Martin jumped in my car at LAX and gave me a kiss on the cheek. He is always smaller in real life than how I remember him. Like a compact dynamo terrier of some sort, always raring to go even if it kills him. He also looks younger in real life too. I took him in with my eyes and took a deep breath. There he was in the flesh.
We didn’t talk much during the hour-long drive home. He didn’t even want to look me in the eye. After saying goodnight to the kids I rested my head on his chest and we just sat there for the longest time. I could finally feel the rise and fall of his chest, the warmth of his breath and his embrace. He had things planned to share with me, he brought paperwork for me to see. But not yet. It was late and we weren’t alone. And it could be put off one more day. So we sat in silence for a while. I didn’t tell him but something happened to me while I sat there on the couch. All the fear I had conjured up in my mind vanished and I felt safe. It felt good to feel safe.
Friday night we were alone and we sat quietly at first on opposite sides of a large room. He spoke, and explained, and told me the story, the real story, of his life in England. Most of what he said, I already knew. But for the first time he wasn’t spinning it to sound better than it was. He showed me his bank statements, letters from lawyers, and pictures documenting what he had told me about his soccer days. I read, and looked at them all, and asked some questions. He answered them all willingly without defense. But it was heavy. I was exhausted but then it was my turn.
I told him that the last month I had questioned everything, not only about him but about me. I wondered if it would be better for me to be single for a while. Maybe date a few people and see who lives in my town. I told him even if we were to overcome the issues I had with trusting whether he could tell me the truth or not, I would still be alone and I didn’t like being alone anymore. I let it all out. I said everything I was afraid to tell him on Skype about how hurt I was, and how stupid I felt for sitting around being loyal to a man who was lying to me.
It was important to me what he did with that information. He could have walked out and said, “Fine! I travel 6000 miles to apologize to you and you tell me you want to see other people, go for it, I’m outta here!” He is the terrier and I half-expected a fight. Instead he put his head into his hands took a deep breath and said, “You have every right to do that. I don’t want you to be alone either. Somehow I want to stay in your life, I just don’t want to know if that is what you do, it would kill me.”
It was like we both understood what a big deal for each other this was. How hard it was on us both and how sorry we were for all the pain.
I told him maybe he needed to be on his own to sort out his life without me and if God was in this, at the end of the day we would end up together anyway. I said it knowing I could do it, but also that it was the last thing I wanted.
He sat there in stunned silence and I climbed under a blanket with my knees curled up tight to my chest shivering. For the first time in our relationship it felt like there was this big gigantic clear balloon between us like a force field keeping us physically apart and even though he was sitting in the same room with me he might have well been across the Atlantic ocean.
The space between us felt suffocating. And as I look back on it I think God had a hand in making it feel that way for me. As if it to say, “Is this what you want?”
I experienced the clear balloon force many times in my marriage. As we sat across the room watching television all night, as we lay on opposite sides of the bed night after night. In the same space but separated in almost every way.
We needed a break and we needed to think. He left to get us dinner from a local taco stand on the beach and I lay there churning on the inside, trying to resolve my feelings of love for him against his wrong-doing. I took a hot bath.
And so it went. No one yelled. No one tried on purpose to hurt feelings. As the night went on we held hands, we held onto each other fearing if we let go that would be it. We clarified, we connected, we cried.
He openly admitted that he was coveting the thought of getting what he had wanted and dreamed for all his life. When job after job failed to materialize at the same time his divorce papers were suddenly resurrected days before being finalized how he had panicked. The jobs, the marriage, the distance, the age. The deck seemed stacked against us.
This bold man of action who you couldn’t keep down if you tried thought he had a losing hand. His mistake was that he bet against himself and me in a desperate attempt to pass himself off as better than the real thing. Because as he said to a stranger he met in Dublin after leaving me for the first time, “What would a young, beautiful, talented, classy lady want with me?” He made up his mind that I couldn’t possibly love him for him.
But we laid all our cards out on the table that night. And took a good, hard, long look. We ate, we drank, we laughed a little. We huddled ourselves next to a fire and prayed the next day would bring more healing.
We set out to find a good spot to talk and found ourselves at the prettiest beach I’ve ever been to. El Matador in Malibu. We sat on a blanket and he read Colossians Chapter 3 out loud. We discussed what it meant; how living as a Christian didn’t mean you were perfect but did mean you did not accept sin as an excuse in your life. We were there for hours watching people, watching the waves, sleeping, drinking some water, and just soaking up the sun.
As we walked up the cliff back to the car I knew I could never even think of another man. I knew at that moment that, “I can’t do this.” would not cross my lips.
Martin spent the rest of the week pulling weeds in my flower beds, helping me with groceries and taking me and my kids out for Indian curry. While I worked he read his book lying on my grass in the sun. While I went about my daily routine he helped. We played board games, listened to music, did laundry, went to church, went to the beach, went on hikes, watched tv, and held each other a whole lot.
In between the activity we kept talking about difficult things. His life before me, how alone he really was. How he’d lost his closeness to his girls as they grew up and he and they left the home and how their communication became more and more polite instead of real. How he never knew closeness like we have since he was 15-years-old. He opened up about deeply personal issues within his previous marriage, how money was handled, how nothing negative was ever discussed.
I gave him back the ring he gave me that night in February when he asked me to marry him. For me that ring symbolized all the lies and I wanted it gone.
At dinner one night he apologized to my children. On the day he was to leave he rode a Merry-Go-Round. My son was disappointed when he didn’t get sick. But we had great fun. The last thing we all did before the airport was go to church. The subject of the sermon? Divorce and Marriage. How fitting.
The pastor said only half-joking to keep your eyes wide-open before marriage and half-shut after. He said some people don’t want to know the flaws and issues they will face together before they get married because being in love means everything should be perfect with no conflict. But the foundation for a good marriage is dealing with those tough issues head on so you know what you’re getting yourself into. He described the ideal Christian marriage and it was hard-hitting but inspiring. As we walked out of church it was as if we had been given marching orders. The pastor shared a quote that said, “Don’t marry someone you can live with, marry someone you can’t live without.”
Martin had said that to me almost verbatim the day before. And it was so true. I don’t want a life without him in it.
So now that he is back in the UK, I am watching and waiting. He knows this is his last chance and he has to be real from now on. He is committing to mesh his two worlds and bring his daughters out for vacation this summer. The fighter in him will not give up and he says he feels at peace and can sleep now. His weight is lifted.
The song says, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”
At the end of this day… I’m holding. And still betting on us to win.