The Martyrdom of Marriage

Corpsebride

Marriage is hell.

Sometimes.

I did not sign up for that.

I signed up for a husband who would understand me all the time.  He would anticipate needs without me speaking them so that I would never have to humble myself and ask for help.  He would be romantic and creative, regardless of the pressures of providing for a family, or responsibilities he might have to others.  But, more than anything, he would fill all the empty places in me.  He would make me feel beautiful, smart, and important.  Any unanswered questions I had…about me…about whether I mattered…he would answer.

My husband has failed me in this.

I imagine he had a list of expectations too.  And I can assure you, whatever was on that list, I have failed him.  More than he has failed me.

For a long time we limped along in our failings, too polite to say to the other how disappointed we were.  Too afraid to talk about the things that mattered.  Until all the resentment finally hit critical mass and exploded like a compromised container of toxic waste.  And the husband I had lived with peaceably, if not always passionately, for years, became an object of loathing to me.  I could no longer remember any of the things I loved about him.

And I made his life hell. I wanted to hurt him as much as I felt he had hurt me.  I was so angry at him for not being who I needed him to be.  Who I thought I needed him to be.

“The collapse of the family today, the rate of divorce–all this is due to the non-acceptance by man of marriage as martyria, and this means patience, endurance, travelling together along a difficult, yet ultimately glorious path.”

~Alexander Schmemann

For four years we have fought and scratched and clawed our way back to one another.  Our kind and able couselor taught us to be honest.  Generous friends loved us viciously and refused to let us give up–and I really wanted to give up.  And we learned to cling to God like a man lost in the desert clings to his last few drops of water.

Healing has come.  Is still coming.  And we have learned so much.  But perhaps the most important thing we have learned is to give one another permission to be who we are.  And to allow the other to fail us.  In those empty places where I miss him and he misses me, God is.  And we learn a little more about surrender.  And about the kind of love that gives without requiring response.  The love of a martyr.

martyr: a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause

Turns out, each of us was what the other needed all along.  And we are finding a rich, seasoned love that is worth every torturous step it took to get here.  If you find yourself in the hell season at present, PLEASE, don’t give up!!!  Ask for help.  Gather a band of brothers and sisters around you.  And ask God to meet you in the empty, broken places…and to teach you to love like He loves.

“…marriage, as life itself, is above all a journey, and its goal, as that of life itself, is the Kingdom of God…Then what will remain is true love, the one that overcomes death and gives us a taste of the Kingdom…It is this love that transforms through forgiveness, and so in the marriage, in this martyrdom,…we grow together as to constitute in the end the very image of that Divine Love between God and man.”

~Alexander Schmemann