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Death and Resurrection of a Marriage

John David Powell

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My marriage died six days ago.

The news came suddenly and tragically, but not without warning, like an awful telephone call in the middle ofthe night with a voice on the other end of the line saying that your reckless child has died in a senseless automobile accident.

Shock followed by incomprehensible grief, emptiness, and despair.

The causes for my wife's decision trail back to our childhoods. They stuffed themselves into our psychological bags and soiled three decades of our lives together. In the end, my internal dark demons became tangible to her. She could see them standing beside me, which frightened her into action she could have taken years ago.

The only way each of us will get better is for us to be apart, she reasoned. A clean break will allow us time and opportunity to heal our inner wounds, to discard our soiled baggage and maybe, years from now, remarry.

She grew up surrounded by her family, went to college, was there for a week, met me, and we've been together for thirty-three years. I grew up with my family, went to college, was there for five months, met her, and we've been together for thirty-three years. In short, neither of us has been alone.

And neither have our children. Our older daughter got married in April, and now lives about a half a mile away, as the egret flies. Our younger daughter has two more years of high school.

These have been difficult days for us and for our family. My selfish side says it has been more difficult for me because she has been thinking about this for a year and has found a modicum of peace from her decision. The girls seem to be taking it better, too. But then, they knew it was coming before I did.

A big difference between my wife and me is that I don't believe in the no-win scenario; I believe a solution exists for every situation, even if one has to be cobbled from scratch or made up as we go along. Others see this as my pharaoh complex: the king of denial.

My drive to succeed, to overcome adversity, may have paid off, however. After losing six pounds and smoking more than 40 cigarettes over a 36-hour period, after long discussions interrupted by bouts of mental anguish and physical breakdown, after falling to my knees like a condemned man and praying to God for forgiveness and strength, we reached a marital rapprochement.

Today, what was dead is resuscitated, or more appropriately, resurrected, in keeping with the season.

But, I'm dealing -- we're dealing -- with more than one issue. At first, it was the death of a marriage, a life, with all of the literal reactions associated with a sudden and unexpected physical death of a loved one. I'm still trying to cope with the grief/recovery process of that while also facing her nonnegotiable plans to move to another state so she can be with her business colleagues and not be confined to a small office in the house.

There is logic to this plan, and we could have come to the present solution a lot easier. Adjustment and acceptance are difficult while dealing with the issues of divorce or separation.

Those marriage and relational issues became much better yesterday when she told me she contacted the attorney and stopped the divorce process, and when she said she was committed to a full relationship with me. Otherwise, without those commitments, the move would be a separation combined with a professional relocation. Now, it is more like a bi-coastal relationship. Others do it. I know of a tenured professor whose spouse is a tenured professor and administrator in another state. Many spouses are on the road Monday through Friday, or on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean for a year.

I told her over the weekend that our chances for success are much greater if we stay together. We survived events beyond the abilities of most individuals: her mother's ugly divorce from her stepfather and his later suicide; my father's sexual advances, his unpleasant death and my mother's psychological collapse; her sister's murder; unemployment; hostile working environments; and our younger daughter's emotional and social instability to name a few.

We survived because we met these challenges together. Two hands connected by intertwining fingers. Wecannot overcome the most devastating challenge to our lives and to our marriage if we separated those handsand turned away from each other.

So, this is where we are today; slowly and deliberately backing up from the ragged edge of theabyss, not sure where to lean or what to hold. But, in my mind at least, there is the knowledge that, fornow, we may have overcome death by death -- that is, reversed the death of our marriage through the deathof those things that threatened its existence.

As always, it is curious to see the theological correlations in our daily lives. This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. It is during Great Lent that the devil tries his hardest to turn the faithful from their concentration on God. And then, at the end of Great Lent is Holy Pascha, the celebration of the risen Christ, who trampled down death by death, and through his descent into Hell raised the souls of the dead.

John David Powell is an award-winning Internet columnist and writer, and contributor to the ChristianMillennium History Project.

He may be reached at johndavidpowell@yahoo.com

Posted: 12-Apr-05

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