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That Ache in my Heart when He’s Away

That Ache in my Heart when He's Away

“To the woman he said…‘Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” Gen 3:16

Your desire will be for your husband.

My desire, my longing, that ache in my heart when he’s away…

I kissed my husband one last time on that muggy summer morning before he drove off for the first part of what would be, in total, seven months apart.  This life we chose to live, the Army life, can be hard, lonely, stressful and difficult, with long days and even longer months apart.

I watched him leave, comforted crying children on the front porch, then went inside.  I sat down, dazed. I took a deep breath as reality set in: it was just me and the kids for the next few months.

My core hurt; ached.  It felt like a black hole in my center, an endless chasm of hollow pain.  He had been gone for all of three minutes and I ached him, longed for him; I desired him.

To be honest, I hated that feeling.  I was a strong, capable, independent woman.  I didn’t need my husband to make me feel complete so why did it hurt so much when he left!?  In the past, I would get frustrated and angry at myself, even allowing myself to fall into despair.  But this time, I found myself opening up to a friend about the cavernous ache I felt and she told me she, too, felt that way when her husband would have to leave.

And then another friend said the same thing.

And another.

Then one day, in my attempt to figure out the why behind our vast desire, Genesis 3:16 was brought to my attention: your desire will be for your husband.

Could it be that woman was simply made, or rather, cursed, to feel this way?  It seemed too easy of an answer, yet it made perfect sense. Why wouldn’t God put an inherent longing to be with our husbands on our hearts? My mind was blown; I found the answer.

But it didn’t just stop there!  God doesn’t just curse us and walk away.  No, He knew what He was doing. That curse was an invitation; an opportunity, if you will, to lean on Him in those times of heartache and loneliness. He’s extending to us the chance to seek Him and grow in holiness by taking that longing, that desire, that ache when we’re apart, and giving it to Him to fill.

For so long, I took that pain and longing to just merely be in the presence of my husband and looked inward, focusing on my pain, counting down the days until he came home, going through the motions and looking forward to bedtime because that meant one day closer.  It was depressing, to say the least. There was no joy or purpose in my life.

But once I accepted the invitation to surrender my desire and gave it to Him, placing it all at the foot of the Holy Cross, a sense of peace ensued.  I felt the turmoil shift from that of restlessness and loneliness to a peace and comfort of relying on Someone who couldn’t possibly let me down.

So now when I have to watch the man whom I love with all I am leave yet again, I acknowledge the ache, the longing, the desire.  And then I give it over to the One who will always be what I need when my husband is gone.

Categories
Faith Formation Guest Posts Marriage Matrimony Offering your suffering Prayer Relatable Sacraments Series Vocations

…Unless He’s Addicted

RELATABLE-LoveActually

Welcome to the next installment of RELATABLE: LOVE, ACTUALLY. In this series, guest authors* share about all the challenging realities of marriage.

Marriage today is rarely presented realistically or positively. Hollywood and the media promote Disney fairytales where couples “live happily ever after.” Or marriage is demonized as an unnecessary complication when hooking up and cohabitation will do just as well.

But what about the Catholic who still believes in the sanctity of marriage, including its permanence? Is it even possible for couples to remain connected to one another through all of life’s struggles and suffering? YES. In RELATABLE: LOVE, ACTUALLY, we will feature authentic, honest, and hopeful stories by real Catholic women about the journey of marriage. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, after all, and we want to give a voice to those couples struggling with infertility, infidelity, miscarriage, mental illness, addiction, and financial stress. We want to give hope by sharing stories of those who have weathered those crosses and come out stronger for them. These stories will reassure strugglings wives that you are not alone. And that with God’s help, there is a way forward, even if you just take baby steps, one day at a time.

*While some authors may post anonymously for privacy reasons, we assure you that each story is authentic and reflects the journey of a real person.


Most marital advice comes with the caveat “unless he’s addicted.” Share the deepest secrets of your heart … unless he’s addicted. Be joint owners of all your possessions … unless he’s addicted. Stay together forever … unless he’s addicted. So, what do you do when normal rules don’t apply? I can’t give you the answer. But I can tell you what happened to me and what I did about it.

For ten years, I had a model husband and a model marriage. We barely fought over anything. We talked things through reasonably, we prayed together, and we stayed together. Then he found a drug he loved more than me. That drug became the center of his universe, more important than his wife, his kids, his job, or his career.

