I had no idea what I was getting into before I got married. I mean, how can you really anticipate what will happen for the rest of your life when you make such a decision? It seems like one day I was just Kilee, a girl who liked playing basketball, painting, going on dates, and having fun with friends. Then, the next day I was married to the guy with whom I was supposed to start this grand new adventure—with whom I should be happy with for the rest of my existence.
Many soon-to-be-weds think marriage ensures blissful butterflies and rainbows. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but we definitely don’t anticipate life after marriage to be as hard as it really is. There are many reasons for that, one being the fact that you are now part of a team and you have to learn to work together. With a team, things are easier, right?
We’ve definitely had our fair share of trials since we were married. We’ve specifically faced dreadful trials between us, putting a wall in our marriage.
One day I woke up and realized I did not love my husband. He was just a stranger sleeping next to me. In that moment, I questioned everything I was and everything I had done up to that point in my life. This realization that I could not “be in love” with the guy to whom I had promised my eternity changed my view of marriage. Forever.
Some people call that “falling out of love.” I don’t know what to call it. Falling out of love seems too sudden, almost like BAM! — I don’t love you anymore. It didn’t happen like that. This “fall” of our love happened ever so gradually until it hit full reality that morning. It happened over the course of painful trials. It happened as lies were discovered in our marriage. It happened as choices were made that tore us apart. It happened as our communication and emotional intimacy declined.
When I woke up that morning and realized I didn’t love my husband, I didn’t know what to do. All my life, I had sworn up and down I would never get a divorce. “Nothing could be bad enough to warrant a divorce.” “We will be able to work through anything.” That was actually a topic of discussion when we were dating, and we agreed together that we would work through anything. When I chose to marry, I signed up for working through anything. What I didn’t sign up for was working through anything without love helping pull me through.
When I realized I didn’t love him, I faced a big decision. Do we work through this together? Or do I give up what I thought marriage was — and what my marriage had truly become — and leave him?
After much meditation, I chose for us to work through the problems occurring in our marriage. I chose to stay, and I’ve learned some beautiful lessons:
Love is a choice.
Here I was thinking I had already mastered love. We got that down when we were dating. However, I learned the butterfly feeling you get when you are dating/engaged/newlyweds doesn’t last forever. It’s the precursor to a deep, burning love and passion that must be chosen.
For a while, I sat in my lack of love. I experienced many emotions at this time, and I hit a very low point. I allowed myself to just sit with the pain occurring in my life, waiting for something to change. My husband was trying to change, and I eventually realized nothing would change on my end if I didn’t put forth some effort to love him. Love doesn’t just come back on its own.
Every day, even now, I consciously make a choice: I choose to love my husband. When I feel the love faltering, I ask myself why. Why do I feel this way? What is happening to me that would cause this? If he is making choices that impact my ability to love, I evaluate his actions and ask myself what is going on in his life that would cause him to act in those ways? Much self- and relationship-awareness occurs during this time.
Then, because I choose to stay, I choose to love. I do things to serve him. As I serve him, I find myself softening and the love rekindling. Every time, it comes back with fewer butterflies and more depth.
Marriage isn’t easy. Giving yourself to someone fully isn’t easy. Love isn’t easy.
When the going gets rough, it seems easy to give up. Giving up, however, isn’t always the answer. At least, it wasn’t for me at that time. And it’s still not right now.
Sometimes, it’s OK to leave, though. Sometimes, you have to leave. Just because I didn’t choose that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn I could leave if I felt like it was the right thing to do. I’d be a liar if I said I hadn’t contemplated divorce. Before I was married, I thought divorce wasn’t an option. I now know divorce is an option, and I understand reasons why someone would choose that route especially when the spouse has already given up on the marriage or if abuse was involved.
When I woke up and realized I didn’t love my husband, I was changed. That change taught me three great lessons: I know love is a choice. I know how to choose love. And I know that sometimes you have to leave. Because of this experience, I am changed. Forever.