That Time My Marriage Almost Ended, And Why That’s a Good Thing

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In the fall of 2012, my 3 year marriage to the love of my life was moments away from being over. My wife and I had many heated arguments during which the dreaded word divorce was shouted with such anger that, to this day, I continue to wonder how we came out the other side.

But much like that dreaded first step into a cold swimming pool, I know it’s time I take a deep breath and step off the side of the pool if I ever want to enjoy the freedom and joy that comes from a refreshing swim. Yes, it’s going to suck at first, but in the end there is a much needed benefit. For me, right now, the benefit I’m looking for is the unblocking of my mind; a release from the baggage that continues to weigh me down and impact my well-being. Allow me to back up a bit before we move forward.

Like many first time parents, that first year of my son’s life was really hard on the Wife and me. For reasons we couldn’t pinpoint, our history of meeting in the middle and balancing out one another, was eluding us.

We dealt with a great deal of stress during October-December of 2011. My Wife sadly lost her grandmother, we had a scare at 20 weeks where we thought our son was coming early, family drama throughout the holidays, and finally a couple we associated with gave birth to their son about 5 weeks before us, and named him the same name we were going to name our son. Yes, it’s laughable NOW to think of how worked up we got over the whole naming situation, but try explaining that to an almost 8 month pregnant woman.

Having some distance, I am able to look back and recognize these were simply excuses for our troubles. The real reason we were having issues is because we weren’t communicating. Simply put, we weren’t talking, our communication was broken. At least not about the things that didn’t involve sleep training, feeding and diaper duty. We neglected to communicate about the stuff that mattered most: Us.

So fast forward almost a year later. Our son was very difficult in his first year. No, that’s not fair to him. He was typical baby, maybe a bit more cranky than others, but normal nonetheless. It was his parents that were not well.

Unresolved stress from the prior year, was now growing with the addition of new stress. It all continued to pile up – stress of a cranky baby, a very difficult bout of postpartum depression, my own person life-long struggles with depression. And thanks to the continued presence of social media, it felt as if all we saw were other couples with children the same age as our son bragging about how awesome life was, and how kick-ass they were at being new moms and dads. I swear to everything holy, if I saw one more “#Blessed,” coupled with a pictures of an angelic baby with smiling, seemingly well-rested parents, I was going to go on a homicidal rampage.

We spent more time sitting around hating the kind of parents/people we weren’t while being angry at each other, that we failed to invest even one second in our marriage and, even more importantly, ourselves.

We tried, on occasion, to be that better person and support one another, even in our supremely broken state. Most days, unfortunately it was an exercise in futility.

But, even in all our brokenness we knew we still wanted us to work. So we took steps to fix us. We sought outside help, and dedicated ourselves to being better with each other. Was it easy? No fucking way. But nothing good, nothing that matters ever is.

I bring all this up because the Wife and I were having a discussion while out to lunch recently – a discussion that floored me.

Wife: You know, I’m kind of thankful for all the crap we went through two years ago.
Me: How in the hell can you say that?!? What good can you possibly have gained from that? We threatened each other with divorce.
Wife: Yeah, but we didn’t do it. And besides, look at all the good in our life now. None of that would be here if we didn’t go through the dark times.
Me: Oh, bullshit. I just cannot agree. You don’t think we would be happy or in a good place if we didn’t almost ruin each other.
Wife: In a way, no, I don’t. Neither one of us would be on the path we’re on now without our rough time.

I left lunch in a fog of confusion and disbelief. How could she see what we went through as a good thing? Our son was almost a statistic of a broken home before he even knew what a home was. But as I sat with it for a while, I got to thinking that maybe she had a point.

Since her bought with PPD my Wife has worked very hard at changing her career/life path. She is now tirelessly working on becoming a birth educator and eventually wants to open a center for women that will focus on every need during pregnancy and post-natal; she explained that this is a path she most definitely would not have embarked on if we hadn’t experienced the rough period, especially if our experience was similar to the #Blessed people because the motivation to help others would have not been there. She also pointed out my renewed desire for writing as an example of how things have gotten better. Yes, I was writing/blogging before my son, but I had little direction. Now I have found that direction, started my own website (PapaDoesPreach.com) and have even formed relationships with other mom/dad bloggers. Many of those relationship have helped me see that parenting, as well as cultivating a marriage, is a rough and sometimes messy process, but at the end of the day both worth the effort.

From time to time friends have remarked how they think the Wife and I are the perfect couple, and how they one day hope to have what we have. They wonder how we do it, how we manage to be so great. I just hope after reading this, they now understand when I simply answer with, “it takes hard work” that I really mean it.

