. I was (and still am) certainly far from perfect in my dealings with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and yes – how difficult this was to admit – with my beloved husband.
As I painstakingly peeled back the layers of our 17 years together, I was able to look at mistakes I had made, things I had done to beat my husband over his back with a flyer so to speak, ways I should have treated him differently, ways I should have lived my life differently.
This was no excuse for my husband leaving, his walking out, the incredible and lasting pain he inflicted on his children and myself or on so many who knew us and even those who did not, but it was an acceptance of responsibility for mistakes I had made. An acknowledgment that I was not faultless in the breakup so neither would I be powerless in any future relationships I may have.
I do not ever want to live my life comparing myself and looking down on those who act in a less than godly manner. I must live my life by looking up to and surrounding myself by those who live better than I do so that I may become better and be a beacon of light to others in the darkness of their own suffering.
Admitting our mistakes, learning from our mistakes, and doing better because of our mistakes is painful and humbling but also empowering because it gives us that unique ability, stemming from one who has been there and survived, to navigate troubled waters for others heading downstream so that none of us is ever in exactly that same place again.
While I don’t know if I will ever remarry nor do I know if I will ever be left again, I do know, that I can change the way I think and act and look at others. By promising never to pick up that flyer and wave it in my future husband’s direction or in anyone’s direction, I can limit the possibility of a relationship ending.
Also, if a future husband chooses to leave, the blow will be cushioned somewhat by my new knowledge that we all have value that comes from the one man who will always love each of us fully and perfectly and who does not pick up a flyer to prove his point.