I was a nice girl; he was a nice guy.  We met at church.  Why didn’t our marriage work?

These are reasons NOT to get married, in my opinion (although they may work for some people):

  • Loneliness
  • Believing that “happily ever after” can only happen if you get married and have children
  • Find someone “safe” that won’t hurt you
  • Rebounding from a lost relationship
  • Ignoring deep, unresolved baggage (and thinking marriage is the solution)

As it turns out, George and I both got married for all of these reasons.  And none of them worked, for us. 

I don’t know that it could have ever worked, but I think his biggest mistake was not telling me the truth while we were dating.   When he met me, he decided that he wanted to marry me, and he was going to do and say anything to make that happen.  I should have seen some of the red flags…but I wanted to be loved and not hurt anymore.  I wanted to have children and be a Mom like I had always dreamed about.  Marriage seemed like the solution.

He decided to tell me the truth about everything the first week of our marriage, on our honeymoon.  I was never able to forgive him for lying to me about so many important issues.  When asked, his comment was “You would never have married me if I had told you the truth before.”  I replied, “Yes, but isn’t honesty the most important thing in any relationship?”

After that nightmare honeymoon, I contacted our pastor and asked him how to get out of the marriage.  He convinced me to forgive George, give him another chance, and try marriage counseling.  It seemed like I had everything to gain by making the marriage work, so I agreed.

The counseling forced me to deal with LOTS of deep hurts for the first time, but I wasn’t ready to deal with some of the ones that I was just too ashamed about.  George didn’t think he had any issues (extra strong denial skills).  So the sessions “kind of” worked, in that I did go to Germany with George.  I believed that going overseas would make us or break us.

It broke us, but I, at least, have a clear conscience about giving it my best effort.

At first, we were dependent upon one another because we didn’t know anyone else.  We both wanted to travel and see Europe, so had that in common.  We bought a red 1965 Volkswagen beetle for $265, and drove that thing thousands of miles, until it literally fell apart.   I was amazed about how close everything seemed to be:  Luxembourg, 1 hour; Belgium and Holland, 5 hours; Paris, 7 hours.  The Rhine River, 1 hour; Mosel River, 20 minutes.

I had been raised that the man did all the driving, but I had married a daydreamer, who refused to keep his eyes on the road.  If you know anything about the speeds that are achieved on the autobahns in Germany, you will quickly understand that I was constantly in fear of dying.  So I did all the driving, and he daydreamed.  Which meant no communication whatsoever; that might interrupt his fantasies about being Napoleon.  (I am not kidding…)  That’s all he could think about when we were in Paris.

He had always dreamed of running marathons, so he trained for this by running 16 miles a day, after work.  I never knew when he would get home, because he never liked to run the same route twice.  When he got home, he fell into a chair and passed out, exhausted.

This was our life, and I became angrier and angrier.  Finally, I asked him if he could run in the mornings so we could at least both be awake in the evenings and have some chance for “togetherness.”  He agreed, and that worked out a little better.  Except that Germany is on the same latitude as Canada – very cold and very dark in the mornings.  I felt pretty awful one night when he came home, all banged up.  He had run into a tree that morning, while runinng through a forest.  The forests were very dense there.  Of course, I also didn’t think that was a very smart route choice.

He did run several marathons and only cared about finishing.  The one in Athens was his greatest dream, and he accomplished it.  For about a week after each marathan, he could hardly function.  I wondered if they were going to kill him.

The more time we spent together, the less we found we had in common.  I was lonelier married than I had been single.  Although we went on trips together, there was no sharing.  He traveled in the dream world of his mind.

My frustration was not going away.

I decided to experiment on a trip, to determine the depth of the problem.  We both really wanted to go to Norway; we had heard about the beauty of the fjords.  So we planned a 10-day adventure to travel through all of Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.  My experiment was that I was going to wait for him to initiate conversations with me (we were in the car A LOT.)  Maybe I hadn’t really given him a chance before, and maybe he would realize he had a traveling companion?

I was wrong again.  He did not initiate one conversation for 10 days.  I was on that gorgeous, wonderful trip by myself (again).  That’s when I knew we were really in trouble.  By the 10th day, driving home, I exploded and told him that things had to change.  I explained to him that I had gotten married to share my life with someone.

He was clueless and asked me for an example.  I asked him, “What were you thinking about when we were on that beautiful cruise through the Norwegian fjords, standing at the rail, taking in all of that spectacular beauty?”  He answered, “I was imagining that I was a Viking and I was thinking about all of the stories that an old girlfriend had told me about living in Norway.”

I doubt that I need to tell you how that answer went over with me!

I informed him that, if he couldn’t “show up” as a partner in our relationship, I was done.  I would give him 6 months to prove to me that he wanted to be married to ME.   I suggested that we have occasional reviews about progress.  He thought that was fair, and he said that he would try his best.

I have come to believe that he just didn’t know how, because I don’t think he was a bad guy.  He just didn’t know how to participate in a relationship.

No change after six months, so he went back to the States, and I stayed in Germany.  I was making plenty of money, still had countries to visit, and was afraid to face my family.

We were married a total of 3 years by the time the divorce was final.

An interesting postscript – after the divorce, he sought out individual counseling, and now has another wife and several children.  He told me, years later, that he accepted full responsibility for the divorce.  He had learned, through counseling, that he only had “get married” on his “to do” list, but not “stay married.”   He had learned many other things about himself that he had been unwilling to acknowledge when we were married.  He told me that, if I had never divorced him, he might never have faced his issues.

He apologized profusely for never getting to know me and being so selfish.  Once he added “staying married” to his list, he has made this one work.

For a long time, I hated being labeled as a “divorcee” (aka “failure”), and I was so confused that gratefulness was not part of my vocabulary.  It has taken many years for me to focus on the lessons I learned from that marriage – not the lessons I wanted to learn…

Nonetheless, learning occurs, if we allow it.

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One comment


  • That is a very sad story. So sorry you went through it for three years.

    March 28, 2018

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