My Wife made the point during our lunch conversation that we should celebrate the fact that we’re better with each other. Are we perfect? Not even close. Do we still have room to be better? Of course – there is always room for growth. But all in all we are a team again. Before the pregnancy funk we made a promise to each other to always value one another the same way we did before we found out we were going to have a baby. Just as we did the day we said our vows to each other.

Because at the end of the day, “we were” before “he was”.

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59 thoughts on “That Time My Marriage Almost Ended, And Why That’s a Good Thing

  1. Great piece, very tough and refreshing at the same time. Our son will be 8 months next week and only now I started feeling that things have a chance to become “normal” again sometime not too far from now. It just takes huge balls you know, and heart, to be a decent partner and parent and not fall apart.

  2. Great piece, very tough and refreshing at the same time. Our son will be 8 months next week and only now I started feeling that things have a chance to become “normal” again sometime not too far from now. It just takes huge balls you know, and heart, to be a decent partner and parent and not fall apart.

  3. After a little over 32 years of being married, and never even having the stress or joy of children, I know where you come from. At year seven, we talked divorce, separated for over a year, but we came back and are so much better than we were year 3 thru 7. It is work, but it is so worth the work. Welcome to the other side.

  4. Mike, My first husband and I ended up separating when my son was 2. While I don’t regret it because I was then able to meet and marry my current and forever husband, I can totally see how having the baby made us argue more. There were a lot of differences of opinion on how to raise a baby. Our relationship was already shaky. This was over 17 years ago, so we didn’t even have to deal with the #blessed couples. That would have driven me over the edge. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Lisa, thank you so much for sharing, and for reading. While the baby factor really ramped up the frustration, we’ve both come to realize it was in us already, and we had forgotten how to talk to one another. Luckily we found our way back.

  5. Growing up my mom always told me that struggles in a marriage either brought the couple closer together or split them apart. I’m happy that you were one of the #blessed ones. I am one as well, in other ways. It’s the struggles (cancer) that have bound my husband and I together.

    • thank you so much for reading. I am sorry to hear of your battle with cancer. I think something we learned is while we said we knew how marriage would be hard work, we really didn’t know until it was time to put all out talk into action. We both know that we are blessed to have on another. Thank you again

    • Thank you so much for reading. Yes, it does. I kind of just waiting for the emails and phone calls to come pouring from family….especially ones who don’t get blogging, lol.

    • I am so sorry to hear that. I hope you can find some peace during this process. I know it is a hard, and trying thing to even process, let alone deal with. Thank you for reading, I hope this helped in some way, even if it represented a distraction from the crud going on around you.

  6. My wife and I went through a similar dark phase a few months back, and we both came out feeling much like your wife does. It was ugly. It was VERY ugly. We both unloaded things that had built up during multiple years of focusing on nothing but our two (also “difficult”) children. I felt ripped to pieces, and it took months for both of us to recover.

    However, it also made us start communicating as a couple again, and purge all of the festering nastiness that had built up, but never been let go. We have a much stronger marriage now than we did before it happened, and it set up both on a course to ensure it never has to happen again.

    Good luck to the both of you, and remember to keep communicating–not just talking or complaining at each other.

  7. This was a million different kinds of awesome. I agreed with every bit of it especially with the #Blessed crowd I wish they had the ice bucket challenge back then because I would have called them all out and reveled in their drenching themselves in ice water. At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel and your post will for the ages give people who just happen upon your site hope and that is the greatest gift you can give. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Such an honest and really important post, Mike. I’ve been there, but I haven’t tried writing about it yet. It’s extremely helpful when people share the hard parts of marriage – I know we are all plenty open about the hard parts of parenting but we’re less likely to expose the ugly truths about marriage. It’s hard work, all of it, but you and your wife are living proof that hard work pays off. (Love helps too). 😉

    • Thanks for reading! I think people feel like love is always supposed to be perfect and beautiful, but in reality, a lot of times love is ugly and messy. It’s how we handle those ugly time hat make the pretty times so worth it.

  9. It sounds strange now Mike, but I grew up with that word being bandied around so much by own parents, (by the way my parents have been married for 50 years) that I just thought you ended an argument walking out of the door saying you wanted a divorce.

    Imagine my surprise when my husband did not appreciate my ending every argument that way!

    Our first years were very challenging and there was a time when I thought we might not be able to make it. But we did, we worked really hard and got our relationship to a very strong place. Good thing too because we ended up dealing with four miscarriages, two very difficult pregnancies, a job lay off four days after we bought our first house, and a daughter with very significant special needs.