He started disappearing for hours at a time, with flimsy excuses as to where he had been. Money flew out of our joint bank account as he made ridiculously unnecessary purchases we couldn’t afford. He left one job under a cloud and the next one because they told him to resign or be fired. He overdosed once, twice, three times. The hospital staff told me, “Your husband is an addict.” I responded, “I know.” When I begged, pleaded, demanded to know why, my husband said, “Because it feels f**king awesome.” My life and my marriage would never be the same.

Drawing boundaries

When the reality of my husband’s addiction finally sunk in, I collapsed into a sobbing mess. Over the ten good years of our marriage, we had become so interdependent, so united, so “one” that I had no protection against the menacing invasion of addiction. My emotional and financial health was completely intertwined with his. 

Relying on the relationship as it used to be, I peppered him with questions whose answers left me raw and shaking. “Don’t you love me any more?”  “If you’re searching for happiness and pleasure, wouldn’t you rather have sex with me than get high?” His bald-faced response to both: “No.” Every rejection hurt me, but it also hardened me and made me stronger. I had to block out what he said. I had to start building walls around my heart.

His moods grew more and more erratic. Seemingly simple things enraged him. I became adept at keeping my tone of voice steady and calm, as if I was approaching a wild animal. I deflected by changing the subject, using gentle humor, and sometimes apologizing and backing down. I learned not to provoke him. My home had become a lion’s den, and survival demanded that I become a lion tamer.

The kids started noticing that he was no longer their carefree, happy-go-lucky dad. They asked me what to do. I explained that in life, we can behave passively, assertively, or aggressively. In most situations, assertiveness is best. But with their dad, they had to be more passive. Depending on their basic personalities, this came more or less naturally to my kids. My strong-willed child had a harder time with it. “Passivity is not weakness when you choose it deliberately,” I told her.

The biggest problem with addiction, though, is it almost always gets worse. Strategies that worked before start failing. A soft voice may turn away anger, but it won’t evade the catastrophe looming on the horizon. 

Seeking support, not a “savior”

I started looking for ways out, and there weren’t many. I was in my 40s, frumpy, and out of the workplace for fifteen years. I wanted someone to save me, preferably another husband. For a while, I poured out my troubles to a male friend of mine. The daily phone calls and texts made me feel better, but they also made me fall a little bit in love. I wasn’t fixing the problem. I was just creating a new one. I broke off that friendship, and the next time an attractive male friend offered to be my sounding board I refused.

I also realized that I had very little to offer a man except an ego-boosting neediness. So I joined yoga classes, dyed and straightened my hair, bought a new wardrobe, and got a job. 

At the first job I accepted, they paid me one quarter of the salary I had earned more than a decade ago, barely enough to cover child care. I was over the moon with happiness anyway, because they provided excellent re-training. Within nine months, another company offered to double my salary if I jumped ship.

In the meantime, I tried therapy, but it cost a lot and didn’t help much. What I needed was the affection and emotional intimacy that I had lost when my husband went off the rails. Al-Anon, the support group for family members of addicts, helped me far more. Collectively, the people at Al-Anon knew a vast amount about what I was suffering and how to endure it. Their main goal was appealingly simple: to be happy whether or not your loved one is using.

One of Al-Anon’s credos is that addiction feeds on silence. For months (more like years, to be honest), I was afraid to tell my parents anything about my husband’s problem. I felt humiliated and sure they would shame me. I never dreamed they would help, because I assumed they would consider any assistance to be “enabling.” I was shocked at how much they supported me once they knew.

With the knowing support of Al-Anon and my parents and the unknowing support of my new employer, I realized I didn’t need a man to save me. And I began to accept deep down what I already knew on an intellectual level — that the only person capable of saving me was God himself. 

Rebuilding trust

I had always given God credit for bringing my wonderful husband into my life. Incomprehensibly, God was now taking my husband away again. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” said my mother. So why was God doing this to me? Even worse, how could he be doing this to my children?

I yelled at God. I prayed that he let me die. Then I prayed that he make my husband die. My husband had so many close calls that his staying alive appeared utterly miraculous. God clearly did not want my husband to die, but it seemed that God didn’t want my husband to get better either. Stuck in a nightmare, I stopped praying at all.

I never abandoned the angels, though. St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael became my constant companions. I imagined them flying over the roof of my car and snuggling with me in a heap of heavenly goodness while I slept. When I walked around the block to clear my head, one of them held my hand.

