Last week I told you our love story, how Doug and I met, dated, and married. I never tire of recounting those days. It really was like a fairy tale. Today, I want to take you with me down a part of memory lane that wasn’t always an easy road.
From the beginning of our relationship, we often talked about how each of us believed divorce was not an option. Both his and my parents had stayed married throughout the happy times and the challenging times. They were an excellent example of what married love looks like. We believed (and still do) God had brought us together!
Remember, we were married young. I was 17, and Doug was 19. In many people’s minds, that fact alone was a strike against us. I once had a sociology professor look me straight in the eyes and tell me, in front of a class full of other students, that my marriage would fail simply because of our ages. Debating with him and most of the students in that class was futile, so I just took it knowing in my heart that we would do whatever it took to make our marriage last.
Doug and I waited to have children, enjoying our time as newlyweds. Doug worked full-time and went to trade school. I went to college full-time. The fall of my senior year at Bellarmine College, we learned we were expecting our first baby. She was born the next June. Two days after Brooke’s second birthday, our twins were born. When the twins were nine-months-old, we were given the gift of another pregnancy. Our four children were all born within about three years of each other. What an amazing blessing for us! And what an obvious challenge. We were still quite young. I had all four kids before turning 25.
Doug worked harder than ever. By this time, I was teaching full-time. We lived in the house we built when I was pregnant with the twins, a house that stretched our budget to almost snapping! We had house debt, car debts, and lots of credit card debt. During that time of our marriage, money was the thing we fought about most often.
If I’m honest with myself, we hadn’t really learned to communicate about the HARD stuff. We talked all the time. We had fun together. But when it came to solving life’s problems, we failed over and over.
Fast forward to 10ish years of marriage…I was not teaching at the time. Feeling the strain of being a full-time teacher in a very demanding school, plus being a wife and momma, I worked my tail off as a Mary Kay Cosmetics consultant to build a unit. I became a MK Sales Director, drove a free car, and replaced my teaching salary. Doug was working as a union electrician. Overall, we were doing well. From the outside, people would have thought we were living the dream.
I spent more and more time working my MK business. A business that was supposed to allow me to spend more time with my kids and husband was now taking up most of my time. We had an in-home sitter come to take care of the kids so I could work. I especially surrounded myself with work because Doug was rarely home. He worked 18+ hours many days. A short day would have been 12-14 hours. He worked seven days a week.
Looking back, it was during this time that we began to live pretty separate lives. I felt like a single mother. He felt like he was working himself to death for our family. I felt alone. He felt lonely. When we both happened to be home, we spent most of our time on computers. We stopped communicating much at all. The one thing that remained fairly consistent was that we went to church as a family.
Things started to look somewhat better when Doug was injured at work, had to have back surgery, and was home for more than three months. We were together a lot more which meant we talked a bit more. Taking care of him was my primary purpose during that time.
Doug went back to work. I did, too, although without as much drive as I’d previously had. I was starting to resent how much time it took to run my MK business the way I had to in order to continue to bring in enough to justify not teaching. I let up a bit, and Doug went back to working those ridiculously long hours. Alcohol became his choice to relax. When we were together, we just went through the motions. Still spending way too much time on internet games or in chat rooms, we found we could “talk” to others easier than to each other.
Our lives no longer looked anything like we had dreamed they would. We rarely went to church together or at all. We were slipping away from each other and from our God. I think our kids had a pretty great childhood for the most part. However, I cringe when I think about how all this impacted them during these few years.
August 25, 2000, was the day I thought would be the end of our marriage, the end of my childhood sweetheart fairy tale. I thank God every day that it wasn’t!
To be continued…