I’ve been on the love vine a long time. I want something better with age. This is the I want stage.
-R. C. Diggs, 2004
Part III: Love Doesn’t Live Here as it Once Did
1997-2006: 30 years of marriage
Shall love to remain as it was at the beginning throughout the marriage? Well, that depends on how married individuals value the love they are experiencing. Developmentally, people change; and it stands to reason that people in a marriage will change, for better or worse, or somewhere in between. I was banking on better. Wouldn’t you?
My journal entry of 1/24/02 noted a song I heard that day and reads: “The Day the Music Died”- I was puzzled by the song’s content, but I don’t today after pondering my circumstance of questioning and wondering about my future after that which I had invested in emotionally and faithfully has gone bankrupt. I even have a tear in the corner of my right eye as I think long enough about this – with a resolve to take my time to plan my life. I have many options open to me. Pray, pray, pray. (I scribbled other ideas: the nature of the good marriage/bad marriage; through whose eyes?; one account does not a marriage make; the out-of-town deceiver).
The journal entry continued 1/26/02: It takes two. this concept of twoness is often overlooked when we see a married couple who has split, divorced, dissolved a relationship. We say, “They looked like a perfect couple. They seemed to fit so well.” What is absent or unspoken in the statement or observation is, “It takes two to make a marriage last. If one is pulling or going in a different direction (values, behavior, deception, etc.), regardless of the appearance, the decision to quit a relationship is about incompatibility in some area…. I equate this phase of my life with my mother’s, Ophelia’s. Do I follow her principle?: She said, “I would have stayed if it were not for the violence.” Or do I recognize the differences between mom and me? In that questioning, I recognize the future that lies ahead has several options that being associated as wife to him/male spouse impede. Careful: take time to know myself. This marriage at that time was hindering my peace of mind, my happiness, and contentment.
I wanted the better and my husband’s typed letter (excerpt) of 2/2/02 revealed that his behavior was blocking the better. Of course, I wasn’t excused to be hateful, but I was no pushover in this matter. He wrote: This letter will address my inappropriate behavior to you & my family and God. It is also important for me to write about what I can do moving forward, to stop this destruction of trust to you. My actions are something that I’m truly sorry for. This has been for the family and me a very trying time. Understanding the reason why dad is sleeping down in the basement. Because of our conversation (our 17- year-old daughter) knows, when you said that you are tired of that crap. Through my actions of inappropriate behavior, I didn’t take care of the intimacy & communication between us. The bible speaks on this in Genesis 8:22 (As long as the earth endures seedtime & harvest). I didn’t do what I needed to Harvest – the Love and oneness and ownership we have for each other. I’m using ownership in terms of not in property but spirit. I know I can overcome anything with the help of God and counseling. I’m going to seek help for my behavior and also help gain your trust back (list of steps )…”
On 2/4/02, I responded: I received the “sanitized” letter at 12:55pm; (his typical avoidance) he leaves for work at 1pm. I saw enough to comment, “So, it’s inappropriate behavior, not lying & cheating?” He said that he wasn’t trying to make things look better than they were. I disagree. I haven’t talked to him since. I’ll give it some time. Perhaps he sees the letter as a turn in the conversation & now it’s my turn. I wasn’t impressed with the letter. It’s not action.
