Last week was mine and my husband’s first anniversary. Not the anniversary of the day when I talked my parents into spending too much money on a party, though. Rather, it was our first real anniversary — the first one we have actually earned.
One year ago last week I filed for divorce. I thought then, nearly seven years into marriage, that too much damage had been done and that our union was unsalvageable. I thought that all the separations had taken their toll, that the Army had successfully torn us apart. One year ago last week I signed my name at the bottom of a document that said I was done with Us and I paid for that document to be entered into the court record. I made it official that I no longer wanted to be Mrs. Sanderlin, that I intended to take back my old name and would do my best to pretend that the eight years I’d spent with my husband had never happened. That was my intention one year ago.
But last week that document — and my desire to be divorced — expired. Actually, my desire to be divorced expired a while ago. It was a gradual process, a slow dissipation, and I’m happy to report that it is totally gone today.
It’s been one helluva of year, let me tell you. I have read no less than 17 books on marriage. All the other books I’ve bought this year, books I’d hoped to to read for pleasure, rest on my shelves with their uncracked spines and their thin coatings of dust. Every time I considered reaching for their tempting escape, I reached instead for the wisdom in the other books.
I have talked about marriage — and very little else — incessantly this year. If you’ve had a conversation with me in the last 12 months you’ve probably endured my theories and ruminations on the subject. I have been obsessed. My husband and I have logged enough hours on our marriage counselor’s couch that I think she should qualify for a civil service retirement pension. He has changed so dramatically (and he says that I have, too) that the man he is today shares only a few of the good qualities and very few of the bad ones with the man he was a year ago.
We have subsisted this year on very little sleep, opting instead to spend those late nights talking and crying. We have met for lunch at least once a week to further our discussions without our kids around and without ruining a precious date night. We have sought out couples with strong marriages to emulate and lessened our contact with couples whose own marriages seem doomed. We have signed up for every marriage class our church has offered and we have each made an intentional, daily, sustained effort to make our marriage second only to our faith in its importance in our lives. It’s been a year of ridiculously hard, impossibly demanding effort, a year of parsing, mincing and dicing ourselves, our habits and our perceptions.
But you know what? It worked.
Last week we celebrated our first No-Divorce Day. There was no cake, no gifts, not even a card. And that was just fine with us because one year ago last week we thought we'd be alone today, starting life over with two little kids to raise and without each other's help. Today my husband and I are standing together, defiant in the knowledge that we've already struggled through the same challenges that have broken many other couples and confident that we can keep fighting — and that's more of a gift than either of us ever expected.