    We would have never gotten through everything the last 21 years had brought had we not gone through the first two years and learned how to communicate with each other. Is our marriage perfect, no. But it works. I totally agree with you, going through the difficult times together makes your stronger and allows you to grow closer. There is something very special about sharing the good, bad and ugly with someone. Thanks for a great post!

  10. This is the most honest article I have read. And so true…. I think all couples, with or without a baby, need to always remember the ‘us’ they were when they first met.

    People change but the things you fell in love with with always remain… So keeping that memory alive will help save a marriage I think 🙂

  11. Having been married and divorced twice, I know just how much work is involved in keeping (or trying) to keep a marriage together. I spent 12 years with the second one, well, 11 when you count the one we were separated. I used to blame only myself but I’ve had 5 years now to look back on it and I well know we both fucked it up and it was probably toxic from the beginning.

    I, too, battle severe depression and starting my own blog was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve met so many great people and the therapy for me has been invaluable.

    I made a statement about how all but ONE of the bloggers I mention in my sidebar are women and I sometimes felt like the lone male in a sea of females, then Lisa Newlin pointed me your way. I have enjoyed your blog and I’ll now have two male bloggers in that list!

    Thanks for your insight!

    -Eric

  12. I find this sort of thing quite refreshing (though ironic, given the post that I just put up, that you commented on, that brought me here!). It’s weird how the darkest of things often give way to the things that make life worth living. It’s kind of like the controlled burns they do in forests. It’s better for the growth and sustainability of that ecosystem in the long run, even if it seems devastating in the moment.

    • I must object! I find your comment 100 times more insightful than my entire blog post, lol. You are so right though. It’s really scarey when I look back on that time to think how very close we were to not making it. But, my reminds me all the time that this shows how strong we really are, and when you have the right person in your life, how hard you will fight not to lose them. I’m happy you have found that person.

  13. Its interesting to see it from the husbands point of view. Me and my husband went through this a few years ago, I moved out for a few months. It was hard but we were able to see it from a different perspective and to dump all the baggage. We wouldn’t be where we are today had it not been for that. One of the hardest times in out lives ended up being that catalyst for where we are now. And where we are now is awesome. We decided to have another baby and she is beautiful! We over hauled ourselves and it brought us so much closer . this year is our nine year anniversary. These kids deserve awesome parents and it takes a hard time sometimes to bring back your awesome. I’m glad you two found yours again. Its worth it 🙂

  14. Excellent! So nice to see people who get it and who fight the good fight, even when it isn’t fun. My sons are a statistic because I didn’t have a partner that shared this staying power and willingness to work on first himself and then us. That’s not to blame him 100% because it takes 2. But it takes 2. 2 to make it, 2 to break it. Good for you guys being both committed to figuring it out. This is wonderful for the world to see!

  15. so thankful The Nomad Mom shared this again. I shake my head at the 26 years I’ve been in and wish so much for that communication we’ve missed. I’m not even sure how we could get it back, we are so used to just existing in each other’s lives. I’m away this summer. (my mum is sick and lives in AK and as the oldest ‘responsible’ kid, I am home doing that.) I kinda miss my spouse, but he hasn’t been to my parents house in 20 years, so am not used to seeing him in this area. I had 4 dads growing up, divorce has never been in the picture for me. BUT, I wasn’t going to chit chat about me! lol I do want to say thank you for sharing this awesome part of your life again. You guys are great examples.

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  17. Well stated and have been through this scenario more than once. My wife and I will be married 20 years soon and our children are now 10 and 7. The work never ends at having a good marriage and the challenges that come as children grow make marriage even harder. The scenario you described can and will happen again. We failed to stay vigilant in our efforts with and for each other and found ourselves in the same place screaming divorce more than once. With all of the distractions that life has to offer, you have to commit to each other. Your children will own every minute you have unless you stop it. Your wife was right, in short, the old saying of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is more true in marriage than any other part of our lives. It is the only reason we can go to a very dark place together and still remember that we can leave it together. I love my family more than anything and sometimes forget your last statement of “we were” before “they were” (don’t worry, my wife reminds me). However, the overwhelming love I have for my children which was instant the second they were born is true validation about how much I love my wife. Before children, you have a pretty good idea you think you know what love is and have failed at it many times….but you don’t really know until your child is born. The true unconditional, absolute, and all consuming love you immediately feel for your child validates the feeling you should have for your spouse. If you don’t feel the same love when you look at your spouse after you have a child, or the love of the child eclipses the love of your spouse, you are in real trouble….and this could lead you to the dark place you describe.

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