LESSONS LEARNED ABOUT LOVE IN MARRIAGE
By Kilee Luthi (…the whole story!)
Original version re-posted from Deseret News
When I made the decision to marry my husband, I knew that the future wouldn’t necessarily be easy.
However, I never expected one of my greatest trials would be the marriage I was “signing up” for.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I made the marriage decision. As a young-and-in-love woman, I put a lot of thought and prayer behind my decision, and I felt in my heart it was right.
My expectations of marriage were things I had learned from observing my family, friends’ families, and families I knew from church. Marriage made me part of a team. I was dedicated to working together and excited for the things life would throw at us as we embarked on our journey.
I never expected I would one day be faced with the reality that I did not love my husband.
I never expected I would be faced with a decision of giving up on our marriage.
One day I woke up and realized I did not love my husband. He was a stranger sleeping next to me. In that moment, I questioned everything I was and everything I had done up to that point. I questioned our future together and faced fears of what might happen. The realization that I could actually not love my husband changed my view of marriage forever.
Some people would call this “falling out of love.” I don’t know that “falling out of love” is really the correct term, though. That seems too sudden, like BAM! I just don’t love you anymore. It didn’t happen like that. The decline in our love was much more gradual.
We’ve dealt with many trials in our marriage that “normal” couples deal with. We’ve faced deaths of loved ones, the stress of college/graduating/finding jobs, a car accident, big injuries, financial struggles, and infertility, among other things. These are trials that can bring a couple together or tear them apart.
However, the main culprit of our deepest struggles was first brought to light six months after we were married: my husband had a “problem” with pornography.
My husband’s porn problem was actually much bigger than he first admitted. He would tell me just enough to keep me satisfied that he was being honest and trying to overcome it. I trusted him. The problem is, he didn’t just have a problem with pornography: He had an addiction. That addiction led him to keep many secrets and to lie. It led him to betray me and our marriage on many levels. And the far-reaching effects of the addiction further complicated the other issues happening in our marriage.
To say our problems could have been avoided had we dated longer is to underestimate the power of the lies that came so easy.
Eventually, everything became too much, and I realized I didn’t love him anymore. But again, it didn’t happen suddenly. It didn’t happen with one individual trial. It happened with lies, secrets, and betrayal.
It happened as we both acted in anger towards each other. It happened as we both held grudges for the faults we found in one another. Everything compiled and pressurized until it exploded on me and I realized I did not love him–at least not in the way I thought I should love my husband. I didn’t love him,
I didn’t trust him, and I didn’t know if our marriage could survive.
Did I want it to survive? Absolutely. Even though I didn’t necessarily love him, I knew the reasons I had loved him. I could still see him, and I wasn’t quite ready to give it all up. All my life I had sworn up and down I would never get a divorce, and I never imagined I could be in a situation that would warrant one.
Yet, here I was questioning my future with this man–the man to whom I had sworn my forever.
When I realized I neither loved nor fully trusted my husband, I was faced with a big choice. Do I give up, or do I fight the fight of my life? Can we work through this together? Do I give up what I thought my marriage could be–and what my marriage had actually become–and leave?
After much prayer, many tears, and heartfelt communication with my husband, I chose to stay. In staying, I’ve learned beautiful lessons.
Love is a choice.
I thought I had already mastered how to love. We got that down when we were dating. However, I learned the butterfly feeling you get when you are dating/engaged/newlyweds doesn’t last forever. That feeling is not love. Rather, it’s the precursor to a deep, burning love and passion that must be chosen and built upon to last a lifetime.
For a while, I just sat in my lack of love. I experienced many emotions, and I hit a very low point. I allowed myself to sit with the pain occurring in my life, waiting for something to change. My husband, in his efforts to recover from his addiction and to keep me in his life, made many changes. He began a beautiful road to recovery, and he started making great progress. I could see the changes, but I had a hard time letting them sink in. I wanted to protect myself from future damage, and I chose not to trust him. I chose bitterness, anger, and fear for many days and months. Over time, I realized nothing could ever really change in our marriage if I didn’t start putting forth some of my own efforts as well.
As I examined the changes in my husband, I faced another choice. I had stayed, but staying wasn’t enough. Do I forgive him and try to love him again? Do I take a leap of faith, or do I just walk away?
I thought in order to really know we still had a marriage worth fighting for, I needed to feel the butterflies. I needed to feel love in my heart for him.
Love doesn’t come back on its own.
For days on end, I consciously made a choice: I chose to love my husband. When I felt the love faltering, I asked myself why. Why do I feel this way? What is happening to me that would cause this? If he was making choices that impacted my love for him, I evaluated his actions and asked myself what was going on in his life that could cause him to act in those ways. Much self- and relationship-awareness occurred during those times. It strengthened our communication and other relationship skills.
Even now, I make choices every day to love my husband. I do things to serve him and show him I care.
I choose to see the good in him rather than focusing on the bad. As I do these things, I find myself softening and the love rekindling.
Love isn’t easy.
Marriage isn’t easy. Giving yourself to someone fully isn’t easy.
When the going gets rough, it can seem simple to throw in the towel and give up. Some situations definitely call for a divorce, but not every situation does. Giving up wasn’t the answer for me, and I’m grateful I chose to stay and find love again. I’m grateful he chose the path to recovery so we could work together and save our marriage.
Right now, our love is much deeper and stronger than I ever anticipated, especially during that dark abyss. I know not every relationship works out the same way. I know there could come a time when the addiction or other problems could come back to bite us, and I know there are things that could warrant a divorce in my life. But, every day right now, we both choose each other. While we choose each other, it’s becoming pretty easy to love.
Kilee is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in Family and Consumer Science Education. She is passionate about parenting and child development, human relations, nutrition and wellness, culinary, and fashion design.
Visit Ben and Kilee’s addiction recovery blogs:
Ben — lethimhealyourheart.com
Kilee — 12stepswithchrist.blogspot.com.