My platinum wedding band rolled round and round on the recreation room floor. Tom dropped to his hands and knees, looking for the diamond engagement ring I had thrown at the same time
I watched him in the shadows, groping for the rings. That’s all he cares about? I asked myself. The rings? Doesn’t he know what’s just happened? I’ve taken off my wedding band! Doesn’t he realize — hasn’t it occurred to him — that it has never been off my hand since the day of our wedding?
I heard him murmur from the floor, “That’s a very expensive diamond.”
Feeling like a detached spectator, I stood there watching him. No crying. No screaming. No hysteria. I was beyond all that. In fact, I felt nothing. I might as well have been chiseled from a block of ice. As far as I was concerned, the marriage was over.
The quarrel had begun upstairs in our bedroom. For the first time in the six years of our marriage, Tom had slapped me across the face. I had cut him down with yet another hateful remark, and he had lost control. As the warm, salty blood from my nose touched my lips, I felt strangely calm — and ice cold. “It’s over, Tom. You’ve done it.” I grabbed my pillow, tore a blanket off the bed, and headed for the rec room couch. We were now downstairs, and I didn’t intend to go back up those stairs. Ever. Tom followed immediately, pleading, his eyes wide with panic. It wasn’t what he wanted. He “hadn’t meant to hurt me.” He’d “just lost his head.”
I wasn’t listening. He might as well have been talking to the wall.
I’ve had lots of time to look back on that terrible night. In later years, I wondered if Tom at that moment was reliving the horror of an incident from his boyhood — a night when his mother stormed out of his parents’ bedroom never to return. Was this why my strong husband followed me downstairs, pleading? Did that explain the fear in his eyes? Was he remembering the panic and stress of his boyhood, when he sat on the stairway in the darkness listening to his parents scream bitter words at one another? Was he recalling the inevitable drinking sprees, the cold hostility of a couple who continued to live under the same roof but in separate bedrooms the rest of their lives? Was he remembering the hatred and animosity — and the humiliation — when the drunken arguments spilled out in front of friends and guests? Could he have been wondering what would become of our two precious sons he had tucked in bed that night while I was out modeling in a swank restaurant?
I don’t know what Tom was thinking. At the time, I really didn’t care. Nor did I stop to consider how a divorce might hurt our young boys. At the time, I was totally focused on me — too hurt, disappointed, and angry to give those things a second thought. I just wanted out of that marriage, and the quicker the better.
Tom slept alone that night. For the first time in our marriage, I willfully moved out of our bedroom. The next day we called our priest. He came over, listened to our sad tale, and told us he thought it would be best for us to separate.
That was that.
No words of counsel, no advice from Scripture, and not a single word uttered in prayer. He never talked about how to make our marriage work, never explained what God said about marriage, never mentioned the power, hope, and healing available in Jesus Christ, and never asked us to consider the effect it might have on our sons. In his mind it was cut and dried: We were unhappy and unfulfilled, so we ought to go our separate ways.
I suppose that was what I had wanted to hear, and yet…it was still a bit of a shock. Somehow, I’d never thought it would come to this.
What Happened to the Dreams?
All through my growing up years, I had wanted only one thing: to be divinely in love, happily married, raise wonderful children, and live the good life. When I was in nursing school and met Tom, I was just sure that’s how it was going to be. He would succeed in his career, and I would excel as a homemaker. We would go to church, someday belong to the country club, and live just like “Father Knows Best” or “Ozzie and Harriet.” I wanted a good marriage — one like my parents had.
I never once heard Mom and Dad quarrel. If they ever spoke cross words, it was never in my presence. What I do remember is hearing Mom call from the kitchen, “I love you, Jack!” And I remember Daddy walking by, patting her on the bottom and saying, “I love you, Leah.”
Sometimes when a familiar tune would come on the radio, my mother would leave the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron, and look invitingly at my father — who never needed a second invitation. Daddy would take her in his arms, and they’d dance from the kitchen to the living room. Every now and then he’d hold her at arm’s length, then dramatically sweep her back into his embrace…just like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the movies. After I thought they’d had sufficient time to be mushy, I’d tap Mother on the shoulder and cut in to dance with Daddy.
It was a Pollyanna world, and I loved every moment of it. That was what I wanted. That was what I dreamed of. It was what my first-grade readers promised in their stilted words and primary colors. “Run, Jane, run. Run, Spot, run. See Daddy come. See Daddy come.” And there in the picture was Daddy coming home to a hero’s welcome, hat on his head, tie loosened, briefcase in his hand, a happy family waiting to greet him.
But it wasn’t like that for me. It hadn’t turned out that way at all — and I couldn’t understand why. It had all begun with such promise.
