Understanding and Reconciliation saved my marriage
It was a beautiful summer day, as my wife and I sat relaxing and drinking red wine in our back garden. All was well with the world. Then, right out of the blue, I said the wrong thing to her. Uh, uh. Very wrong! Dumb!
I loved running marathons, and started going on at length about how I wanted to enter many more events. It sounded like I wanted to spend my time every day out running for hours. To make things worse, I was already in my late sixties! Not the best time to start thinking about extreme events, Ironman, etc.
My passion for running was of course known to my wife, but this was different. This was getting serious, and I was completely unaware of just how offended she was becoming.
She reacted badly to all this talk about my excessive running plans. Always one to speak her mind, she began to challenge me. It seemed clear to her that I was more interested in running than anything else we did together. Unfortunately I didn’t know what she was thinking at the time, and so I answered her sharply, defending myself. In fact, a bit too sharply.
I’m afraid I lost it. Not like me at all. Evidently, I must have had a glass of wine too many. “Don’t start dictating to me what I can and can’t do” I thought. My tongue was now loosened, and my lips betrayed me horribly.
I looked straight at her. “I’m free to do as I please. I’ll run all day if I want to!” That did it! As soon as I said that, I knew I’d blown it. How stupid can one man get?
Now my wife is anything but a fool. After ten years of marriage, she knew me well. Very occasionally I had too much to drink. That’s when my deepest feelings come blurting out, as alcohol opens up my mouth. I regretted it immediately.
Deathly silence! She quietly stood up and went indoors. “Oh no,” I feared, “I’ve done it again!”
She must have gone up to her room. Stunned, I sat down in the conservatory, not really knowing what to do next. In the end I just sat there and waited, hoping she would eventually come back down-stairs and speak to me.
She suddenly emerged. It was far worse than I could possibly imagine. “You can have half of the house,” she said in a calm and decided manner, already dividing up our meager assets.
Those few words hit me like a sledgehammer. I stared at her, unable to utter a sound. Tears welled up in my eyes; eyes that had forgotten how to cry for many years.
At that moment my whole world was disintegrating. This had never happened before. We had never lived apart, broken up, or even fallen out seriously. I had even resigned my priestly ministry to marry her, and we were very much in love. My brain was in a whirl. Suddenly the future had vanished. I stared into a vacuum.
I couldn’t even contemplate losing my wife. That would mean everything falling apart. “I mustn’t let this happen. God help us, please.”
I was desperate. I threw myself at her, cursing my stupidity and selfishness. We had to talk. I needed reconciliation and her forgiveness. In a flash of light I realised that my running, compared to our love and relationship, mattered less than dust. Sobbing, I told her that our relationship was everything to me.
She then showed me the love that dominates in her heart. She cuddled me softly, soothing my tears, and promised that she wouldn’t leave me. There was nothing I wanted at that moment more than to hear those kind and gentle words.
After feeling her love, her complete acceptance, and her reassurance that all would be well with us, I gradually calmed down. We could then talk through what had actually happened.
I then learnt that she didn’t want to leave me at all. Far from rejecting me, in fact she was thinking only of me. She had actually felt that I would be happier without her. She would not stand in my way, if that was where my heart was.
It was my happiness alone that drove her to even contemplate breaking up a happy marriage. She was prepared to leave me if I no longer wanted her. She came to this conclusion because of what I’d said.
“I didn’t want to stop you doing what you really want.” I had given her the definite impression that running was what I was most passionate about.
It was at that moment that my sanity returned. How could she even imagine that running was more important to me that she was?
“I don’t care of I never run again,” I assured her, “you are infinitely more important to me than any little hobby of mine.”
Looking back on that hideous moment, I realise that it wasn’t just a question of forgiveness. She felt that what I’d said wasn’t just to insult and offend her. So, for her, it wasn’t about forgiveness, but understanding. It was a question of two people really understanding each other. I’d given her a message about where my heart was.
It brings home to me just how crucial it is, in any relationship, to discuss everything openly, freely and honestly. Our subjective perceptions of one another can destroy the greatest love. Why? We can misunderstand each other, and end up drawing out false and devastating conclusions.
All that happened nearly ten years ago now. Thankfully, we have never looked back since that dreadful day. Of course, like any married couple, we’ve had our disagreements and arguments, but nothing of the same magnitude.
The main thing is that we all try hard to listen to each other, to achieve a mutual understanding. And that’s worth more than gold: for it permits love to flourish. We all need to know where we stand in any relationship.
She knew I was deeply sorry for hurting her, and she gave me heartfelt forgiveness, understanding and authentic love and companionship.
Understanding and Reconciliation, I have learnt, are beautiful things. May you also experience the joy they brings in your own life – as and whenever necessary.