Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Hardships We've Had in Marriage {Love & Marriage Blogging Series}.

Today is my second post in the Love and Marriage Series. I hope you had fun reading all of the love stories last week... I know I sure did! Be sure to check out the other bloggers that I'm collaborating with in this series:  Jenna from Jenna's Journey, Mandy from House of Rose, Shay from Mix and Match Mama, Jenn from Knee Deep In Munchkinland, and Megan from In This Wonderful Life.

OK. I’m just going to start with the truth. I’ve sat down at least 4 or 5 times to write this post. And each time, I turn up blanks. I literally sit stone faced, staring at a computer screen, unable to get what is on my heart out on “paper.” This happens to me a lot with my writing, and typically I can always go back and attribute it to Satan trying to block me from what really needs to be said. SO… that being said, bear with me. For my words seem so inadequate in writing on a subject such as this.

When Drew and I got married, I’m not sure either of us expected the ride we’ve experienced thus far. I mean, not many people get married thinking that they’ll experience a deployment, job insecurities, career path changes, infertility, two kids in less than two years and family events that has left neither of us unscathed. Yes, indeed the past 9 years have been TOUGH. I thought instead of writing some long drawn out storyline that it might help me (and you) better follow by some bullet points of what I consider some of the “low points” in our marriage, and how we handled them.

The Deployments

When Drew joined the Army National Guard in May 2001, I swore to him that something bad would happen to make him go to war. I begged him not to join, but considering we were only into our relationship by 1 month, my opinion didn’t hold much weight at that point. Besides, Drew laughed “we’ve not been to war in over 10 years.” Enter 9/11. Everyone’s world changed forever that day, but it was that day that I knew that the man I loved would more than likely be shipped off to war. I wasn’t wrong either. Drew was deployed on a homeland security mission when the war first started in 2002. Then in 2006 Drew deployed to the middle east for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During the first deployment, since we were just dating, the integration back into our relationship was the most hard. I’m not sure many people know this about us, but we almost broke off our engagement shortly after he returned home from his first deployment. Switching from being in a relationship, to being on my own, to being back in a relationship and gearing up for a marriage was REALLY hard on me (well, on both of us honestly). Mostly because I have a hard time submitting. And because going from communicating solely on the phone to communicating in real life is tough. I’m not even sure why it’s tough, but it just was. Drew often jokes that during those first few weeks after the deployment, if we’d end up in a disagreement sometimes we would have to separate and just call and hash it out on the phone. Seems weird, but it worked for us as we readjusted to life as a couple together.

When Drew and I geared up for deployment numero dos, we were both nervous about how it would affect our marriage. Looking back, I think the Lord specifically placed the shorter first deployment in our lives so that we would be prepared and know what to expect during re-entry when Drew got home that second time. I knew that I would need to be more patient with him, and he in turn would need to be more patient with me. People often tell me that they don’t know how I do it. And honestly, looking back, I’m not really even sure I know how I did it (I did write a brief blog touching on this topic after he got home. You can read it HERE). Drew was gone for 18 months, and we only saw each other for a total of 17 days out of that time span. That really sucked, if I’m being honest. I’m so so grateful that there were only one or two times that I really had to worry about Drew’s physical safety; thankfully where he was based was (relatively) safe compared to what some soldiers face during a deployment. The one thing I think as I look back over both of the deployments is how the Lord is faithful to give us what we need to go through those hard times that no one else can understand. The Lord provided an excellent network of friends who supported me, and I think that their faithful prayers allowed for our adjustment after the second deployment to go far more smoothly than the first.
(our first time to hug in over 7 months!!!)
smiling so big because we knew it would be the last time he would ever be deployed

I feel like I should preface this subject by saying that we went through such a relatively short stint of infertility compared to most. And by the books, some would even argue that we didn’t experience infertility at all. But I call it that nonetheless. When Drew got home from his second deployment, we knew we were ready to start a family, so we started trying to get pregnant right away. I had always assumed it wouldn’t take us long to get pregnant. But as the months went by, my disappointment grew and the stress between Drew and I built. I wanted nothing more than to be a mommy, and for some reason I felt like God wasn’t answering my prayers. Because we were on such good insurance, we decided to go ahead with fertility testing. After a couple of labs and tests, my doctor concluded that in order for me to get pregnant, that I would need to be on Clomid. Neither Drew and I were comfortable jumping on that train right away, so we decided for me to go ahead and pursue a job opportunity and take a break from trying. At this point it had been about 9 months since we had started trying. The stress of “trying” to get pregnant and taken it’s toll on our relationship and we just needed a break from everything (you can read about some of the emotions going through my mind at that time by reading THIS POST). A month after I started my new job, I found out I was pregnant with Brayden. We weren’t trying… at all. God loves to mess with me like that. I love the story of our short infertility journey because I really learned to let go. I think up to the point that we had quit trying, I was so worried about making something happen on our own. God really taught me that I have no control over my life. I dealt with anger over friends losing babies. It seemed so unfair. And life does seem so unfair a lot of the times, doesn’t it? I felt like my story of infertility was Gods way of really showing me what it meant to release it ALL to Him and rest in His timing and His plan. If I’m ever struggling now with things, I can always go back to that story and the Lord reminds me of how it all worked out in HIS time, not my own. I also think for our marriage is strengthened Drew and I as a couple in that we really had to pray together about what we were going through. Drew was able to lend support to me, and in a lot of ways I had to be open and vulnerable to him, something that I am not normally comfortable doing. Often when couples ask us advice before they’re married, Drew and I can point back to the deployments and our infertility and say to fall towards one another, not away. It’s easy to push someone else away when times are hard, especially our spouses. But Drew and I have found that when we fall towards one another in trials, it allows God to use the trials to be a refiner for our relationship, and we both individually, and as a couple, come out stronger.

