He said, "I'll do anything to make you happy. If it would make you happy, I would even leave."
This week we happily celebrated 30 years of marriage--and they have truly been 30 great years. Many people looking at us, from outside of this relationship, have commented on the "perfect" marriage that we have. They are right, and they are wrong. No relationship is perfect, and that includes ours. For a long time, I didn't really understand how dangerous that was. But, I did learn. And that day was the starting point.
I came from a family of divorce and disagreement. Dave came from a family of commitment and harmony. I wanted what they had so badly that I worked as hard as I could to make us the perfect couple, with the perfect marriage and the perfect kids. For years just one part of the perfection eluded me--the perfect house in the perfect place. And then, it happened!
It wasn't a mansion or anything even close to that. But, it was the first home we owned, after years of scraping by and renting and never having a place we could truly call ours. It was a small three-bedroom ranch in the Ohio countryside--a peaceful community with good neighbors and cornfields all around it. It was only a couple of hours away from much of our family. It was the perfect place for our perfect family.
I got busy decorating rooms and planting flower beds, but I knew in my heart that things were far from perfect; that my husband was truly miserable. It wasn't the house, or me, or the children. It was his job. He hated it, and every day he spent in that office in Columbus was torture. I remember talking this over with my Mom one day and her counsel was sound--she told me that as long as he continued to work in an environment that poisoned his soul this way, he would struggle to be happy and, eventually, it would spill over into every part of his life--including our home. She was right, and I could see it get worse with each passing week.
It was hard, but eventually I worked up the nerve to ask him if he needed to leave his job in order to restore his mental and emotional health. Long story short--the Lord led him to an amazing opportunity and, within a month of our conversation, he had a new job! In Columbia, South Carolina. Back to where we had just come from.
I stayed in Ohio, to sell the house, while he moved to Columbia and started his new job. I was busy with three kids (6 years, 3 years, and 18 months old) and with showing the house and packing our belongings. Too busy to realize how resentment was building up in my heart. After three months, the house was sold and the van was packed and we were joining Dave in SC.
Since we didn't know where we would be able to find a house, we moved into an apartment complex. No yard to play in, like we had in Ohio. No sandbox made from an old truck tire, like we had in Ohio. No flower beds and berry bushes and trees to climb, like we had in Ohio.
But, Dave loved his job and he was so happy.
I was so miserable. And, I let my mind park there until it was all I could think about. All that I had given up to make him happy.
Friends and co-workers and people we went to church with saw the facade I wanted them to see. The perfect family and the perfect marriage. For a while, I even convinced Dave.
I don't remember how the conversation started, or even what we talked about. I do remember dissolving in tears after explaining that I had given up everything I loved about my life in order to make HIM happy. And, like a coward, I walked out of the room and went to my closet and sat down and cried.
Why couldn't he see everything I had sacrificed to make him happy? Why didn't he understand how sad this move had made me? Why? Why? WHY??
I looked up, and he was standing there looking so sad and so defeated. He offered to leave if it would make me happy. This man, for whom even the word divorce was anathema, offered to do just that if it was what I needed.
I was in shock. Divorce was NOT what I wanted! Divorce was what I came from. It was the worst part of my life. I did not want us to be apart--I wanted us to be "PERFECT"! I think I stammered and asked him why he would say such a thing. He just looked at me and told me he loved me so much that he would do whatever it took to make me happy again.
In that moment, I realized that my emotional state was my own responsibility. I was looking at everything from the worst angle possible. I was comparing things that could never be comparable. I was focusing on me and what I had given up, and looking right past the loving arms of my husband and my children and all that they wanted to give me to replace it.
That was the day that I learned that The Perfect Life is not about the setting it happens in. It is about the people you live it with and the choices that all of us make, every single day, to see the beauty that is right in front of us. There have been disagreements and angry words exchanged on a few occasions since that day. But, I have never forgotten the powerful lesson I learned about pride and about what perfect love really looks like and what it means to be willing to compromise and sacrifice and grow together.
Are you struggling to find what your "Perfect Life" looks like? Do feel like you just keep trying harder, but nothing ever gets better? Are you worn out from trying to make everyone else happy, but always feeling like you fall short of the mark? I would encourage you to check out "The Cure for the Perfect Life" by Kathi Lipp & Cheri Gregory, and learn about how to stop trying harder and start living braver.
You can follow this link and you will be able to read the first chapter for free:
Check it out and I promise you will find yourself nodding your head and saying, "Yes!! How can they read my mind like that??!!"
You can also follow the links below to their Facebook page, and to retail locations where the book can be found:
Facebook Page (aka “Braver Living Rebel Headquarters”):
Barnes & Noble link