Note: Second marriages are never easy. This post deals with some of the hard realities we've grown through in our eight years of marriage. This is a message of hope, faith, repentance, growth and hard work. I'm so grateful for my marriage with Curtis and its all been worth it.
The pain and misery that I felt after Jake died was something that can only be understood fully by someone that has walked that same path. But it was also very clear to anyone around me the toll it took on me. My family had to watch me and try to help me as I tried to put my life back together again. It was more than I could bear, and there were times that it was more than they could bear as well. The weight of grief is so heavy.
When I met Curtis things were tough at first. With in a few weeks though I had happiness again more than I had had in two and a half years. I remember thinking that even if things didn't work between us that I would still be so grateful for the gift of being happy again. Our courtship was short and it was very clear to us that Heavenly Father had prepared us for each other. We knew without a doubt that we were supposed to be married. The spirit was so strong, and we both received revelation that we were meant to be together. We moved forward with our planning and it went as quickly as our courtship went. My family was so grateful to see me happy again. I was so in love and knew that Jake was happy that I had found love and happiness again. My life was finally going to be easy and perfect again...right?!
It wasn't very long at all after we were married I realized Curtis wasn't perfect. It was also very clear that he was going to be very hard to live with. I had tried to be very upfront about my shortcomings. He knew that I still battled depression that went along with losing Jake. I really struggled to go grocery shopping and still struggle to this day (the more widows I meet the more I find I'm not alone in this strange aversion to grocery shopping). Curtis however, didn't think to tell me how selfish he was with his time. I also didn't understand how much more learning and grieving I had left to do.
Curtis grew up in a difficult family situation. He didn't have any good role models for marriage, or for being a good father. His first marriage was always strained...and never good. He was at the beginning of his career and it demanded most of his time. Very little time was spent on his family. My family was very close and had strong relationships. I am very loving and I am rejuvenated by spending time with my family especially my spouse. Some would say I am fairly high maintenance;) Curtis spent his life working hard and had an attitude that he was entitled to spend his time how he chooses. If he chooses to spend his time with his family then that was fine, but he shouldn't be expected to spend anytime with us if he had something else to do. It was very difficult for me to live with, and very hard for my family to see me struggling again.
The first year of our marriage, I wanted a divorce more often than I wanted to be married. It was a very difficult year. We got some counseling and learned some helpful ways to communicate, but it was still difficult. I stayed married to him because of the experiences I had when we were dating. I KNEW I was supposed to marry him, and I KNEW that Heavenly Father had a plan for us. At first those feelings and experiences were what kept me in the marriage, but with time I really struggled with this as well. Why would Heavenly Father want me to experience more pain? Why would he tell me to marry someone that was so selfish with his time? I became angry with Heavenly Father for telling me to marry Curtis. I was mad, that he knew my happiness would only be a tease and I would find myself in just as much misery as I had been before. I was left wishing for the life I had with Jake.
I know a lot of remarried widows and most of us share a common thread. When you get remarried there is a strange adjustment period. I think it fits for most people in a second marriage. We create our first marriage with our spouses and in a widow's experience it isn't ended because the marriage failed...it ended by death. Not all widow's have experienced good marriages, but many that I know did. Marriages are as unique as every person that lives on this earth. There are no two marriages that are the same. So when some widows remarry we tend to think it will be the same as our first marriage. It is NOT the same at all!
Once I was married to Curtis, I was struck with grief again, this time grieving the marriage I lost with Jake. I spent a lot of time wishing and praying for Jake to come back and to have a good marriage again. It wasn't a very fair comparison for me to be making. Jake and I had 3 kids when he died...3 young easy boys. We lived a simple life with very few complications. Curtis and I had 8 boys under 8 when we were married. All 8 boys had experienced some sort of devastating loss...death or divorce. We were dealing with an ex-wife, memory of a dead husband, finding time for each other, adjusting to family life of 10, and blending 2 families together, along with many other issues. Of course it is going to be harder than a first marriage!
Back to my anger with God for "telling" me to marry a man jealous of his time... I prayed a lot about what I was going through. I begged Heavenly Father to make Curtis a better husband and dad. I cried to him and begged him to release me from the pain and anguish I was in. I also asked constantly WHY? he would want me to be with Curtis. In church one Sunday, on a day I was really upset with God, I was asked to read a scripture in Sunday school class.
