When my husband told his therapist that I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary this year, the therapist was surprised. After all, that’s why I stopped going to therapy, I was doing so much better and didn’t need his weekly help. But doing somewhat well as an individual and wanting to celebrate our anniversary as a joyous occasion are two different things. I am pleased at the progress my husband is making, but I don’t feel a party-like atmosphere is in order. I am pleased at how well I am healing, but I don’t feel the need to exchange gifts. I told my husband that what I want can’t be purchased.
So my 20th wedding anniversary came and went quietly last week without a trip to Europe like I always thought we would take. We were out of town, at my parents’ home in sunny southern California. I had told my husband all month long that I didn’t want to celebrate our anniversary. I didn’t want a gift, didn’t want to go anywhere, didn’t want it mentioned really. (I was afraid my parents would wonder why we chose not to celebrate it so I did bake a cake in our honor, or at least that’s what I told them.)
Since our anniversary is at the very end of the year it’s always been kind of a ‘reckoning’ moment for me. Usually on my anniversary I look back on the last calendar year and think about all the great things that my husband and I were able to accomplish. I like to think about all the blessings we have and how we have grown as a couple. We always talk about our wedding day in Los Angeles. How hot it was for December; how there were 29 other couples on school break getting married that day; how we were the last couple to get married at high noon; how they closed the temple and I had to change out of my wedding dress in the visitor’s center tiny bathroom; how fun it was to go out to lunch, all alone, as husband and wife in Puente Hills while our families got the church ready for our reception.
But not this year’s anniversary. This was the year where I was robbed of all those good memories. This was the year where I stopped saying, and will never say again, “we really do have the best marriage, we are the best of friends.” I really was looking forward to turning 40 in the year 2014; it seemed like a hallmark of all the good in my life. But then in June it all shattered and I learned my husband had been a porn addict our entire marriage. All of it.
And as 2014 came to an end and all my friends who also married in December wrote lovely tributes on Facebook to their spouses I thought of my own imaginary post. “Happy 20th anniversary to my sweetheart; marriage is indeed hard but we love each other and we aren’t divorced yet.” But who wants to read that.
Here’s to my 21st year of marriage. May it be just a smidge better.
Jeffrey R. Holland, in this BYU sppech, The Will of the Father in All Things, has really helped me to understand what it means to submit to the Lord’s will–to willingly say “thy will be done.” My will (also know as my thoughts, feelings and desires) is this pain I carry, this broken heart, this sadness, this broken-ness, this bitterness, this pride–these are my feelings and I have every right to carry them as long as I want. I have been wounded, I have been crushed, I am entitled to feel this way, it is part of who I am right now–it’s my will. But God will never force us to anything we simply don’t want to do. Well I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I really do want to give it all to God but I simply didn’t know what that looked like. Until I read this:
….Education, or public service, or social responsibility, or professional accomplishment of any kind is in vain if we cannot, in those crucial moments of pivotal personal history, submit ourselves to God even when all our hopes and fears may tempt us otherwise. We must be willing to place all that we have…..our ambition and pride and stubbornness and vanity—we must place it all on the altar’ of God, kneel there in silent submission, and willingly walk away.
I get it now. I know what I need to do. And for weeks I have been doing this very thing. I have been reading Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and he talks about visualizing (Habit #2–Begin With the End in Mind). So that’s what I have been doing every day for weeks. Here’s the visual:
I visualize myself walking into a room, nobody else is in the room, this isn’t about my husband, it’s about me only. I walk over to an altar and on that altar I lay down all my negative feelings, my sadness, my crushed dreams, my pain, in other words, my will to hold onto those things. I kneel down, I say a prayer something like “I don’t know how you’re going to take this all away. I don’t know how you’re going to make this all better. It seems impossible to me, but I know you can.” And then I walk out of the room, quietly, without looking back. That’s it, that’s the exercise.
Then Elder Holland goes on to say:
I believe what I am describing here is the scriptural definition of a saint, one who will “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” and “through the atonement of Christ . . . becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
Now I don’t believe for a second the Lord is inflicting any of this upon me, sin is never a good idea in his book, I am innocent, but I do believe the principle is the same. I need to submit to Him to be healed. And let me tell you, this realization, this exercise has meant everything to me. By far it is the best tool so far in my healing. I think about it everyday, I visualize myself unloading my will on that altar everyday. And that’s how I’m finally able to apply the atonement. God’s ways are always better than my way. So I’m doing it his way.