When Love Doesn’t Go the Way it Should
Almost three years into our marriage, my husband began using speed (otherwise known as methamphetamine).
He had arrived home from military service about eight years before suffering from a bad case of PTSD. The first few years were rocky, but he eventually managed to “suck it up and drive on” – complying with the expectation to quit drinking and using drugs and get on with life, as his dad did after Vietnam. A few years later we got married and he began college. Our first child arrived 16 months later.
On the surface, he was doing great…husband, father, full-time student, part-time university employee…but not far below the surface he was starting to splinter. Stress overwhelmed him all day, every day. People told him to relax. He would say, “I’d LOVE to relax! How do you DO that?”
He went to a pastor… he went to a therapist…they both said to take a vacation and “relax”. He went away frustrated that no one could tell him the magical secrets of relaxation. He really needed treatment for PTSD, but they were still defining and naming the condition back then, and any help available was strictly for Vietnam veterans.
Then a friend gave him speed…just to get this one paper written…just this one time…
For the next three years my husband was a slave to his cruel mistress. He threw away everything he had…and everything I had. I shared on another post some things I wish I had known – but here I want to talk about the question: to stay or not to stay? When you love someone who treats you like garbage and throws you over for anything else (whether another woman or any kind of addiction)…do you “stand by your man”? Or do you cut your losses and move on?
Well, those are unrealistic extremes, and I have learned good judgment is more often somewhere in-between.
While I don’t believe in an “answer-in-a-box” that fits all people in all situations, there are absolutes – and the supreme absolute is love.
When a marriage veers off track, love is easily thrown out the window. We forget our actions (and reactions) should be motivated by love . . . and love does what is in the best interest of the beloved. What is best won’t necessarily line up with what I want or what he wants. It is not about one or the other “winning”, or even about saving the marriage.
Motive is key.
If I choose my actions based on what I think will save the marriage . . . that is not love. If I get fed up and, in anger, kick my husband out….that is not love. But, if I recognize that it is wrong and harmful for him to continue this selfish and destructive lifestyle and refuse to continue supporting his behavior (by kicking him out) . . . that is an act of love.
Knowing that motive is key and love is required is a good start, but figuring out a course of action can still be tough. We church-goers receive a lot of training on being a good spouse and what it takes to have a good marriage, but there’s not much instruction when your spouse abandons you (or abuses you, or turns into an enemy, etc – whatever the case may be).
I’ve found that listening to the experiences of others is a big help in sorting out the issues to make difficult decisions…motivated by love, rather than vindictiveness or anger.
That’s a tall order, but so is a marriage vow.
Many times in the middle of the insanity I just wanted to take our daughter and get off the crazy train! Some of my reasons for sticking with him were not completely rational. Since we had a child, he would always be involved in my life (that part is true), and I wanted to control the situation as much as possible (a reasonable desire, but). I believed I could put enough pressure on him to get him into treatment (ah, the unreasonable part).
Of course, I could NOT make him do anything, and the more I tried to fix him the more he focused on me as his problem. I also worried how our daughter would react to losing her father, but I underestimated the negative impact he already had on her.
I never gained the objective perspective of true love, but I did finally kick Caleb out.
He went to a “recovery house” for a while. He came home playing at recovery…talking a good game and doing the bare minimum to avoid being kicked out again. For instance, I required him to attend 12 step meetings. When he did go, it was just to appease me…and often he did not even go. Having only one car and a toddler to care for, I could never prove it…so I felt trapped.
The last year of his addiction we lived like that. I probably should have kicked him out again based on my gut instincts (or God’s promptings?), but I did not trust myself and was too fearful of making the wrong choice.
In the end, God took it out of my hands. Caleb was arrested.
I considered this the final blow…the end to any hope of a normal life. At that moment, did I care more about my husband’s welfare or about my “normal” life? I honestly could not see the difference. I thought they were the same thing.
Though I still had so much to learn, God showed mercy to me.
As it turns out, Caleb’s arrest marked the beginning of his recovery from addiction. The court offered an intensive, 12-month minimum, court-supervised program, with the threat of jail for non-compliance and/or non-completion. Drug tests 5 days a week and random, unannounced house searches left no wiggle room for my very slippery husband!
Although the program was court supervised, it was not court mandated. By this time Caleb was desperate for a way out. He wanted his life back. Our second daughter was only a few days old and he was determined to be a father to his two girls…so he volunteered for the program. You may ask, “Why didn’t he care about you and his oldest daughter enough to do whatever it takes?” The answer is unknown…even to him. It was just time.
During that year, we both learned a great deal about the nature of addiction, principles of recovery, and perhaps most importantly, relapse prevention. We realized Caleb had exhibited classic relapse warning signs at least 18 months before his buddy made the fateful offer. One of which was associating with said friend!
Knowing the signs and the right ways to respond has made a huge difference for us.
I am glad I chose not to abandon him. I always believed “he” was still in there somewhere…the man I loved and married. It was not easy, and none of my doing, but God was gracious and brought him back to me…and I am grateful.