Relationships

An Ex-Husband, Ex-Wife & 2 Addicts: The “Happily Ever After” That Hurt So Good

Have you ever known a love that transcended time? Or have you seen a passion that persisted despite the limits placed upon it, the wreckage and roadblocks erected in its way? Have you ever glimpsed an affection that persevered despite bad breaks or broken promises, one that saw ugly truths yet kept going when it was worth it? What of a love that weaved its way like a tapestry, a story so intent on being told that it defied the odds? Are there instances when love really does conquer all? Can it move mountains, make a way, and live out its perfect destiny to completion? Can it really change hearts and bring out the absolute best in its recipients?! Some tales of love just need to be told, and those emotions will write their own book.

This is our love story.

I still remember when I first saw him. As he stood on the stage, head down strumming his strat, the long dark hair fell across his forehead. I won’t say I knew he’d be my husband one day right at that moment, but I was drawn to him. It’s like I could see inside this stranger, as if a light emitted from within him, and I knew immediately that his heart was good. I just wanted to talk to him. The thoughts of happily ever after would come later.

I still remember our first date. I remember our first kiss. We sat together on a tree branch, feet dangling as we looked down at the park path beneath us. His legs hung down longer than mine, we giggled together making fake conversations for the people who passed under us, and I tried to overcome my humiliation over my braces having gotten caught in his shirt in the movie theater earlier when I had playfully and flirting bit his shoulder. Why was I so socially awkward?! But as we shared a sweet kiss in the dark I forgot all about it. I just felt like the world had finally stopped spinning out of control.

I still remember how he made me feel normal, special, loved. He knew my upbringing, my past, and my adolescent mistakes, yet he loved me regardless.

I still remember when he proposed. Yes, we were young. Only twenty! But our hearts knew what our hearts wanted. I knew no one had ever made me happier, and I didn’t think I’d want anyone else to try. We had some things to work on, but I knew together we could do anything we put our minds to. I just knew I’d never felt so at peace and comfortable in the thoughts of forever as I did when I thought of us.

I still remember when we broke up. It was so unexpected, and I kept crying out to God, why?!! How could something that felt so right not be happening anymore? The world began to spin out of control again.

I still remember when I ran away. I ran away from a love that still existed in my heart, but did not exist anywhere else. I didn’t want a familiar if he wasn’t there. Thousands of miles, a string of new relationships, plenty of booze to numb my emotions, and efforts to become someone else.

I still remember when I married another man than him. Pushing into the back of my mind the certainty I had felt at nineteen, hiding journals that proclaimed my commitment to my college sweetheart, but never throwing them away. Ten years, a different life, an emptiness I always tried to fill. Sometimes I even felt like I had succeeded. Sometimes.

I still remember when I saw him again. A decade later, in the same place we had first met. It was like not a moment had passed. Me, with my failed marriage, and him with his own divorce under his belt. Two broken people, plenty of baggage to boot, yet we couldn’t help but smile at one another. It seems this would have been the end of hard and the beginning of happy endings, finally, but no. Good things take time and persistence.

I still remember two wounded people trying to make a go at it. Me calling him my ex-husband’s name as I walked drunkenly through the house at 3 am. Him keeping secrets from me. Me going through his pockets. Him never looking me in the eye. Both of us addicts, just of different substances. Me afraid to trust, him unbelieving he could be loved despite it all.

I still remember when I decided to go all in. I remember when I decided I could really be loved despite all the men in my life who had rejected me, starting with an absent, biological father, and ending with an ex-husband who had said he didn’t love me.

I still remember looking up into his eyes on the altar and knowing I could never love someone as much as I did him. Never.

I still remember when we finally started telling each other the truth. The ugly truth. But we saw to the heart of the matter. His good heart still shined brighter than anything to me. I had never known a love so true, and he had never experienced one so unconditional.

I still remember when we began to change, together. How two people could find healing at the same time is still miraculous to me. It’s as if a combustion of sorts occurred, a cataclysmic shift in ourselves. Somehow we brought out the best in one another, and we just kept doing that. It didn’t happen all at once, but every day got better and better. It still does, in fact.

I still remember when I saw the man I love become the father of our children. I had never known I could love someone more than I already did yet it happened. I never knew each day could be more abundant than the one before, yet it happens.

I still remember when I realized our story isn’t done yet. We continue to grow, to cultivate each other. We continue to become more passionate for the other, more selfless, more overflowing with deep affection that cannot be rivaled. We began as teenagers with a reckless, unrefined love. We separated as confused twenty-somethings searching for self. We ran in wrong directions seeking fulfillment yet were brought back together despite time, distance, and change. We persevered through healing, confession, and rejection of this world. We saw the best in one another, and we worked from there. We still work from there.

Sometimes love really is a matter of the heart. You see the heart of another, you’re drawn to it, and you work with that. I’m not of some naive fantasy that says my marriage is perfect. It’s not. It’s hard work, in fact. But it’s also perfect for me. It’s my happily ever after. You just decide to cultivate the good, to forgive the bad, and to trust the story that brings it all together for good.

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Brie Gowen
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Brie Gowen is a 30-something (sliding ever closer to 40-something) wife and mother. When she’s not loving on her hubby, chasing after the toddler or playing princess with her four-year-old, she enjoys cooking, reading and writing down her thoughts to share with others. Brie is also a huge lover of Jesus. She finds immense joy in the peace a relationship with her Savior provides, and she might just tell you about it sometime. She’d love for you to check out her blog at BrieGowen.com.

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