Drews Career
I think as a wife, one of the hardest things to watch is your husband put time and effort into something that doesn’t really return the favor. Not only is it hard to watch, but it is wearing on a relationship. I would say that the times when Drew was working hardest and getting the least amount of respect and feedback at work, was so hard on me as a wife. For one, I want to see my husband in an environment that he thrives in. Coming back from a deployment to a recession filled workforce caused a lot of additional stress not only on Drew, but on both of us. People often say that when “momma aint happy aint nobody happy” and I would argue that the same can be true about daddy too. 3 years after the deployment, Drew was in a career path that showed little promise for future growth, and was exceptionally variable with the economy. He knew that he couldn’t do what he was doing forever, so he decided to make a switch. I’m SO glad that he did because he LOVES his job now. As far as how this affected our relationship… well…. It put a toll on me emotionally because I honestly got tired of dealing with a spouse who didn’t feel that fulfilled in what he did. That was really hard for me to support. And honestly I probably didn’t do the best at supporting him through that time. I would say that as a wife one of our greatest jobs is to speak into our husbands hearts and encourage them in their work. There was also a lot of unknown for me. I’m big on not having my security buttons pushed. Drew’s really good about watching for this and making sure that I always feel secure (one of the many reasons I love him!), but when your husband goes through a career change that is completely different than what he went to college for, it can make both of you a little nervous about the unknowns. In addition to Drew’s uncertainty with his career path, he also decided to go back to school for his MBA.

Did I mention we found out we were pregnant with Connor right as all of this was beginning to transpire??? Finding out I was pregnant was a HUGE rocking of the boat. I blogged a lot about my emotions during that time HERE and HERE) Yeah, it was a whirlwind of change for our family for sure. It was tough, but somehow we made it through it.

I think for us what helped us get through that hard 2 year stint was Drew taking the time to recognize the emotional toll it took on me, and being sensitive to my sometimes wavering faith that it would all end up right in the end. And I think for me, I had to remember that I was his biggest cheerleader. Sometimes I think Satan wants wives to think that their voice doesn’t matter in their husbands life, and so we sit back quietly, letting someone else take that place of cheering for our husbands. On those nights when Drew was doubting his abilities, I made sure to encourage him that he could do it (most of the time anyways). And on those nights when I questioned my sanity and abilities to raise two children under two while my husband worked a full time job and went to graduate school full time, Drew was quick to swoop in and give me words of encouragement (and even a rare moment off from mommy hood). The times that were tougher during those two years, I can definitely pinpoint moments where one of us was being selfish, and leaning out of the relationship instead of leaning in. Going through all of the career stuff definitely helped us learn to lean in more. And we would need it, because 2011 turned out to be one of the hardest yet for us.

Family Events and Housing Woes
In late 2011 we had some family events that happened with my side of the family that forever changed Drew and I. Most of the story is not really mine to tell, so I have been very vague (and will continue to do so) out of respect for everyone involved. Needless to say, it not only rocked my world, but also my marriage. In addition to the family events, we were also living in an environment that was growing increasingly unsettling due to developments in our former city. I felt like I had stress coming from all angles of my life, and there was no escape because even the very home that I lived in was not a place of comfort and rest for me and the kids. As stuff with my family escalated, so did our situation with our former house. Drew was so involved with school and work that while he knew I was living in stress, he felt completely helpless to change anything. In some ways, he couldn’t change anything. Thankfully the Lord delivered us out of our housing situation last winter. The story is one that is amazing, has the Lords hand all over it, and is a story that Drew and I have altered (much like the heroes of the faith built alters to the Lord when He delivered them) in our lives as a point that the Lord was our Redeemer. During the process of us selling our house, we claimed Psalm 18:2 as our alter verse, and felt like it was so fitting for the things we were going through:
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2
After we moved and I had a home that was once again a peaceful place of rest, Drew encouraged me to attend counseling in regards to some of the stuff we had experienced with my family. I know many who shy away from counseling, either from the fear of it sounding like something is wrong with you, or the sheer cost of it. I assure you that while it is expensive, it is WELL worth the cost involved. Counseling for me allowed me to process through things that I am not sure I could have ever processed otherwise. It allowed Drew to see my heart without becoming defensive in misunderstanding what I was saying, and it allowed both of us to see ways that we needed to grow as a couple. We’re still working through some of the things we learned in counseling last year, and honestly, we’re waiting to go back in a few months to work through a few more.

So where are we today? Well, we’re a lot closer as a couple than we were 9 years ago, that’s for sure. We still don’t lean in on each other as much as we should. We still bicker and fight about stuff, almost daily if I’m honest about it. But we’re committed. I’m committed to trying to remember to grab his hand during trials instead of putting it up in protest. And I’m committed to working it out. I know at the beginning of this post I mentioned how inadequate I felt to write it. And in many ways, I am. I haven’t done it all right. I’m sure if you asked Drew, he could pin point several examples where I failed miserably at leaning in during the big trials that we’ve faced. But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps there’s a truth in the fact that we never should feel like we’ve arrived, that we, to some degree, will always struggle with that inward conflict of being selfish or being a teammate. My hope and prayer is that I will always try to remember to be Drews teammate, and in those moments where I fall short, that Gods grace will cover where I fail.

(PS-- I feel like I should say that if you made it to the end of this post… I applaud you. Sorry for the long book. Hard to cover 9 years of hardships in one blog post).

If you've blogged about your hardships in marriage, be sure to link up with us this week!


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