The moment was surreal.  Conversation flowed freely and laughter filled the air as Steve and I shared an order of nachos.  A last minute date to a movie preview was followed by an impromptu late-night stop at Fuzzy’s Taco.  As we recounted the movie we laughed so loud that other people began to stare.  We were thoroughly enjoying each other’s company!  In that moment, I couldn’t imagine being happier.  For a moment I thought I was going to cry.

So what’s the big deal?  Don’t all married couples enjoy times like this?  I can’t answer for everyone, but I know that I didn’t.  Stilted date nights and unmet expectations were the norm.  Like being stranded on an island unnoticed by yet another passing ship, the lack of intimacy in my marriage left me disappointed and dejected.  I craved a relationship where scenes like the one above occurred.

How did my marriage get from where it was to where it is?  With a lot of hard work and determination!  And, a lot of God!

As Steve and I began to deal with his addiction there were times I was completely overwhelmed.  We both were.  The issues were much deeper than just an addiction.  We were actually dealing with an intimacy disorder.  I wondered if we would make it.  And honestly, there were times when I doubted the effort was worth it.  Part of me wanted to give up because in addressing his problem I had to look in the mirror.  The reflection was more wicked step-mother and less Snow White.  I had to hear and own how my actions were contributing to the problem.  I had to swallow my pride for the sake of my marriage.  In reality, I didn’t have to – I chose to.  And I am so thankful I did.

I like my husband and I respect him.  We enjoy being together and don’t need other people as a buffer.  I don’t worry about how to appear sad if the police were to come to my door and tell me Steve was gone.  We have awesome conversations, we have a fantastic sex life, and we inspire each other to be better.  We can argue and it not threaten to ruin our relationship.  And most importantly, we can just be.  We can sit in silence without feeling the pain of a void.  We don’t have to worry about keeping up walls to protect ourselves.  We have dreams and goals and without wishing time away, look forward to an empty nest.

When I think back to where we were compared to where we are, I feel like we need some kind of medal.  There are moments when I want to stop and shout to everyone around, “Do you see how amazing this is?!  Do you see how far my husband has come?”  But really, it wasn’t just him.  It was both of us.  We are reaping the fruits of labor from seeds that were sown in our tears.  We made it.  Do you hear me?  We – made – it!

How?  Because we didn’t give up!  If I could give one piece of advice to a version of myself 10 years younger, that would be it.  “Holly, don’t give up!”  I can only credit God’s abundant grace with giving me hope and helping me persevere when I could only see the end.  More days that not, I thought it was over.  The last time we went to counseling, my motivation was to justify divorce.  Today that sentence brings tears to my eyes.  If I had given up, I would have missed the absolute best years of my life.  Yes, it was hard, but worth every minute.  Every tear, every fit, every day that I thought I physically couldn’t bear the pain anymore was worth it.

No, things aren’t perfect.  But I know that there will be many more impromptu dates, moments of laughter and cherished memories.  No matter what life throws, I have faith in us.  We will get through it.  Together.