I haven’t stopped going to Sunday Mass, but it is still hard for me to pray. I can’t shake the feeling that God has betrayed me and let me down. And praying for the husband who has hurt me so much seems like a task for a saintlier and more compassionate person than I. A friend from Al-Anon has encouraged me to keep praying anyway, not because it might please God or help my husband, but for my own sake. “Keep praying, because prayer will help you,” he said. So, clumsily and awkwardly, I try.

I can finally recognize that God has sent blessings into my life. My children are stupendously fabulous and dealing so much better with this horror than anyone has a right to expect. My job keeps me sane (when it’s not driving me crazy). As my husband spins faster and faster out of control, I can hold on to the hope that God has a plan even if I can’t see it. I can rebuild my trust in God whether my marriage survives or not.


REFLECT

Let’s dig deeper. Did this witness resonate with you? If so, we invite you to continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before the experience?
  2. How did the experience negatively impact my relationship with God?
  3. How did the experience negatively impact my relationships with my spouse, my children, my coworkers, my relatives, my friends?
  4. Was there anything that helped to alleviate the suffering I was going through? (e.g., counsel from others, professional help, medication/supplements, devotions, lifestyle changes)
  5. How did this experience positively impact my relationships, either during or afterward?
  6. How did this experience positively impact my spiritual life, either during or afterward?
  7. If I could go back and change how I responded to this experience, what would I do differently?
  8. What would I say to someone else in this situation to give him/her hope?

SPIRITUAL RESOURCES AND HEALING

WHERE TO START?

RETROUVAILLE – A Lifeline for Married Couples

THE ALEXANDER HOUSE – Offering Hope & Healing for Marriage, Family & Relationships

BELOVED: FINDING HAPPINESS IN MARRIAGE – offered through FORMED.ORG (ask your parish for the code to access this program for free)

PODCASTS
BOOKS/WEBSITES
CLASSES

In the privacy of your own home, you can begin to heal your marriage. CLICK HERE to start the process.

PRAYER

Novenas

Prayers

Unless He's Addicted

Categories
Antonia Goddard Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Called by Marriage, Not to Marriage

CalledbyMarriageNottoMarriage

A Vocation for Life

After your marriage, your life will change forever. You will change forever. Whatever happens in your life – good or bad, joyful or tragic – you will be married to one another. And nothing, nothing, will ever change that. 

The room rang with the echoes of the priest’s words. My fiancé and I looked at each other a little nervously. It didn’t put us off marriage, far from it, but it made us realise how what we were doing was almost impossible – crazily so – if we didn’t have God’s help.

With our wedding coming up in just one month, I have spent the last year and a half considering my vocation more seriously than ever before. Until recently, it had mostly been presented to me as a series of check boxes. Which of the follow applies to you? Single life, priesthood, religious life, marriage – select one of the above. As though marriage were simply a life event, another sacrament to add to the collection, a stepping stone on the journey to Heaven.

But my vocation, and my marriage, are far more than that. Whilst I have felt a growing call to the married and family life for many years, my wedding is not an event to be checked off the list of life. 

Because as I have been praying, thinking, and trying to understand what God wants for me, I’ve come to understand that my vocation is far more than my marriage. Rather, God is drawing me closer to Him through my fiancé. I am not called to the married life; I am called to God through my marriage.

My fiancé makes me a better person in every respect. He reminds me, not by correction or criticism but simply by being, to be a kinder, more patient, and more loving person. Through him, I know I will grow in my faith and understanding, and become closer to God. I am not called to marriage; I am called to God by marrying my fiancé. 

My vocation won’t be completed in a single day, or even a sacrament. It won’t be complete when we have a ten, twenty, or even fifty year anniversary, nor with the birth of our first child or our last. My draw to God is more than a ring on my finger or a new title or new surname – and to say that my vocation begins and ends with my marriage is to ignore any and all other vocations that God has for me. My desire to care for children, to raise a family of my own, to write and change the world around me for the better – all these vocations are not lessened or nullified by my marriage. Ultimately, it is only by joining Christ and the saints in Heaven can I truly be considered to have fulfilled my vocation.

