We Fell In Love (Twice) - or - The Post In Which I Talk About How We Fought To Save Our Marriage

I fell in love with my husband twice. The first time I fell in love with my husband, I was a junior in college. The second time I fell in love with him, I was the mother of his three children.

The Story of How We Fell In Love The First Time
We're so happy in my grandparents' backyard, 1993.
I met JD for the first time the first weekend of my junior year in college. My roommate and I decided that we wanted to rearrange our bunk bed into an L shape. We needed some cinder blocks, so she called her boyfriend who thought his roommate had some we could have. When we knocked on his apartment door, JD opened it. I'd never met him before, but I'd heard his name. He had gone on dates with several of my friends, including my roommate. (Something I don't let him forget. I jokingly tell him that he dated all my friends before he dated me.) JD was the only one home, so he helped us load the cinder blocks into my car.

As he was helping us I noticed his Richfield football t-shirt. I told JD that my brother, who had been a soccer player in Germany, thought it would be fun to try American football the year my family was on furlough in Richfield and ended up getting some playing time. The thing about people from Richfield is that they like to talk about Richfield. It is a tiny suburb of Minneapolis, so if you meet someone from Richfield, chances are you know people and places in common. JD and I were no exception. We figured out that my grandparents, who I'd spent the summer living with, lived just one mile from his house.

The stars didn't collide during our first meeting. I thought he was a nice guy from Richfield who was very helpful. He thought I was a soccer groupie because I was wearing Umbro shorts and Birkenstocks. (I didn't take that as a compliment coming from a football player.)

Later that weekend, my roommate dropped me off to get the key for the yearbook office and I ran into JD as I was going into the building and he was coming out. We stood there talking until my roommate came back to pick me up. I hadn't even gone in to get the key yet. That's when I first realized that I enjoyed talking to him.

But it was when I was working at the yearbook table on the second floor of the Student Union, checking people in who came for their photos that I realized that I was interested in him. He came by the table to see if he could pick up his yearbook from the previous year. I didn't have the yearbooks with me, so I gave him my phone number and told him to call me and I'd meet him at the office to give him his yearbook. This wasn't an unusual thing for me to do, but as I gave him my number and told him to call me, I could feel my face grow hot. I was blushing because I knew I was looking forward to his call.

In the yearbook office, we got to talking again, something that I found so easy to do with him. He found out that I had a piece of the Berlin Wall and photos of the Wall from a trip that I had taken there soon after its fall. He was student teaching at a local high school and asked if he could borrow some of my items from Berlin for his social studies class. I was happy to help him out. He was happy to return them one at a time, so that he would have an excuse to see me again to return the next piece. When he finally did return the last piece, he asked me out on a date. (And I remember he looked very good in the red button down shirt he was wearing.)

Our first date was October 31st. We had dinner at Hamburger Hamlet, served by a waiter dressed as one of the Blues Brothers. While we were eating our ice cream sundaes, I noticed that JD had a piece of strawberry stuck between his two front teeth. I thought about not telling him, but my next thought was of him looking at the mirror after dropping me off and seeing the strawberry. I figured either option would be embarrassing for him, but I chose what I thought would be the least embarrassing. I told him he had a strawberry stuck in his front teeth. As I said it, I put some hot fudge on my own front tooth. This act, he told me later, was one that made him like me even more.

I liked him, too. I would go out of my way to walk across campus at just the right time to bump into him. I went to the football games and hang out afterwards, hoping to get a chance to talk to him. But I wasn't yet ready to commit to a relationship. I had dated someone the previous year who I had liked too much. When that guy broke up with me, I was crushed. I wasn't ready to put myself in that position again. I'd come to school my junior year with every intention of not being vulnerable and getting hurt, every intention of not dating anyone.

However not dating anyone didn't mean not going on dates. I went on dates with anyone who asked me out on one. I enjoyed my non-commitance. I'm afraid I might have been an unintentional flirt. One night, though, my date made it clear that he wanted more than just to talk over dinner. As I avoided the moves he put on, all I could think about was that I would rather be with JD. I told my date so and left.

Although I knew I'd rather be with JD, I wasn't ready to let him know that. One afternoon a friend and I had decided to go to a movie. While I was waiting for him in the dorm lobby, JD happened to show up. JD and I talked until my friend came. It was the most awkward thing to leave JD there in the lobby while I headed off to the movie theater with a different guy. The whole time I was at the movie I thought of nothing but JD.

