From Sue of "Eric and Sue" one year after their Weekend Marriage Intensive! - and a couple months after enjoying the "Intimate Moments with Joel and Kathy" Cruise!
For twenty years, before I found The Man of Her Dreams, the Woman of His, I spent nights in bed with my back turned toward my husband. I would often be, crying to God, begging that I would learn to love my husband, that I would be released from bitterness and that I could be a normal loving wife.
I thought that I had married for wrong and selfish reasons and believed that I was getting what I deserved; all I wanted was to be pleasing to God by being a good Christian wife.
I prayed that I would become stronger with a softer more loving and patient heart. After all, my husband, I thought, was a Christian man. He went to church every week, taught Sunday School and served as an elder. Most of the time, he worked to support the family. I thought then that those things meant he must be a good husband.
I had low expectations. Society and our culture helped nurture the concept that I couldn't expect much from a guy. Christian culture further encouraged me to forgive and persevere.
I made excuses for his lack of communication, his isolation, neglect, helplessness, narcissism, jealousy, stinginess, ugliness, resentment and self gratification. I thought it was all normal guy behavior.
When Eric and I had been married nearly fifteen years, my outlook began to change. Unexpected tragedies happened in my family and I had to face God in ways that I never had before.
My vulnerability sent me on a deeper journey toward knowing Christ. As I began to know Christ more deeply, I came to the surprising realization that Eric, although verbal in church about his strong faith in God, was not actually a believer. He told me so.
Then I had to wrap my head around the fact that my husband was a liar and a pretender. Hard to believe I had been married to him that long before I realized his depravity.
It was still four years after that before I discovered Joel and Kathy and their ministry. I still didn't comprehend the full extent of Eric's sinfulness.
All I knew for sure was that I was miserable and that I felt trapped. Divorce was out of the question for me. I felt strongly that it was my burden to bear.
I thought divorce would be a sin of selfishness and I didn't want to hurt my family by bringing our problems into the open.
I also didn't understand the depths of God's love for us and how grieved God himself was about Eric's sin and my sorrow. I continued to pray for my own strength to endure. Little did I know that first I had to become weak and helpless and that God's plan was to bring my husband to his knees in repentance and grow him to be Christ-like in his love for me.
I had no idea that God would miraculously answer my prayer by transforming Eric into someone I can love, instead of transforming me into someone who could love Eric.
The first jolt of the answer to my prayer came one evening when I was researching on the internet about how to deal with passive-aggressive guys. A homeschool forum friend posted a link to "God Save my Marriage" with the question, "What about mutual submission?"
It's hard to believe now, but on that evening "mutual submission" was a totally new idea to me, although it's been there in Scripture all along. I clicked on the link and out poured blessing.
I read the free excerpt hungrily and ordered the book. I was excited and yet still naïve thinking Eric would be excited too. I actually believed that he longed, like I did, for a healthy marriage. Ha!
Eric was angered by Joel and Kathy's book in the beginning and tells me that he wanted to rip the book and throw it into the flames of the fireplace.
Though Eric rejected Joel and Kathy's teaching at the beginning, I was strengthened by what I read.
As soon as the second book was published, I lived by both books. I learned that my feelings are neither right nor wrong, that they are simply my feelings. I learned that I have a right to my feelings and I learned not to dismiss hurts as being "just my imagination".
I learned that my frustrations were legitimate and explainable. I learned that I wasn't alone and that I wasn't crazy. Joel and Kathy, along with the helpers on the "God Save My Marriage" forum gave me a safe place to vent and analyze and become more secure in Christ.
Although I had a detailed plan for departure from my dead prison of marriage, I never carried out the plan. I believe that Eric could have awakened from his sinful stupor sooner if I had left him.
Instead he became a master of pretending to "get it" long enough to get me to stay a little bit longer prolonging the grueling ups and downs and my agony of "hope deferred makes the heart sick" spoken of in Proverbs 13:12.
However, Eric had evidence of real changes along the way that kept me from bailing out completely too.
On January 8th, 2008, I confronted him about the pornography and self-gratification, which I later found out, had been consuming him daily since he was a young adolescent. How could I not have known the extent and the resulting damage to both of us and to our kids?
By God's grace, Eric overcame the addiction. It wasn't easy for us, because while he expected to be appreciated for his successes, I was overcome by the severity and darkness of his compulsion and we were left to deal with the long term effects of his twisted self-love: lying, greed, pride, self-centeredness, etcetera resulting from a man arrested in his emotional development.
Nevertheless, the change resulting from the confrontation about the porn had a recognizable and immediate positive effect on our marriage.
The next landmark in our growth came the first weekend in October, 2009 when we went to Joel and Kathy's Marriage Intensive in Palm Coast, Florida.
Until then, Eric had been depending on his own efforts and his own ideas about how to make his marriage succeed. The amount of information and help and counseling and genuine love given at the Intensive was astounding and overwhelming.
I came to terms with learning that I also have arrested development or I never would have been attracted to Eric in the first place. I came to terms with my own anger which actually intensified at the Intensive and continued until Eric's serious breakthrough many months later.
The Intensive was priceless. We could never have reached the point we are if we had continued to depend on our selves. The Intensive was hard too and I had the most real thoughts of ending my life during the Intensive, part of Satan's attack, I know, but nevertheless real and agonizing.
Since the Intensive we have both wrestled with deep, difficult and painful things. Eric has struggled with deep seated mother-son issues and passivity while I deal with hurts that are bigger than life from being concealed for a lifetime.
God Save My Marriage forum and conference calls have been invaluable in our week to week crises since the Intensive.
Now we see the results. We now stand beside each other. We can look into each other's eyes with love. We can be honest with each other, honest with others and honest before our Lord.
Eric is compassionate, warm and tender.
Though he continues to make mistakes, because he is still human, he is diligent and daily surrenders his life to Christ and to me.
He knows that passivity is a choice and that passive aggression is a sin and that overcoming both is a daily decision. He also knows that his most worthy ministry is to be a Christ-like husband and dad.
Eric and I renewed our marriage vows on a Marriage Renewal Cruise with Joel and Kathy in September, 2010. Eric speaks those same vows to me several times a week to remind him where his focus should be and to reassure me that he is serious.
He allows me to question him and to express doubts about his sincerity as long as I feel a need to.
Until we die, we will continue to make mistakes, but we will also continue to grow in Christ's love. While we learn to relate to each other, we are learning how to relate to other people in love.
Ultimately this is our purpose in life, to love and to grow the kingdom of God in love and unity!