"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

My non-midlife marriage

Looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, I realise just how naive I was when I got married for the first time at the tender age of 23. My first husband, at almost 25, didn't have a whole lot more life experience either. He did, however, have a bit more money than I did! Only just out of university, I came with a student debt. Thankfully he didn't mind. He'd been working for a few years after finishing his degree, and his fly-in fly-out job had paid pretty well. He'd saved a bit, and then moved on to a more 9 to 5 arrangement. I'd just started my first job. We'd been dating not quite a year. And so we started married life together. I'm sure we both thought it would be easy.........

Lots of adjusting
Adjusting to each other took time. And patience. And kindness. And grace. And I didn't have a lot of the last three at that time (I still struggle with these virtues sometimes even now). I was much more talkative and feisty than he was. He was more measured and would withdraw at the first sign of conflict. I would push for a resolution, almost exploding with frustration at his unwillingness to engage. The more I huffed and puffed, the more he would dig in his heels and sulk (sometimes for days). We didn't live together before marriage, so there was quite a bit LOTS of adjusting to be done once we'd said "I do". Who actually was this person I was now married to, when the front door closed and we were together in our home? And who was I in the marriage?

Our first homes
We'd met and tied the knot in Perth, although I'm not a native. We lived, firstly, in 3 rooms of a house behind the business that his parents owned. They used the house for storage, but cleared out the lounge room (for our bedroom), the bathroom and the kitchen/dining so that we could stay for a few months until our own house was ready for us. It was like camping - a little bit of fun - so probably not a bad way to start out the first few weeks. But luckily we didn't have to do this for too long - I think the shine would have worn off this little arrangement fairly quickly. I was keen to make a proper home for us.

Not quite 2 years into our marriage we moved to Tasmania to be close to my family. This decision had been made together, as we discussed the kind of environment in which we wanted to raise our children. The first of our two sons was already on the way. We fashioned our life together in Hobart as our little family grew from three to four, and over the years we learned each other's ways. I absolutely loved being a stay-at-home mum - balancing a little bit of part-time work, to keep my career active, with being home enjoying the children - and I put my heart and soul into raising our beautiful boys to be good men.

The first crisis
About 7 years into our marriage, my husband suddenly told me he no longer shared our faith. I knew he'd been reading some unusual books over the past few months, but it was a shock nevertheless. It was quite a turning point for both of us, and an unwanted challenge, but at no time did either one of us think that it was a reason to end the marriage, just because we no longer shared the same spiritual direction. Being "unequally yoked", as it's referred to in the Bible, was really hard for me. He was not antagonistic about my ongoing church attendance, or my faith (except when I pushed the point), and was happy for our boys to attend Sunday School and later youth group. But I was devastated at his decision, and desperately tried to plead argue reason with him - how could he turn away from the source of life?? - but he wouldn't be swayed.

This wasn't what I'd signed up for, but I loved him and we would make it work.

Being on the same page
Along the way, we read lots of great books on relationships, marriage and parenting. I was thankful he was a keen reader too and although we had our share of struggles, there was little that was insurmountable. We were on the same page about most things, and over the years we got better at being married to each other. I learned to push less, so he retreated less. He retreated less, so I didn't have to push so much. We both wanted a good marriage and we wanted to be good parents. It was wonderful to have the support of my family, who were loving and involved grandparents. Our boys were very different from each other, but both required firm boundaries. We parented as a team, and the boys knew they couldn't divide and conquer. It was a common occurrence for them to hear us say "What did mum say?" or "What did dad say?"

A move across the country
Together we made the decision to move back to Perth after 11 years in Tasmania. Our boys were approaching their teen years, and we wanted them to have more opportunities than we saw being available to them in such a small state. It was a wrench for me to leave my extended family, and for our boys to leave their loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. There were lots of tears on the plane, but we were also looking forward to our new life in Perth.

We had some good years in Perth and some challenging ones. We built a house together for the first time, we had some job struggles and a career change for my husband, we navigated the difficult teen years with our boys, we coped together with the challenges of my husband's extended family. There were good times too, plenty of love and affection, and lots of laughs. We intentionally did things together as a family on weekends - ten-pin bowling, go-kart racing, meals out, bush walking, lots of creative "making" activities, playing board games, kayaking, picnics, going to the movies. We took a road trip up to the Pilbara region of Western Australia one winter, and then when the boys were teenagers we took them on a fabulous round-the-world trip, to give us all a taste of overseas travel. Despite sharing hotel rooms and living out of suitcases for 7 weeks, we managed to keep conflict to a minimum. So although there were plenty of ups and downs and challenges along the way as we navigated family life, in all of this we continued to make a good marriage.

Creating traditions
In the last couple of years, we had begun a tradition of celebrating our wedding anniversary with a getaway. Our boys were older and more independent and we were looking forward to many more of these little breaks that were just for us. To celebrate 20 years we headed to Broome, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, for a lovely week of relaxation, warm weather, and exploring the beauty of the area. For 21, we spent a few days in the beautiful Margaret River region, tasting wines, walking in the damp bush, relaxing. For 21 and a half (just because we could) we headed off on a road trip - just the two of us - exploring Esperance and Kalgoorlie.

A sudden end
In 2008 we were coming up on 22 years, and had decided that this year we would stay closer to home, not spend so much money, as we'd just started thinking about where we might go for our next overseas holiday - just the two of us. Japan during the cherry blossom season was high on my list. So a little over a month before our anniversary we booked a romantic weekend at a hotel by the beach. I remember sitting on his lap in our office while we browsed the internet, selected and booked the resort. I was looking forward to winter walks on the beach, the warm spa, romantic dinners. There was no sign at all that he wasn't also looking forward to it.

When the end of the marriage came a few short weeks later, it was as unexpected as it was devastating. Returning from an afternoon at the art gallery with some girlfriends, I received the fateful text message: "I have moved out". He was gone when I got home, and he never came back.

It took me a long while to come to terms with the fact that I will probably never know exactly what happened, but my life changed forever that day.

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