| This is the 254th story of Our Life Logs |
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, or boast, or follow the exact schedule you planned. Love is messy, love is unpredictable, and it has a way of pushing you to your breaking point. Still, love always protects, always trusts, and always perseveres. That is the love I know.
I was born in Central Minnesota, the second oldest of 10 kids. I think it’s fair to say that my Catholic parents always have had a knack for knowing what was most important in life: family and faith. From a young age, I saw them work as a couple, almost seamlessly, through the ups and downs of their relationship. I saw that whatever they did together, they made it service oriented and gave from the heart. Always, it seemed there was a friend or stranger who happened to be along for a meal. My parents almost expected this. “It’s fine, we’ll just throw another chair at the table!” was their philosophy of life. This picture of unity is what shaped my view of marriage from the beginning.
In a family of 10 kids, I stood out as the dancing, lively, and outgoing child…as well as the stubborn one. For better or worse, I don’t give up easily—on my goals, my dreams, and my people. So, if you can imagine, I was the go-getter, the “yes” person all throughout high school. I was in dance line and went to state every single year I was part of it, I was always involved in plays, in yearbook club (even doing it all myself one year), and I was confident in myself and in my relationships. Doing and accomplishing things was where I found the most joy in life.
This attitude filtered into college. Everything I could get involved in, I did. My sorority became my springboard for leadership roles and over the years, I won scholarships, I won trips to speak nationally for my sorority and served on the board, and I even helped bring back a national fundraising event that had been lost 10 years earlier.
In short: I was on a path for victory.
Yet, despite all my success in leadership, I was not finding success in the dating world. By the time I graduated in 2014, family and friends were getting worried about me and joking around, wondering why I wasn’t dating someone. These comments hurt a lot, since in my heart I knew I wanted to meet someone desperately, it’s just, I was busy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was that girl who would walk into the room and immediately think, “Potential! Is he single, interested??” Really, I wanted to make sure that the one I found was really the one for me. I wanted everything to fall into place.
As fate would have it, Michael and I met that same year, in 2014, on the weekend of the 4th of July. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. We both worked that summer at a group home, though we had opposite shifts. He caught my eye right as I walked in to begin my day, and while he was just finishing up with his. I thought, “Hmm, a young attractive single guy. He’s either married or engaged!” My heart nearly stopped when I discovered that he was single and unspoken for. After a 45-minute conversation, it was clear there was chemistry and interest for a relationship.
For the rest of that summer, we were inseparable. It wasn’t just a romantic relationship. At a basic level, it was deep friendship. We had a lot of the same values and interests. He was the king of theater, music, and a stunning performer and entertainer, winning audiences and hearts all over the area in community plays and in open mics at various bars. I was his loyal audience member and fan girl. We talked about everything, shared everything, and by the time that fall rolled around, it was not a surprise to anyone when Michael proposed to me at the end of a stage performance, in front of everyone. Stepping into the lights from my backstage role and in front of a large crowd of people, I said “yes!”
But where dating had been a walk at the beach, marriage hit us like a tidal wave.
Our “honeymoon phase” flew through my fingers like smoke, overtaken by my husband’s ever-growing depression. I had known about these health concerns before the wedding, but I thought we had it under control. Instead, it crept into every facet of our lives. First, it was our intimacy. More and more often I would find myself going to bed alone, while my husband was pre-occupied. It was like he wasn’t fully alive. Then, within a six-month time period, he went through three jobs. “It’s time to wake up!” I would tell him. But more mornings than I can count, he couldn’t get himself out of bed to go to work.
I never forgot the image of my parents, mainly because they made it seem so easy. Whether they were laughing together in the kitchen or talking through some conflict with stern voices, they always did so with compassion, unity, and love. And there I was, the one making breakfast, babysitting him, and constantly worried about him. I kept thinking there was something I was missing, a quick fix I needed to know. I turned to friends, family, and the Holy Spirit himself! What did I need to do to get our lives back on track?
When he started to talk about suicide, I looked up counselors. I did all sorts of research. Maybe holistic is the way to go, I thought. More turmeric in his diet. More vitamin B, C, D, A. Or maybe simply changing his diet and avoiding junk food was the answer? Maybe praying a certain prayer more often? Desperately, I wondered how I could rescue my husband and help him get out of his slump.
Several nights we would get into fights where our marriage was on the line. At one point, we had one vehicle, but he got in it and drove away. Knowing he was suicidal and not knowing where he was going, I remember sobbing and praying my rosary alone in the darkness of the house, watching the window and hoping to God that he would return safely. As I finished the last decade, his headlights finally appeared and I breathed a sigh of relief.
After several months of this, I was having mental breakdowns from the anxiety and stress of life and having to provide for both of us financially. I had purged the house of what might cause him to further spiral downwards.
All this time, I was no longer the go-getter, the “yes” person. I had been the star student, the one with an answer. Now, after months of crawling through what should have been the happiest time of my life, I was at the end of my rope. I left Michael that night and drove to my parents’ house where I sat with my family and cried and cried.
My sister and entire family told me they would understand if I left Michael. After all, we had gotten married in a flurry and maybe we had acted too fast. I wanted to be comforted by their words. I tried to, even. But words from our wedding kept flooding into my head, taking over my body like a hurricane, “Do you promise to love him, in sickness and in health?”
That’s when I realized that “love” is not synonymous with “fixed.” Love is a commitment to live in tandem with another human, to ebb and flow in the waters of uncertainty. I would do that for Michael, even if that meant I couldn’t rid him of depression. I just had to trust that he would do the same for me.
That night. I drove back to my husband, made sure he was safe, and began praying for the strength to stay and be faithful to my vows.
Since that night, we became a team. It was no longer me against depression, but rather us against what was getting in the way of our unity. We began to be more open about our concerns, our fears, and with counselors, friends, pastors and accountability groups, we now consciously make an effort to show each other love.
We have now been married a little over two years. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we have a lot of things in place to help Michael make good choices. He now has a job he loves and is committed to, which is paying well enough to give us hope and a future for our growing family (We are due in July!).
Our marriage has been nothing like the image I had in my head. In fact, the struggle to achieve our own unity has made for a relationship that is deeper than I could ever have imagined. Because of Michael I have learned that love is a choice. And for my darling, I am willing to be stubborn in my love. Love is a choice I am willing to make.
This is the story of Christina Miller
Christina resides in Minnesota with her husband. Christina grew up knowing the love of her family and never thinking twice about serving others. When she fell in love and married Michael, her love was taken to new limits where she grew from journeying with him as he battled depression. Because she has chosen to be faithful and committed to her husband, she has found new patience and reliance on God that has brought her deeper peace in her life. When she is not at home taking care of the needs of her (now growing) family, she is helping manage and run the local community theater in her hometown, running errands for family members and teaching social studies at the local Catholic School.
This story first touched our hearts on January 31, 2019.