Because that's what ours was. Mostly dead. It looked alive on the outside. It worked hard, it had a ministry, it raised four children. But on the inside, it was a stone cold cycle of emotional distance.
Andy was emotionally unavailable. I was emotionally invulnerable.
We were each stuck in our own patterns, and because the other person didn't change, we each kept being stuck. Any little move we made toward change was directed at changing the other person.
Well, it was directed from me toward Andy. (And this is normal. In even the healthiest marriages, women bring up the issues 80% of the time. Apparently it's our job.)
So it would go like this.
Me: "Can we talk?"
Andy (looking at me like I've grown two heads): "About what?"
Me: "I don't know. Just talk, I guess?"
Andy: "Well, OK, go ahead."
And it killed us dead as a couple.
The pornography was just the obituary.
Last week, Andy and I were processing through this question: what was the turning point from a dead marriage to a resurrected one?
Of all the things we do differently now, compared to back then, what really turned the Titanic?
I thought resurrection day was the day I talked about last week, when he was confronted with his sin, and repented. (To put it like a Baptist preacher would.)
He said, "No, no, it was way before that. It was back in the Solomons, in 1998, when you apologized for being so angry with me."
Let me tell you that story, so you'll be in the loop.
We went to the Solomons in 1993, moving to the village with two toddlers, and intending to build relationships, learn language, and start the translation project as soon as possible. Andy pretty much did that.
But me? I got pregnant during our first village stay. I threw up for 9 months. The day before the baby was born (in the Guadalcanal hospital labeled "Number 9" on WW2 maps, with "Number 10" being the cemetery) our daughter turned 5. She wanted to start school that very day. She was adamant. When the baby was four weeks old, we went back to the village. (Stupidest human trick ever.) We got on the ship on a Monday night. The Friday night before, I had strep throat and a fever of 104. For the next 18 months, until we went back to the States, I had strep throat every 6 weeks. And did I mention that I had to cook every single meal from scratch? And that it takes about 47 hours a day to do that? And that it's always 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity? Except at Christmas, when it's hotter?
So let's just say that it wasn't the most fun I'd ever had in my life.
Meanwhile, Andy was doing the thing we had trained and planned to do. But Andy was finding that it was not a good match for his personality. One day, he came to me and said, "I'm not sure I can do translation for the next 10 or 15 years. I think I'd like to help with group administration instead."
So my mouth moved like this: "OK, honey. You should do what you feel is right."
And deep inside, so deep I couldn't hear it, my soul said, "Why can you do whatever you want? Why don't I count for anything? What about what I want?"
I was furious. And I didn't know it. Until about 18 months later.
At that point, we were doing administrative work, just like Andy wanted. (He also worked on the translation project part time.) And I was going through this really weird spiritual dry spell. I would read my Bible and it was just black squiggles on the page. I would pray and the words would bounce around next to the ceiling and fall back down on me. I shared this with my weekly prayer partners.
One day, I was out for coffee with one of those ladies and she asked me how God and me were doing. And I said, "Still not speaking."
So she said, "When that happens to me, I've found that it's because of unforgiveness in my life. I wonder if that could be going on with you?"
"Well," said I, "I don't think so."
But because she was a good friend, and because she had been praying with me for weeks and weeks, I said I would think about it. So I thought about it all day and I couldn't sleep that night at all. Finally, at 2 in the morning, I reached over and poked Andy awake. I told him I'd been mad at him for having the freedom to do what he wanted. I was mad even though I had said it was OK. And I was sorry for being mad, and I wanted to forgive him now. And I wanted him to forgive me. He said, "OK." And he rolled over and went back to sleep.
But he remembers our marriage getting way better after that.
I thought resurrection happened when he repented. He thought it happened when I repented.
I think we are both right. I think what turned the Titanic was each of us owning our own stuff.
And the more we started recognizing and owning our own stuff, the more there was of it. It started on the surface with pornography and unforgiveness but then it tunneled down into all these hidden places that we never even knew existed.
It took two years of crawling over broken glass to get out of that mess. It was excruciatingly painful at times.
It was often good to have a therapist in the room with us to help us past the worst parts.
But 99% of it was us, telling each other the truth and being willing to dig down into our deepest hurts, and own the broken ways that we were living, out of our pain.
And here's the thing. I don't think you can do repentance or do forgiveness as a way to fix the other person. Like, if I forgive you, then you're suddenly going to get it and be real with me. Andy remembers that our marriage turned around when I forgave him in 1998. But he was still addicted to pornography in 2002.
That's hardly the kind of instant success that I can turn into a how-to book on marital resurrection. Dangit.
Here is all I can tell you: I can only do what I can do. I get no guarantees about what the other person will do.
No matter how right I do everything, the other person can still make bad choices. And that sucks. Real bad.
If somebody knows how to guarantee a better outcome, let me in on it. Now.
Oh, and here's the other thing. About the emotional distance. I was too depressed to be emotionally invulnerable. Andy was too worried to be emotionally distant. So that broke our vicious cycle. But I think it was really the repentance and forgiveness, as we each kept practicing them over months and years, that finally cured it.
Because you can't be emotionally distant while seriously facing up to the ways you've hurt the love of your life, and forgiving them for the ways they've hurt you.
Repentance and forgiveness. That's the way God raises the dead. That's how He makes a miracle.
But, one last reminder...