We all love the idea of love—but actual love is different. It’s messy. It’s complicated. It changes over time. And even if you love someone, it doesn’t mean that love will be enough. When we get married, it seems like there are a million possibilities, but unfortunately divorce is one of those possibilities.
A real-life experience
Sheri knows that all too well. Sheri married a man she considered her best friend because that’s what she thought she was supposed to do. “We loved being together. We laughed a lot. There was so much I loved about him. We really complimented each other.” Everyone told her that they were meant to be, and she believed them. It seemed natural that they would take the next step and get married.
But their future life together wasn’t what she expected married life to be like. Her husband, who was in the military, was deployed to Iraq, and she spent a lot of time alone or with her family. He was gone so long, he even missed the birth of her first child. Sheri and her new husband didn’t have that critical time to create a good foundation to develop their relationship.
Later, when he was home, things seemed great. He was glad to be home and she was glad to have someone to lean on. They had to sort of start from the beginning with their relationship, while at the same time figuring out how to take care of a baby. Things were hard, but they did their best. On the outside, people saw them as a model family. But they didn’t realize that something was brewing below the surface.
Sheri was the type of person who faced challenges head on, but she was so unsure of herself as a mother. Over the coming years they added two more children to their family, and by the time their third baby came, Sheri was completely overwhelmed. She expected her husband to be there for her physically and emotionally, but time revealed that he was always out of the house, or he was emotionally checked out. She chalked it up to him just being tired from working so much.
Things change gradually
But things were changing for them. The changes were gradual at first; her husband would say off-hand comments every now and then. He was having horrible nightmares and flashbacks that at first seemed like no big deal. But then things became more intense. This grew to strange behaviors and intense mistreatment of Sheri. It was clear that something was off with her husband. When she would talk to him about things, he was defensive.
“I thought we would get past it,” she said. “Because that’s what married couples do. Plus, we obviously still loved each other.” Except despite working on their marriage, things didn’t get better. When you’re in it, though, you don’t always see what’s right in front of your face. Plus, when you put so much work into a marriage, it’s hard to think of just walking away. As Sheri explained, “My marriage was on the rocks and I didn’t even know it.”
Unfortunately, her husband was suffering from PTSD
It took years for both of them to face that fact. Once Sheri and her husband put the pieces together and both realized the reality of the situation—which was half the battle—now they needed to figure out to deal with it. After going in circles for months, it was clear that her husband wasn’t interested in going to counseling or changing his behavior to make married life better.
“It was then that I finally faced the fact that my marriage could possibly end.” When Sheri first had that thought, she felt like a failure. She refused to accept the idea. So Sheri still hung on for as long as she could. She just wanted to make sure that she put every last effort into it. She wanted to give him enough time to change.
But nothing changed
Their marriage was not the fun-loving relationship it was when they were dating. Sheri wanted out, though she didn’t realize it all at once—it came on gradually. She found herself making changes in her own life that would allow her to be on her own. “We upgraded our van, and my husband agreed to just have it in my name. We talked about moving to another state, so I packed up and told him I’d go scout out apartments. I left and never came back.”
While she was sad that things ended, it seemed a natural progression at the time. They settled out of court for just about everything, and they have a custody arrangement that has worked really well for their situation. “It still hurts that I lost something that could have been great,” she said. “But you can’t change the other person.”