Why I said “yes” to marriage again

by Kristin on May 28, 2012

in Love, family & community

Sometimes, when you’re standing in the rubble of your life, the first step to figuring out what’s next is determining what isn’t next.

For me, after my divorce in 2003, another marriage was definitely not in my future. I don’t just mean it wasn’t in my near future. I was done with marriage. I had willingly taken it at 22, like a magic pill that was certainly good for me. It would soak into my system and emanate from my pores into my life—the life I had always envisioned for myself. After all, I saw no real evidence to the contrary and I certainly saw no real alternative.

But as my marriage crumbled, over the course of a decade, my belief in marriage as an institution crumbled along with it (and my faith in God gradually became buried in the rubble). I wasn’t giving up on all men, or the idea that companionship was important to me. I just felt like God (or maybe Christianity?) had pulled a bait-and-switch on me with the marriage pill, and I certainly wouldn’t fall for that again.

Walking away from marriage and church felt incredibly freeing—at least for a while. The lightness came from my enlightened understanding as much as from my trimly edited circumstances. I didn’t need marriage. I didn’t need church. I probably didn’t even need God. I was beginning again, with a fresh determination to be real—to not depend on the social constructs and institutions I had previously trusted and had clearly failed me.

I was also determined to ensure my kids wouldn’t grow up in the midst of harmful ideas, like the concept of a marriage devoid of love, respect and kindness, or the idea of a church (and, therefore, a God) void of forgiveness and hope. And although I trusted my parental defensive moves, I began to seriously question my lack of offensive tactics. I knew what I wanted to protect them from, but what did I want to teach them? What would I give them, to help them win? After all, leaving your children with a zero score isn’t the ultimate parenting goal.

When Jason and I began dating in January of 2006 (you can read more about how we met, here), marriage still wasn’t part of the plan. But as I began to understand my relationship to church and God in a completely new way, it occurred to me that the same was possible with marriage.

Being “free” began to take on new meaning. I thought I had been freed back in 2003 from the confines of marriage and church, but I saw that the true freeing process didn’t simply mean cutting ties and walking away from the institutions that confined me. The freeing process, as it turned out, required embracing those institutions again, in different forms and new ways. It meant teasing out all that was good in the tangle of bad and carrying it with me to make something new, not tossing it all and walking through life empty-handed.

Jason and I have spent the past five years building on all that is good and true and important about marriage. It has supported not just who we really are, but also where we’ve been and where we’re going, along with our three daughters.

As we celebrated our fifth anniversary yesterday, we celebrated a whole lot of happiness—I think that’s apparent in the photo we took while we were out for dinner last night. But I suspect that happiness is rooted in a lot of forgiveness that has gradually taken place over the past several years. I’ve forgiven God, he’s forgiven me. Jason and I have forgiven our exes, and they’ve forgiven us. Jason and I have to forgive each other, too. We’re trying to live out that forgiveness every day. It’s important, because we’ll never get it completely right.

In the end, I think it’s that paradigm of forgiveness—within marriage, community and church—that will be the greatest legacy we can give our children. Maybe some people can learn lessons like this in the midst of happy, successful first marriages. But I needed to journey down a more painful road to reach this place. And I’m very glad I did.

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  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    I can really relate to finding hope in the institutions I tried to leave behind… at least when it comes to church. It was such a process to learn that the church could fail me and still offer healing. I also had to learn about letting myself heal. I think it was hard for some folks to watch me go through that process outside of the church before I was ready to return to it.

    There’s a lot of truth here. Thanks Kristin!

  • bookhouseboy

    I’m not married, but this was the perfect message for me to read today. I’ve been sucked into an awkward divorce/marriage situation involving several of my friends, and everyone feels differently about it. Opinions are running high, along with feelings that the others are sinners or hypocrites or even “evil.” I’m going to share this with them, and I can only hope they absorb your important message of love and renewal and forgiveness. Thank you, KT.

  • Deanna

    Beautiful post. I love hearing about stories where people have found healthy places to be and healthy people to be with, especially with love.

    How did your view of marriage change, exactly? Did you see it as more of an obligation and then later saw that it is an equal partnership? Just curious.

    Thanks for sharing. It takes courage.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    I love your story, Kristin, with all its nuances. I’m so glad you and Jason are able to live this out together. And I love that I was able to see you two together and witness the love you share! Looking forward to spending more time together soon.

  • http://katieleigh.wordpress.com Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    I love that photo and the joy you’ve found – and I also relate to needing to walk the hard road, sometimes. So glad for you.