When I asked Larry to look over this description of our 30 years, he wrote: We as a family were somewhat on course. We would come together on family and money issues. I wanted to make sure that our kids were good through middle school, high school and college. However, kids know when things are not right between the parents. The kids would pick up on that parents are not in sync or on one accord. I would say ask your mother, because I was feeling she had the loudest voice. When things would go bad it would be easy for me to say, “You said so.” I had to step forward to be the man of the house. Also understand that the power of two is better than one. We came together and knowing that we need to work together and be one voice to the kids and others
Thirty years and we are dealing with the ugliness of sin in our marriage again-distrust stemming from infidelity, primarily. You see, that brings on a lot of negative intensity- I’m on fire (e.g., internal angst, disgust, red-hot anger)! The desire is for an honest love, without complications of doubt, but that is long gone as the section title suggests: “Love Doesn’t Live Here as it Once Did.” Thinking about what was lost is beyond sadness, boiling mad, and then there’s a tear (nonverbal truth). The truth of the tear is interpreted as “care, hurt prevails”; the submission to pray represents moving to faith for the next step in the face of betrayal, again. I must admit, I have spent a lot of time thinking about marriage because of the circumstances that came with this spouse. He’s not to be trusted, and when we are in the sparring mode, he can pull a rabbit out of the hat (a distracting reason) for not trusting me. Of course, that reason rests on a type of support that he seeks that I typically argue was splintered when he chose to pursue a way outside of the bonds of holy matrimony. Admittedly, Larry was partially connected as he always maintained duty to our children; but, he scapegoated me to deflect from his discontent and marital transgression.
During our geographical separation due to work commitments (began 1994), we continued to see each other weekly most of the time and we utilized email and phone communication. My assessment of our third child’s forlornness (missed her dad), made me realize it was time to reunite. In the summer of 1999 we reunited as a family. The 2002 letter from Larry was my requirement as I had refused to talk with him after an accumulation of “being caught in lies” and a particular heated argument about what he said he had done. We had inflicted hurt on each other and had the potential to hurt others (e.g., our children). The letter was to address a pattern of core, deep issues and my poem “Temper, Temper” Temper Temper
is a conversation with my selves: the “I’ self in direct contact with the situation and my objective “me self.” The decision to document and to seek professional help were important and the fact that Larry cooperated seemed worthy of sympathy or compassionate points. After all, it is human nature to justify and make oneself look better. Do you find this marital problem too much for you to bear? If your answer is “Yes,” we agree.
We were moving in different directions; this won’t work. Then enters a familial voice (my deceased mother’s) who was not explicitly aware of our marital trouble but said something years earlier that resonates for me: “I would have stayed if it were not for the violence.” My mother’s voice counted, spiritually, carried weight, and, again, made me slow down and think: who is this self? (“Careful. Take time to know myself.”). My husband is gentle and projects a vulnerability at times, though he sometimes sees me as a tiger, aggressive; ultimately, we are lovers, not killers. This nonviolence characteristic of our marriage enabled us to navigate the rough places and to assess the costs and benefits more clearly. We went through a stream of difficulties to survive and remain standing, if you will. I stepped back and rationalized: I have a peaceful husband. I struggle with the deceit and rightly so. Is this the whole being that has embarked on a long journey of commitment and will give up now? Changing directions, at least one of us, the one who has the role of pruning and caring, might enable both of us to hang on, remain on the vine.
Shall love to remain as it was at the beginning throughout the marriage? No. At 30 years of marriage, we stilled longed for a true love in each other – hearts of flesh- I want, I want. We longed for better. The voice of an ancestor spoke to my mind and heart to remind me that there is worth above the human frailty of lying/cheating that is redeemable for a marriage to exist (Kanewischer & Harris, 2015). Through strain and stress, I ultimately listened; he listened. Also, we sought Christian counsel and strategic help from marriage counselors on several occasions, separately, and as a couple to address problems within our marriage (e.g., Kanewischer & Harris, 2015; Whitefield, Stanley, Markman, & Blumberg, 2001). He pleaded his case as an affront to his family, wife and children and to God. He admitted his failure, and for love and marriage, we aligned together once again, branches on the vine.
Diggs, R. C. (2004). Love Vine; Temper, Temper. Unpublished poem.
Kanewischer, E. J. W & Harris, S.M (2015). Deciding not to un-do the “I do:” Therapy experiences of women who consider divorce but decide to remain married. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy41 (3), 367-380
Whitefield, K. E., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., & Blumberg, S. L. (2001). Fighting for your African American marriage. Wiley.