This understanding comes with it a further revelation – that if I am called to Christ through my fiancé, then he is called to Christ through me. A responsibility, then, beyond ensuring that my husband is well fed, content, and looked after – ensuring that he can fulfil his vocation, whatever that may entail, with my love and support. Once again, I wonder what on earth I’ve let myself in for. The realisation hits me, as it does so often, that what I am about to embark upon is certainly beyond my capability – without the assistance of God.

I have been incredibly lucky in my quest to understand my vocation. Not only have I been set incredible examples from my parents, family, friends, and in-laws-to-be, but I have been blessed beyond measure to begin exploring my vocation with the best man God put on this Earth. In marrying him, I am not fulfilling my vocation – I am taking the very first step.

Categories
Ink Slingers Loss Marriage Offering your suffering Prayer Real And Raw Series Shiela Spiritual Growth Testimonials The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health Vocations

Happy Valentine’s Day Ash Wednesday

Real and Raw

Welcome to the first installment in the series Real and Raw – Soul-Stirring Stories, a series focused on taking a candid look at life’s struggles as we journey to heaven. Being Catholic doesn’t mean you won’t suffer–in fact, Jesus promises we’re likely to suffer even more for being His disciple. But Catholics often feel self-conscious about admitting to doubt, confusion, sorrow, or anger in their relationship with God. We want the world to be attracted to our beautiful faith, so we minimize the darkness and emphasize the light in our lives, usually at the expense of authenticity. Yet there’s value in sharing our journey in all its shades–in admitting there are gray and black days, too. We offer these stories to let our suffering readers know they’re not alone–we’re in the trenches with you and so is God, who loves us and has a divine purpose for pain, even if it’s hard to see or accept in the moment. Most importantly, we hope these stories give hope to readers…hope that there is help and that they will survive. And one day, they will make it out of the darkness and be stronger for it.


My husband has only been gone for just over eight months and yet, I am being relentlessly pursued by another. I cannot even begin to think of what to write on the headstone of the man I loved with all my heart and yet I am receiving messages of love from another. He tells me I am “special” and “loved.” This began at his funeral Mass where my five children and I had front row seats. I was distracted and filled with hope and I didn’t know what to make of it. But I listened to him because he was the first one to tell me I was going to be ok.

I’ve started spending more and more time with him. In the beginning, I had nowhere else to go. So I would run to him. Sometimes I would just cry and cry. A few times, I yelled and screamed and accused him of all sorts of horrible things. Yet his door remained open. While he can be demanding and persistent, I always want him near. I am told to go here and do this or go there and say that. Usually, these arduous tasks require much more energy or character than I have. And, yet somehow I do them. And, when I do, I am always rewarded. He even encouraged me to write this blog post. He will tell me to clear my schedule and if I don’t follow his not so subtle suggestions, he clears my schedule for me. I’ve learned that if I don’t argue and get all flustered, I can actually enjoy his plans. They are always better than anything I had in mind. And, he always knows just what to say. Sometimes, he sends messengers in his place but the message is always from him. He tells me things like it’s okay to laugh and dance even though I am a widow with five children. He even told me to be thankful that my husband died. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.

When I was planning what would have been my 20th wedding anniversary with my husband, I asked him to go with me to celebrate my marriage. I actually sent him ahead and asked him to prepare something special. He blew me away by getting the hotel, where my husband and I had our wedding reception, to close the main dining room and set a table just for my children and me with fine linens and all of our favorite items on the menu. He turned what could have been a terrible day into a new memory to cherish.

For Christmas, he not only knew I needed something to open on Christmas morning but also that I did not want to shop for myself. So, he suggested I buy tickets to Les Miserables for my daughter. I took my daughter. We had a wonderful day together. And during Les Mis, there were endless streams of water springing out of my tear ducts and splattering my glasses. Yes, I’ve learned tears don’t just fall. Sometimes they gush forth. Life has killed the dream I dreamed. He saw my distress and whispered lovingly, death will not have the final word.

On one particularly desperate morning, I emptied out my lingerie drawer. Each piece was beautiful and special and attached to a memory it seemed I had no one to share with. I started to feel the familiar wave of grief wash over as I stared into the pile of ivory satin and lace. This wave was poisoned with self-pity. I won’t be needing any of this! I started to shove them into a trash bag. But, he stopped me. He said he knew what to do with them. I folded them respectfully like a priest does with the linens after Holy Communion and I placed them in a special bag and set them aside.

