We were about to enter his aunt’s house and introduce me to his family for the first time. Harry’s parents aren’t alive anymore. His mother died from a rare genetic disease and his father took his own life. Both gone too soon. All he has left is a brother who lives away, some aunts – sisters of his mom, and some cousins. Oh, and their spouses. It’s been a long time coming and we were both nervous. I’ve heard the stories. They scared me.
“My family is brash, say what’s on their mind and are mean for sport.” He would say.
Got it. Sounds fun. Not.
“But everyone loves each other and forgives each other and knows how to have fun. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. ”
So we held hands on his aunt’s porch and I prayed a very simple prayer.
“Heavenly Father, help us to represent ourselves well, help me to make a good impression, and help us not to stick our foot in our mouth.”
I know…strange but I was inspired. Little did I know how appropriate that prayer was. Who says there is no Holy Spirit? Harry knew we should pray and the Spirit inspired my prayer.
Had anyone waiting for us in that house known Harry asked for prayer, they would not have believed it. Family is family. I know in my family certain people formed opinions of me based on things they saw a few times a year for a few hours at a time at family gatherings and then pieced their opinion of me together with events on a timeline. Very little details. But that didn’t matter. They still formed opinions anyway. And some of them were harsh. It didn’t matter what happened behind closed doors. It didn’t matter how hard I tried for things to be different. They just saw it the way they saw it. All of it was based on reality. But only a part of reality. Not the whole picture.
Likewise, Harry’s family has formed certain opinions of him. While greeting me with open arms, a drink, and a smile, they made certain I was forewarned. At one point, I was seated around a table of knowing women and given twenty questions. They really called it that too by the way.
“Oh be careful that chair iis broken!” I was warned as I sat in the only unoccupied chair. As if I wasn’t nervous enough I now had to make sure I didn’t fall on my butt and make a fool of myself. At least I was warned.
I steadied myself and prepared as if I were a witness on the stand. Harem judgement. Mixed into their criticism of Harry were statements like, “We’re only telling you this because we like you.” And I honestly believe them. And nothing they told me was news to me. But it was sort of like being in the movie Mean Girls. They were going to do and say what they wanted and I just had to take it. And when I spoke, I had ten eyes on me sizing me up all at the same time.
Thank God the Holy Spirit was with me because I managed to defend Harry without sounding like a foolish woman. And the whole time I was thinking…you know what people like Harry need…they don’t need to be told and re-told who they are. His old girlfriend and I happened to speak on the phone one fateful night and she said, and I quote, “Livvy, this is WHO HE IS.” I will never forget that she said that.
Essentially the women in the family were saying the same thing. “Do you know him or do you KNOW him.”
They have a lifetime of experience observing him and have been spectators for all his life events along his timeline. Much like my family took Slimeball aside and said, “Dude…we know you love her but do you know what you are getting yourself into? She ruled her last husband and got her way all time. Watch out, go slow, and be careful.” THANKS brothers-in-law.
Half the picture. Unfair. And as much as they thought they were helping…none of it strengthened our relationship. Slimeball sat on their words and then prodded for more details. Emailing them, second guessing what he KNEW about me. Letting them derail his confidence in our relationship and our love.
I hadn’t spoken hours upon hours and then more hours with anyone in my family about the true circumstances of the break up of my marriage. Most of them didn’t care to know the details. But I had done that with Slimeball and he let their partial knowledge shake our foundation.
Sitting there in that backyard, staring back at these women with a smile on my face, I realized that what Harry needs is not someone to buy into the fear. I was being called upon in that moment to be that true partner I told him I would be. For him and for us. It was battle time and I needed to have his back.
Harry doesn’t need harsh judgment condemning his character to a pattern that repeats itself until his death. He also doesn’t need a free pass or someone who will look the other way excusing, denying, and otherwise allowing rotten behavior with no consequence. I had both before too! I know what it feels like. What he needs is what I always needed and never got. Someone who is firmly in his camp, holding him up, holding him accountable, AND cheering him on, expecting the best not the worst.
What they don’t know is that we were at a crossroads a few months ago and Harry had a choice to make. He owned up to what he did, he apologized for it, and he went a different direction. He wasn’t sorry that he “got caught.” He was truly sorry and I know this because I saw a transformation from the inside out. He was not defensive, he was humbly remorseful. And he chose a different future.
As a result I’ve seen a change in Harry in almost every way. His demeanor is more at peace. He is happier. He is more focused on priorities he’s set for himself.
What they don’t know is that while it was not an overnight transformation, it WAS riddled with long, intimate talks about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Whispers in the dark. And lots of tears.
It’s as if Harry is screaming at the top of his lungs with his actions since…”I’M NOT THAT MAN.”
And that is something else I never got. When my husband of 18 years was caught in an affair, he denied it and I got blamed for it. When Slimeball got caught in the umpteen lies and was stuck in a corner, he didn’t humble himself in true repentance, he maneuvered his way out with another lie and blamed me.
Harry has not done such a thing.
Let’s be honest. At 44, we have all done things we are not proud of and have baggage that we are carrying around. If you are looking for the perfect person, you will not find it. And that is not to say I’m settling for anything. No. I’m getting exactly what I said I always wanted. Something true, real, special, and honest.
I will continue to stand firmly in his camp, holding him up, holding him accountable, and cheering him on, expecting the best not the worst. Everyone needs a best friend and I know he would do the same for me.
Only Harry knows the entire story of the whys of his life. But I have a feeling I know more than his family thinks. And I’m not going to let them shake the confidence we’ve built up in our friendship. I know that all he can do is choose with each step he takes now, the man he wants to be.
Harry is still wrestling with some intellectual issues related to orthodox Christianity. But something has shifted in his heart and its not just his love for me. I know it. I’ve seen it. It’s unmistakable. He is humble, contrite, and while he will never be perfect…he is striving for a higher calling.
I’ve always been the motivator. Pushing, driving, hoping, dreaming for something better, something stronger, something truer. With my Harry, I may be his inspiration but I’m not his motivation.
So God met us that day. Praise the Lord. He allowed me to be a good representation of us as a couple and stopped me from reacting in a way that would have stuck my foot in my mouth. God is so very good. God is so very real. And I know without a shadow of doubt that He loves me and Harry very much. So much, that both of us just might get what we have never had.