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    Happy anniversary! This is a great post. I think forgiveness is such an important thing to embrace in life to keep from being weighed down by the past. It’s a wonderful gift to give your children.

  • Lorilyn Wiering

    What a great picture, Kristin! Happy Anniversary. What a grace that endings are also the place of beginnings. Bigger endings can be the dawn of greater beginnings, I think. Glad you’re celebrating!

  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    love this, kristin. you live redemption and speak it, too. continued blessings over you and jason. xo

  • http://www.marilynyocum.com Marilyn

    Really enjoyed reading the way you parsed (?) and threaded the journey, how you’ve come to view the leaving behind as well as the reembracing with clearer mind and firmer footing, footing that’s all your own now. Hope I haven’t read into it more than you intended or, if I have, it’s because your words connect somehow with my own travels in a different way but with similarities. This was a rich post. Very thought-provoking and honest. Cleansing even.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    ed, it’s so interesting how quickly our brains want to lump ideas/places/people into big groupings—especially after we’ve had a bad experience. I guess it’s a survival and protection mechanism that can ironically hurt us in the long-run. I’m so glad you were able to isolate your difficult, individual church experiences, and eventually find your way to a new experience with church.

    bookhouseboy, that’s such a difficult situation to be in as a friend. Feeling sad and torn is completely understandable, but the condemning and blaming is dangerous business, as you pointed out. God is so much bigger than our messes—I hope everyone involved in that situation can believe it!

    Deanna, “healthy places to be and healthy people to be with”—yes! It’s so essential to realizing our own potential as individuals. And you ask a great question, about how exactly my view of marriage changed. It’s funny, after I published the post I wondered if I actually ever answered the “why.” :) I guess I began to see “marriage” as a concept—the way God designed it, in all its fullness and potential—rather than as an individual, specific experience. For years, I was letting my experience with a marriage define Marriage, rather than seeing it as a form that was good at its core, but could become tainted, like all good things. Does that make sense?

    HopefulLeigh, I’m so glad you’re part of our story’s “great cloud of witnesses!” Thank you for all your encouragement, and for sharing space on your blog for yet another piece of this ongoing story.

    Katie, thank you! I really felt like that picture captured so much, too.

    The Modern Gal, one of my favorite quotes, which has become a mantra of sorts for me, is from Desmond Tutu: “Without forgiveness, there is no future.” I really believe that, and see evidence of it all around me. My own life was stuck—I was simply spinning my wheels—until I embraced forgiveness.

  • Kari


    Thank you for this. I’m now only a little over a year past a divorce and being disciplined out of my church. There were months of ignoring the pain and running away from what I had always believed, all in the spirit of “freedom”. Then there was a realization that as free as I can be from the pain and the perhaps constricting rules my faith/the church had placed on me, the gospel showed me a NEW kind of freedom. A freedom from shame and guilt. A radical grace that said “God calls you beloved”. My mind is still trying to wrap around those thoughts, and I’m sure it will for quite sometime. Thank you for sharing your story. It is full of hope.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Lorilyn, thank you for the kind words. There’s so much truth in this: “What a grace that endings are also the place of beginnings.”

    suzannah, I think one of the most interesting things about living redemption—at least living it in a way that you fully recognize it for what it is—is that suddenly you can’t help but speak it, share it.

    Marilyn, I always wonder if I’m clearly communicating these complicated things I feel and experience, but I can tell by your comment that you definitely get it! This is exactly right: “…how you’ve come to view the leaving behind as well as the reembracing with clearer mind and firmer footing, footing that’s all your own now.” I’m glad our stories can feed into one another in rich ways.

    Kari, ah, so-called “freedom” has a way of tricking us, doesn’t it? The freedom the world shows us—and even the freedom many churches preach—is not the same as the freedom of the gospel: “A radical grace that said ‘God calls you beloved’.” I’m so glad you’ve recognized that freedom, even if it does take time to fully transform your life (mine, too!).

  • http://suzysammons.com suzy sammons

    Hi Kristin! Congratulations!

    I too have walked through long roads of altered states. I shake my head at how long it took me to take the leaps of faith and trust. We all have different chains to break and weeds to pull; some so deeply rooted. In my rebirth of love AND faith, I know only one thing: if we lean on people, we will fall with them. God wants us to learn to love, right?? Even as I look at my own spirit-led post from yesterday, I am shocked at what has grown new inside of me as a wife – this second time. I am so excited for you!
    some day we’ll share stories in person:)
    Happy Day,