As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I am guarding my heart. First Valentine’s without my husband, I think to myself. Am I going to dive into that deep, warm well of self-pity? Or will I just fall in like a helpless victim? Or will there be other plans? My husband always went all out with flowers, candy, and sincerely written love notes. We ate out at our favorite restaurants and shared so much affection.

I was also single for many years before my husband came along. I know the bitter sting of a lonely Valentine’s Day. Or even worse, I remember lukewarm Valentine’s days with awkward dates that left me feeling lonelier than being alone. For many years, I filled the emptiness of the day by focusing on my young nieces and nephews. Valentine’s through the eyes of children is a wonderful thing! I will do that this year for my children, I think to myself. I will just think of it as a holiday for children.

But, my suitor has different plans this year. When I heard about this year’s liturgical calendar, I smiled. Could it be that the one who loves my soul is seeking me? He’s changed the whole thing around! There will be no dining at a favorite restaurant. Instead, we will fast. There will be no ribbon tied box of dark chocolate. Instead, I will get ashes on my forehead. I am going to be united with him in Holy Communion at the Ash Wednesday Mass.
I’m still hoping there will be flowers.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For Love is strong as Death- Its arrows are
arrows of fire, flames of the divine. Deep waters cannot quench Love, nor rivers sweep it away

~ Song of Songs 8:6

I’ve been a writer on the blog since 2011 but took an unexpected break following my husband’s death by suicide in June 2017. I’ve decided to return to the blog to share the heights and depths of my grief journey. My hope is that my story will give hope to others touched by tragic loss. This allegorical post is based on a meditation on the Song of Songs. I never really understood the role of God as a lover of my soul. And, in the wake of my husband’s death, I revisited Scripture to find out more. This post is dedicated to all the consecrated men and women who get this, to single persons seeking the fulfillment of a vocation, and to all those who are mourning the loss of a spouse this Valentine’s Day.


REFLECT

Let’s dig deeper. Did this story resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before the experience of loss?
  2. How did the experience negatively impact my relationship with God?
  3. How did the experience negatively impact my relationships with my spouse, my children, my coworkers, my relatives, my friends?
  4. Was there anything that helped to alleviate the suffering I was going through? (e.g., counsel from others, professional help, medication/supplements, devotions, lifestyle changes)
  5. How did this experience positively impact my relationships, either during or afterward?
  6. How did this experience positively impact my spiritual life, either during or afterward?
  7. If I could go back and change how I responded to this experience, what would I do differently?
  8. What would I say to someone else in this situation to give her hope?

RESOURCES & SPIRITUAL HEALING

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

Happy Valentines Ash Wednesday

 

Categories
Domestic Church Ink Slingers Janalin Marriage Matrimony Prayer Sacraments Vocations

Dear Husband,

Dear Husband

Dear Husband,

I see you across the table.  I see how tired your eyes are and how your body hurts.  I see you.  But I can’t hold your hand or stroke your hair right now because the children are crying for me to finish feeding them and get them to bed. 

The truth is, after almost ten years of marriage, the couple we once were is almost unrecognizable.  “For better or for worse”… I’m pretty sure I got the better end of that deal.  After four kids and devoting myself to our family there isn’t much but a glimpse left of the bride that you watched walk down the isle.  Thank you for loving me for my heart and not only for the way I look.

I worry about you.  About the fact that there just plain isn’t enough of me at the end of the day to give to you.  I am sorry.  Please know that you have my heart even more every day. This life that we have built takes everything I have in me.  Most days I am up to the many hats I have to wear but I still fall short more often than I would like. 

We have been monumentally blessed with our children and I thank God daily that you are their daddy.  They could not have a better role model of what a Godly husband and father looks like and I am grateful for your steadfast example. 

I am eternally grateful for your Faith.  Thank you for bringing me to the fullness of the Catholic Church.  I have no doubt that God brought us together knowing you would lead me to Him in a deeper, more knowing, way..  Because of you I am Catholic and because of you I have experienced Christ and His love to the depths of my soul. 

Ten years ago I was worried about the right china, selecting the towels for our registry, and the printing of our programs for the wedding guests.  Now the dishes are chipped and broken, the towels are ragged, and the programs have long been discarded.  But we remain steadfast and true to one another and to God.  Day by day dedicating our lives to Christ and putting our family first we are working towards heaven.  There is no one I would rather have by my side than you on this journey.

Love,

Your Wife