I will never forget that horrific day in August of 2000. I came home late morning/early afternoon from a babysitting job with every intention of taking a nap before I had to go to work. My younger sister was at home enjoying her last days before school started again. I honestly don’t remember what happened next, but what I do remember is telling my sister to call 911. I remember grabbing the fire extinguisher and squeezing and pulling the trigger to no avail. I remember scrambling for a bucket and running full speed from the bathroom to my sister’s bedroom trying to douse the growing fire. I remember (after the fact) feeling like the scene from the Little Rascals when they pass the bucket down the line and by the time they dump the bucket on the fire, it’s nothing but a few drops of water. I remember yelling to my sister to get out of the house and frantically looking for our cat to take her with us. I remember standing on the sidewalk watching helplessly in tears as the only home I’ve ever known was eaten alive in flames.
I remember the next days, weeks, and months being consumed with the horrible stench of smoke that was embedded in our clothes and what was left of our home. I remember the annoyance of itemizing and attempting to remember what was lost and what the value might be so the insurance company could pay us. I remember the nomadic moves from our 5 bedroom single family scorched and water damaged home to the 2 hotel rooms and the 2 bedroom apartment and the 3 bedroom townhome my family of five lived in. I remember the guilt of believing I should have prevented this grave inconvenience and tragedy for my whole family…..
Then I remember the day we were able to move back into our “new” home! As I entered the front door, I could see beautiful hardwood floors in the hall and stairway that were once covered by dark blue shag (yes, we still had shag in 2000) carpet. I saw modernized wallpaper in the dining room and a new found elegance in the living rooms. I saw brightly colored walls upstairs that brought a welcoming relaxing feeling. I saw built-in closets in my sisters and my rooms where stand-alone closets used to be. I saw a beautifully upgraded home that my parents talked about and dreamed about, but could not afford to do on their own. That wonderful day in May 2011, we started over. We were happier. We were a stronger family unit and full of optimism.
In marriage, you are guaranteed to have your own “fire” experiences. In these moments when you can justify giving up on your marriage…when you feel it’s impossible to fix…when you feel you can’t take anymore…remember you vowed “for better or for worse.” What if you knew you would live out a happier, stronger and more optimistic marriage after this trial? What if you knew by next year he would come around to get your finances on track? What if you waited another 60 days for that right mentor to help him finally understand how much you need that quality time? What if you waited those next three weeks for God to change his view on parenting and being more supportive around the home? What if you hadn’t cheated after you found out he did? What if you vowed “for better AFTER worse?”
We say we know the trials are coming, but we often choose to give up because we convince ourselves “I’ve done all I can do.” “That’s his problem.” “He’s never going to change.” “I deserve better.”
I want to encourage you to keep fighting your fire. If you are preparing for marriage, I want you to take the opportunity to prepare your mind and take an honest look at your values. In my experience, I saw the fire burn my house, but the structure was solid. I had to call for help, I had to shed some tears, I felt some pain, but our house still stood. Our house went through months of gutting out and restoration but in the end, all of that work produced a home that was better, higher in value and more appealing than the one that burned.
I want you to take a moment to be honest with yourself. Whether you are married, engaged or single, I want you to ask yourself these four things:
1) What is the real issue? If you separate the emotions, what is the “bare bones truth” about what’s hurting your marriage?
2) Have I asked for help?/Am I willing to ask for help? Griping to your girlfriends just to vent and rehash the story is not productive. This will only feed the negative energy and emotions that you are feeling. Be sure to address your challenges with a professional or a wise and seasoned confidante who will not just hear your issue, but
give you some practical views, insights and solutions, even if it means focusing on your
3) What is the change I want to see? Think about what would be different if this challenge went away right this instant. Think about how you would feel and how your life would be affected. What is the part you play in creating that change?
4) Was this preventable? Looking back, was there anything that either of you could have done to keep this fire from starting and how can you better “fireproof” your marriage for the future?
Marriage is intended to teach us about ourselves as well as each other as we grow. Trust that there will always be the “other side of through” and with truly unconditional love, you can take the heat.
Kristin M. Young, “The Marriage Enthusiast” is the founder of Living The Vows-a marriage enhancement coaching organization, and Project Manager for Heal a Woman to Heal a Nation, Inc. She is committed to bringing joy to marriages and supporting women in their journeys to wholeness as individuals and in their marriages. you can find out more at www.livingthevows.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LivingTheVows.