Mosiah 3:19For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
Tears filled my eyes as I read the scripture to myself...repeating many times the words, willing to submit to ALL things which the Lord seeth fit to INFLICT upon him. I felt inflicted upon. It may seem strange but to me, it felt like Heavenly Father was accepting responsibility for what I was enduring. He admitted that he was inflicting it upon me, and I needed to be willing to submit to His will. It was all I needed to help heal my heart. I was able to let go of my anger toward God for all I was experiencing. This scripture taught me what I needed to do, and also reminds me of the gifts that God has given me to help me get through all I was dealing with. He gives us the Holy Spirit, and the atonement of Christ to help us become all that He sees in us. I didn't understand at the time why Curtis and I were struggling in our marriage, but it reaffirmed to me that we were growing in our marriage. We were supposed to be married, and I could only hope that meant there was a greater plan, and that eventually we would find happiness in our marriage.
This scripture has stayed with me through each new trial that comes my way. I had this experience before the kids were diagnosed with their issues, before Curtis lost his job, and before the trials I am dealing with right now. I constantly remind myself that to become the person my Heavenly Father sees in me I need to be willing to submit to all the things he sees fit to inflict upon me.
As for my marriage with Curtis... We had another very rough year after that. We decided to read the Book of Mormon together and it saved our marriage. (To learn more about this book click here.) I knew that the adversary would work hard to prevent us from reading together so we had to make a commitment to each other to do it. We made a promise that we would read every night...even if we were in a fight, and even if Curtis was out of town. There would be no excuse good enough for us not to read. We kept our promise and finished the Book of Mormon over several months. The spirit of the Book of Mormon significantly influenced our lives in ways I can't fully explain. It made Curtis more understanding and less selfish. Instead of me looking for the negative I was looking for the positive things in our marriage and the good things that Curtis brought to our marriage. When we started reading we were close to divorce, and when we finished we had never been happier. We still managed a lot, and our stress levels are always high. Reading the Book of Mormon together took us from a place where the adversary was the center of our marriage, trying to tear us apart. We now had the Savior and His words in the center of our marriage pulling us together. We work hard...really hard on our relationship. It is our highest priority. We both came into the marriage with unrealistic expectations. When we allowed the Lord into our marriage, and made Him the center we were able to let go of those expectations. Instead of looking for all the things that we didn't do for each other, we started appreciating everything we did do for each other. (There will be more posts of things we have done to strengthen our marriage in the future.)
I have watched Curtis over the last several years become a different person. He is a better man than he ever thought possible. He isn't selfish with his time anymore (most of the time:), and has learned to enjoy and cherish the time we have together as a family. I remember very clearly a day a few years ago when he said to me, "I didn't know that happiness like this existed. I never knew what it meant to truly love someone, and how it felt to have them truly love you back." He thanks me often for staying with him and helping him become the man that our Heavenly Father wants him to be. I in return thank him for working so hard to be better everyday. I contributed to many of our marital struggles in the beginning as well. I have had to work hard to change my weakness' to become a better person and more loving wife. I thank Curtis for accepting me with all my faults, and helping me to become the woman that Heavenly Father wants me to be. Marriages are hard work for a lot of different reasons. You have to be willing to change and also forgive yourself and your spouse. As we have come together, we have definitely found happiness in our marriage!
We are happier than I ever thought possible now, even with all our trials and problems. I see why Heavenly Father needed us to go through those difficult years. There must be opposition in all things so we know the good from the bad. We definitely know the good years from the bad;)
I love Curtis so much and I am thankful he has been so supportive of my new found hobby of blogging and sharing our life (not to mention the skeletons in our closets;) in hopes to help others on their own path. If you find yourself in a marriage that is struggling please, don't give up hope. Find help in therapy, reading the Book of Mormon together, or any other way you can. We are living proof that with hard work, humility, and love a struggling marriage can become a very happy, strong marriage!
*Curtis: I understand that some may interpret this post as reflecting harshly upon me. I've closely read the post and completely support Julie in sharing this experience. One of the great things about Julie's writing its that it is both very honest and real and still uplifting and inspiring. The truth is that I am far from perfect. I was selfish with my time and can still be so occasionally. I'm working on this and the trajectory is good. You don't need to defend me or apologize for me. I'm emotionally strong enough and pragmatic enough for this story to be posted. We all have faults and have things we can improve upon. The point of this particular post is that second marriages are hard, people all have things to improve upon, and humility and the influence of God can help us improve difficult situations. Thank you for reading.
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