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She Thought I'd Never Be Good Enough
A marriage that survived the in-laws
A while back I invited readers to share stories of marriages that survived a rough patch. Along with a huge number of often very moving stories, I also received heartfelt responses from several readers who felt this focus was misguided. It seemed, some suggested, to imply that those who had struggled to save a marriage but still ended up divorcing had ‘failed’ or were otherwise inferior.
To those who felt thus accused by implication: I hear you. Life is messy, and a relationship takes two. I don’t make assumptions about anyone’s story. My intent in sharing accounts of marriages that survived a rough patch is not to damn or belittle those who have experienced divorce. It’s more that within the wider culture, the discursive space between “Finding The One” and “This Is A Dealbreaker” seems to have collapsed. That is: there’s a narrative about how falling in love is a matter of finding someone who is perfect in every way - and then the moment something dents that perfection, calling it all off. And while not all marriages can (or should) survive, this narrative skews the culture against some that, perhaps, could have. So I want to push back against the assumption that there’s nothing between perfection and separation. Real stories do that.
The story below is a case in point. It underlines how, even after meeting “The One”, it may not all be plain sailing - sometimes, as in this case, thanks to the extended family that’s supposed to support your relationship. I’m grateful to Candy for sharing such a personal account. (She blogs as The Quail Writer. Give her a follow!)
She Thought I’d Never Be Good Enough
We were young and knew each other was the 'one' after a long platonic friendship.
I was visiting New York in a ministry program for a year. I met him by accident. I was not looking for love.
I chose never to get married or have children; I wanted to be independent and free. I could make it on my own. Then I met this great friend. We became fast, close friends. We discussed everything as we rode night after night in his red convertible Corvette with the top down and heater on the cool New York nights. We sat at a mountaintop park and gazed at the tiny lights in town below with no agenda but to be together. In the daylight, he showed me the antique cities of upstate New York in back countries. I asked him to stop at antique bookstores to look for unique books. I had given up on finding the one man, and he still hoped to find a wife.
After many hours of laughing and sharing dreams, he asked me to marry him, and I said, "No. I'll never marry; I'm not wife or mother material." He cried. I felt terrible for him; I did not know he felt so deeply about me, but I did not want to marry. He took me home and drove away. I did not know if I would see him again, but that was okay. I'm not marrying anyone. I thought he knew that about me.
A few weeks later, he called and asked if we could be friends. I said, "Friendship, I can do it."
We started dinner again, driving and walking together. The friendship grew. He is the kindest, most patient person I have ever known. He has a positive attitude. We discussed science, astronomy, physics, math, worldly events, and history. He was as versatile in knowledge as me in indifferent subjects. I was from a small southern town, and my life could not have been more different than his. I read books from the public library on all subjects. He was from a family that valued education. I was not. I wanted to go to college but could not. He was in college but dropped out because he was bored. My folks were blue-collar; he had Ivy League-educated folks.
He told me if he could have me as his wife, he would want for nothing the rest of his life. I told him," I'm not marriage material. I won't cook, clean, or answer to you. No one tells me what to do. I'm selfish, too. My advice to you is not to marry me." He laughed and said, "I love you. Let's call ourselves engaged."
I thought he loved me more than I loved him; this might work. I sheepishly said, "Okay."
He quickly took a cola can pop top ring and placed it on my finger, saying this will do until I can get you a proper diamond ring. I said, "Well if you are getting me a diamond, buy one that no one has to use a magnifying glass to see it. No worries if you can't afford that; a simple gold band on the day will do." I'm not a gold-digger. I'm just putting in my preference. I had no idea if he had any money at this point. I was marrying him, not his wallet. Later he bought me a beautiful engagement ring.
With no objections from his parents, we married. My father had his reservations about his family when he met them. I told my father I was marrying him, not his family. The first month after the wedding, the complaints from his mother about me began. I could not believe it.
When they discovered my background, they decided I was not good enough for their son. His mother constantly told me he married beneath himself. After hearing this many times, I told her, "Tell your son. If he wants out of this marriage, no problem. They can have him back, and I'll go as I came with myself."
His family made me unwelcomed at every word when he was NOT around. I decided not to attend their family gatherings. I told him, "I do not own you, and you can go there without me." He participated in a few because of his guilt, and I told him, "It was okay. I'm good." And I was. I would never separate him from his family. That is wrong. He found his family was arguing and angry no matter what and finally came home to stay with me. I was happy. I danced and sang at home with my cheese platter and Welch's grape juice. I do not drink alcohol and do not like being around drunks and their enablers.
His mother never told him the awful things she said to me, and he could not believe she told me those dreadful things—his inability to acknowledge she said it put a wedge between me and my trust in him. So, I was alone, knowing how much his family disliked me. They called me a gold digger behind his back.
I had to forgive him for not backing me. I had to forgive them for not knowing me. I had to learn to be alone in my confidence in who I am. I had no family in the state, and now I had no family but him. He did not believe me. And to me, it was the ultimate betrayal, as if he thought I was a liar. So, the marriage was tested from the first month. The division his family thrust in my direction was not accepted by me. I knew who I was and would not let their negative misconceptions about me separate us.
When someone is raised in an alcoholic home, there are secrets, denial, and emotional abuse. The emotional harm done to him would rear its ugly head in our relationship for many years. The suppression of his feelings would make him hard to communicate with about the challenges we faced as a couple and later as parents. Yet, I could see the good, kind person he was inside, and because I was committed to our success as a couple, I chose to forgive him and help him whenever I could. I made the best decisions I could without his input many times. He seemed lost and unable to decide on personal situations. Years go by, and I praise and support him to go further and do more because I knew he was capable. He did go further.
In time, he grew in respect and love for himself and me. Every year, we focused on the family unit. My family's abuse was prejudiced and religious, and we both knew the abuse would stop with us. We would not pass on the abuse to our children. He eventually knew we had to do things differently than our parents if we wanted a different outcome for our children. More and more, we focused on OUR little family and stayed away from the negative family drama. Our children grew up without seeing alcohol and arguments, and they had sweet holiday memories thanks to him and me.
In time, his mother grew to love me, and on her deathbed, she took my hand and told my husband, "This is the daughter I never had." She died early because of her alcoholism, but I ultimately won her over because I forgave her repeatedly. I learned to set healthy boundaries. His father lived another twenty-plus years and told me he never saw true love; he thought it did not exist, but after watching my husband and me, he knew it existed.
This marriage of forty-five and counting has been a love worth living for, and without daily forgiveness at times, we would not be here today. To be sure, there was no physical or verbal violence in this union. Trust and fidelity is our vow, and we lived it. No matter how hard things get, when you truly love someone, no one else will do. You see a problem; you two find a way to work it out; there is no need to go outside the marriage.
Today, we have open communication. We are not afraid to love one another. We trust and know we are faithful. He is the kindest man I have ever known. He is a good man. He is my best friend forever. I'm so thankful we stayed the course to see the great life we have today.
If the rocks make the brook sing, we are an opera. He dedicated the band Chicago's song 'One Good Woman' to me on our forty-fifth anniversary last week. Look it up and read the lyrics. I married the right man. Luck has nothing to do with it: forgiveness, patience, laughter, and vows. We remember the innocent hearts that recognized one another initially, and we reunite again and again. He made my life wonderful. I love him still. We got this, another forty-five. Yes, I'm in, and he is too. We have much knowledge about navigating a relationship in peace. I'm writing some books now to help others.
Thank you for giving hope to others. True love is alive and is worth waiting for.
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