For about 3 of the 12 "roommate years", I was miserable. More than miserable. I was more lonely and empty than if I had been single - so "single" felt like the best option. Off and on over those years, I did everything a woman who is planning to leave does. I crunched numbers, sharpened my skills, looked for 2 small houses - one for him and one for me. I was so very cold toward Joe. I still remember possibly the meanest thing I have ever said to him. In a moment of anger, I challenged him with "Do you know why I let you do so much around here?" I was referring to cooking and laundry.... "because it's all I get out of this marriage." He would retreat - and nothing would get resolved. I share this detail, and the anger that masked my pain because someone out there needs to know - it is better to be brave and fight than to be quiet and hide. Sweeping life under the rug isn't a remedy for suffering. Brooms and blindfolds are ineffective tools for rebuilding. There were 3 thoughts that haunted me daily during those years ...
that a divorce would devastate our children, that I personally would be breaking a vow that I made before God, and honestly, I couldn't bear the thought of Joe living in a world where he couldn't be with his boys every single day. I shed the most tears over #3, but what hung me up the most was "for better or for worse". That actually means what it says. I will not proclaim this to be the formula for every marriage, but in my case - Joe is a good man, a precious man, and even in our worst years he was always good to me. I wrestled with God a great deal - why did he bring me to a marriage that would end up feeling so empty? I bitched to Him way more than that ..... but ultimately what kept settling in was that to honor God, I needed to honor my vow. (<--- listen, I know that is hard to swallow for some of you reading. I get that. It was hard for me to swallow too. Reminder - Joe was always good to me.) Joe has always supported me 100%. Fly to Africa by myself to serve orphans? Sure. Change jobs? Sure. Buy new stuff? Sure. He has never raised his voice to me nor has he ever stood in the way of whatever I had wanted to do or accomplish. I began to view worse as better.
For the next 8-9 years, we lived a settled existence. For whatever reason - I gave up any idea of leaving. Joe and I got along well - most of the time, very well. We were able to establish friendships with other couples, go on family outings, etc. While we were not modeling physical affection for our children, we did manage to create a loving atmosphere in our home. The kids didn't have the benefit of seeing their parents snuggle on the sofa for movie night, or hold hands in the car - but they had no idea how disconnected we were. They were treasured and adored by us both - at the same time. That was the best we could do - and they never knew any different. It broke my heart for them - as I wanted so much for them to be able to witness healthy love and affection. I wanted to model something deep and solid for them - but we couldn't.
As for intimacy - I just slowly accepted its death and eventually stopped grieving. Both Joe and I honored our vow.
About 11 years ago I began to feel God calling me into ministry - specifically to go to school, either a bible college or seminary. Off and on for those years I explored my options and none of them felt right for myriad reasons. Then 2 years ago - the nudge came in quite a bit stronger. My options began to narrow into focus and the time was right - so I began the process. I recall talking with other friends, teachers and pastors in ministry who emphasized to me that I should be prepared for spiritual attack. For those of you who are not Christians - I can see where this verbiage might rub you. I get that. But for those of us who are - we know that the Bible talks clearly about the forces of evil and darkness. Satan's goal is to thwart the mission of God - ministers of the Gospel are a high target priority. I have believed this for as far back as I can remember, but I was about to have a code-red encounter, and I wasn't prepared.