When I first met Tom, it was as though he stepped right out of my dreams. Of all the Phi Deltas I dated while cheerleading for Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio, I knew that this tall, handsome basketball star was “The One.”
We talked about God on our very first date. Our values seemed to mesh perfectly. Here was a man with depth of character, nobility of purpose, and a firm set of principles. I knew instinctively that Tom would always be faithful to me.
He was a gentleman — polished, confident, well-dressed. He knew his way around the country clubs, cut a handsome figure in a dinner jacket on the dance floor, and never bragged about his accomplishments. He never told me he’d been offered professional baseball contracts to pitch for the Yankees, Phillies, Pirates, and Indians. Nor was I aware that Casey Stengal had personally pursued Tom with an extraordinary contract. (I discovered these things only when Tom’s mother showed me a scrapbook she had kept on her son.) He never told me of his academic achievements, or that his classmates in University School had voted him “Most Likely to Succeed.” Tom abhorred bragging — and visibly cringed at the way his father flashed his money, tipping all those who called out his name as he moved through the Lakewood Country Club or the Cleveland Athletic Club.
“Good evenin’, Mr. Goetz.”
“So good to see you, Mr. Goetz.”
Dad Goetz had come up the hard way — and had made it! He was dear in his own special way, and I did love him. While he clearly relished all the attention his generosity brought, it made Tom wince.
When our engagement was announced, my picture appeared on the front page of The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s society section. Was I impressed! My family had never been “society.” Tom and I flew off for a romantic honeymoon in Bermuda at the crown jewel of the hotels. I was ecstatic, absolutely elated. This was the honeymoon I’d dreamed of, had talked about in the nurses’s dorm at Saint Luke’s School of Nursing. We girls would curl up on our beds, hug our knees, and gab about marriage, and how wonderful it would be. We didn’t talk about sex — although it was never far from our minds. Those things weren’t openly discussed in our circles.
We simply dreamed of romance and talked about the relative merits of different negligees…red or black…slinky or sweet…satin or lace. In such a garment, we would offer to our husbands our virginity. It was a gift I vowed to keep for my husband long before I knew who he would be.
How quickly a lifetime of dreams can be deflated!
We arrived in Bermuda on the second night of our honeymoon. And there in that idyllic setting, my new husband sat me down, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Kay, you are now Mrs. Frank Thomas Goetz, Jr., and these are the things I don’t like about you. I want them changed.”
My bubble burst, pricked by those few devastating words. Words I could never imagine my father saying to my mother in a hundred years. Just that quickly, I wanted to run away. To erase the bad start and begin again. To reach for another chance at love. I suddenly realized the devastating truth: I was not loved unconditionally; I was not adored. Tom wasn’t even pleased with me!
What a horrible, sinking feeling to realize I had made the biggest mistake of my life — and now I was trapped. Trapped forever because at that juncture of my life, divorce was simply not an option.
Now it was six years later and divorce definitely was part of my vocabulary. I wanted out of this roller-coaster marriage as quickly as possible. Oh, yes, there had been interludes of peace and a measure of happiness…interludes when Tom seemed to find himself and experience some contentment. In spite of myself, my hopes would soar again; I dared to dream that we might make a life of it after all. But then, with sickening suddenness, the roller coaster would plunge over the edge again, and Tom would plummet into depression. Again and again, I felt myself going down with him — falling, falling — with no strong arms to hold me. Was there any end to this nightmare ride? What would happen if I jumped out somewhere along the way and just brought all my disappointments to an end?
I hadn’t realized Tom was manic-depressive. Even as a nurse, I’d totally missed it. All I knew was that I wanted out. Forget the girlhood dreams. Forget Pollyanna. Forget the society page. Forget “till death do us part.” I would find someone else. I would have a marriage without regrets.
In spite of it all, I really had no other goal. My only ambition was to be loved and happily married.
What went wrong? What could I — we — have done differently?
As you read these words, you might find questions just like these on your mind. Maybe it’s because you have a good marriage — and want to keep it that way. The dreams are still intact and you don’t want anything to cast a shadow over your happiness. What can you learn from a book such as this? How can you make sure that no matter what happens, you will have no regrets when you stand before God?
Then, again, perhaps you’ve found yourself asking those questions about your own marriage. Life hasn’t turned out the way you hoped and expected. Somewhere along the way, you came to the disconcerting realization that your “beloved” wasn’t as charming or lovely as you’d once thought. Your marriage is “ho-hum,” and you both know it. You exist together under the same roof and file a joint tax return, but there is precious little that is “joint” in your emotions, your dreams, your activities. For the most part, each of you goes your own separate way.