There were many things about JD that I was attracted to. He was fun. He was a hard worker. He knew what he wanted. He was passionate about what he believed in. He loved God. He was down to earth. He was nice to the invisible people. He was generous. He was athletic. He was loyal to his friends. He was organized and neat. He made me feel cared for. He had a great sense of humor. I enjoyed being with him. 

As I thought about these things, I decided that I was willing to risk being hurt again. After I got home from the movie, I called JD and told him how I felt. He came to my dorm and we talked into the morning on the stairwell. I told him that I was ready to "ride the roller coaster with him."

And it has been quite a roller coaster ride. I love roller coasters, actually. Even though sometimes they scare me. Roller coasters are fun and exciting. Thrilling! I entered marriage with a very naive idea of what it looked like to love and be loved. I knew there would be highs and lows, like a roller coaster, but I had no idea how hard it would be.

We're so ready to just be married already, 1994.

The Story of How We Fought to Save Our Marriage and Fell In Love Again
We're so needing some time together, 2011.
Our roller coaster almost came off its rails a couple years ago. Then I fell in love with JD again. He showed me love like Christ's. He fought for me and I realized that I wanted to fight for him. 

We brought some things into our marriage that we weren't even aware of. Over the years, those things that we'd brought in and had never dealt with became too large for us to know how to handle. We did what many people do, we coped.

For JD that meant working extra hard and trying to control those things in his life that made him feel out of control. For me it meant finding comfort in virtual relationships on Facebook and email. I rejected what I knew was right to pursue a temporal and empty relationship.

But God, in His mercy, allowed our sins to be exposed. In the fall of 2010 we had a clear choice: to continue along the road we were headed; or, to do some hard work that involved taking a peek under the rug where we had hidden our hurts. Either choice involved pain. We called our pastor who recommended a marriage counselor, and so we began the process of doing the hard work of healing.

Our marriage counselors recommended therapeutic separation. It was humbling, but we knew we had to do whatever it took to make our marriage work. We agreed to a process guided by our counselors involving different phases of separation.

In Phase One we lived apart and could not see each other or communicate about anything except our children and finances. JD's birthday and Valentine's Day fell during this phase. This was a time where we each concentrated on individual counselling, getting ourselves healthy enough to do the work of marriage counselling. During this time I realized that I had an incorrect view of God. Much of my own counselling involved discovering God's grace towards me and allowing myself to experience His love for me. I couldn't be healthy in my marriage until I had a proper understanding of my identity and my relationship with God. Phase One lasted three months.

The next three months, Phase Two, we still lived apart but we started couples counselling in addition to our individual counselling. We were able to communicate with each other outside of the counselling sessions. Our weekly assignment was to go on dates. It was like we were back in college again (except now we had kids, so not really). We took ball room dancing lessons. He drove me home and kissed me goodnight. I looked forward to seeing him again. We discovered each other again. Or, maybe, for the first time. 

We're so glad to have the opportunity to show our children God's grace in our marriage, 2012.

We fell in love again. This time fully aware of our own inadequacy and faults. And, fully aware of the others'. Fully aware of the pain ahead yet willing to experience it, understanding just a little bit better Christ's love for us. We chose to love again. We still have problems, but we are not hiding them under the rug anymore.

Many years ago I asked God to help us love each other better, a desperate prayer in a desperate time. Today I love my husband in a way I never thought possible at the time. And I am experiencing love in a way I didn't think possible either. It reflects my understanding of Jesus' love for me and my love for Jesus. Which is really what marriage is all about.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, 
just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, 
and the two shall become one flesh. 
This mystery is great; 
but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, 
and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. 

Linking up with A Royal Daughter's Desire to Inspire.


Amanda said...

Oh my goodness, I felt like I couldn't get through this post fast enough so I could find out the ending! I am so glad you shared this, Anne. And thankful that you went into details about how the wasted time was redeemed. Thank you!

Anne Bickle said...

oh, ha! I guess the first part was pretty long... it started out as "Our Love Story" but then I realized that we have two love stories. Glad you stuck through the first story to get to the second! :)

Lucy said...

Thank-you for sharing Anne, it's an encouragement to so many of us...
I have a friend who will want to read this....xoxo..Lucy.

Anne Bickle said...

I'm glad you were encouraged, and I hope your friend will be too. xo!

Tammy Perlmutter said...

That was a great story, and even better because its true!! What an amazing testimony of God's faithfulness in the midst of the mess.


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