Maybe you’re concerned because the passion and joy you knew at the beginning of your marriage has disappeared. The flame of love has so died that you can touch the coals without burning yourself. They’re barely warm. You’ve fanned and fanned the fire, but to no avail. You’re fanned out. You’re perplexed, wondering if your marriage is salvageable or if you ought to just shovel up the embers, dump them in the garbage, and go looking for new wood.
Maybe the marriages of one of your children, some of your friends, and someone you’re counseling are heading for the rocks. What do you tell them? How do you help them? How do you take what’s wrong and turn it around? How do you help them work it out in a biblical way so that there are no regrets, no backlash that will bring them to their knees enslaved in regret?
That, dear reader, is what this book is all about. There is one key reason why Tom and I got started off on the wrong foot in our marriage and ended up walking off the dance floor. There is a reason why divorce shattered our home and Tom ended up committing suicide. It is because each of us went into marriage with our own set of ideals and expectations without once bothering to find out what ideals, standards, and precepts God had set for the marriage relationship. I had my notions of what kind of a husband Tom should be, and he had some expectations about what kind of wife I should be.
But neither of us bothered to check with God.
Neither of us took the time to ask the Creator of human life and architect of marriage what His opinion might be.
We didn’t begin our marriage by asking Him, and when things got rough and turned desperate, we didn’t ask Him even then.
Tragically, it never dawned on either of us that God might have a design for husbands and wives, and a good plan to protect and bless our marriage.
These things are true for many Christian marriages today. We enter into the relationships with our own set of expectations and desires, and when our spouses don’t live up to them, we find ourselves disappointed, hurt, frustrated — and maybe even looking for the back door. Sometimes it seems that the harder we try to improve our marriages, the worse matters become. And so we walk away…only to find that the nagging doubts and aching regrets are with us for the rest of our lives.
God designed marriage to be a permanent, meaningful, truly fulfilling, and — yes — joyful relationship. Yet if we don’t know His plans, if we haven’t cried out for His counsel, we’re likely to miss that fulfillment.
Even if your mate insists on walking away, calling it quits, and abandoning you, you still need to understand God’s precepts and alternatives for you. What does the Word of God say? That will always be a relevant question. Does the Bible guarantee that every marriage is salvageable? And if not, where does that leave you? Condemned to a lifetime of lonely singleness? Maybe yes, maybe no. It all depends on what God says. Either way, if you want peace of mind and quietness of heart which cannot be purchased by anything but obedience, you need to know how God’s eternal Word speaks to your situation.
And it does. God’s Word is alive and powerful, and like a powerful, radiant lamp it will roll back the shadows and show you where to turn, what to do, and how to weather any situation life may throw at you.
More than that, the Bible will show you how to live in such a way that you will one day stand before Jesus Christ as a valiant warrior with no regrets in your heart. Come what may, you will have the confidence that you have lived in obedience and have done all that could be done to make your marriage a success.
In a very real sense, this is a holy moment. If you choose to read this book and pursue the precepts of God’s Word for your marriage, you’re beginning down a path that will change your life and the lives of those in your family. The effects will reach into eternity.
If I were sitting beside you right now, Beloved, I would say, “Let’s pray together.” Can we do that right now — even through the pages of this book? Let’s approach our loving Father together….
Father, we are about to broach a subject that is causing such distress and turmoil, such pain and disillusionment in so many lives these days. Hopes, dreams, and expectations of a good and happy marriage are being shattered daily. Marriages all around us seem to be failing, and we don’t know what to do to help. Father, more than ever before, we need Your wisdom, Your insights, and Your counsel.
Thank You for assuring us that when we turn to You, rather than to the arm of flesh or the wisdom of man, You will guide our steps. When we trust in You, You will make us like a tree planted by streams of water, with green leaves and fruit even when drought withers all around. Your Word is truth!
Together, Father, we pray that you will lead and guide us into all truth. We want to know Your mind and Your heart. We want to be able to stand in the holy presence of our Lord Jesus Christ one day without regrets. You, Lord, are the One who created us male and female. You ordained marriage and called it a covenant relationship that must not be broken or violated. We long to love and be loved by our mates — to have wonderful, fulfilling marriages. And we are so thankful that you understand this longing, even when we can’t put it into words.
Show us, Lord, what to do to make our marriages all that You intend them to be. Teach us Your timeless precepts about marriage, and we will walk in them, no matter what others may say or do. We thank You for Your assurance that “nothing is impossible with God.” We cling to that assurance this day, Lord, and it is on this basis that we come to You in the name of the One who sits at Your right hand interceding on our behalf, Your Son and our own Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Taken from A Marriage Without Regrets by Kate Arthur. Copyright © 2007 Kay Arthur, published by Harvest House.