Disclaimer: This story mentions verbal abuse and may be triggering to some.
“Twenty-eight years old. That’s how old I was when my world was flipped upside down. It’s the age I was when the lies I’d been allowing myself to live (along with the ones I didn’t yet know I was living) finally came crashing down. It wasn’t until I was completely broken that I was finally made whole. That was the moment when I finally gave myself completely over to Jesus. He says I was worth the wait, and so are many other pieces of my story.
I had been dating my ex-husband for 3 months when I found out I was pregnant. I wasn’t completely sure how it’d happened. My boyfriend had said he was sterile. But his reaction when I told him was so sweet and he was so supportive. He said the right things at the right time, so I ignored the fact that his story didn’t line up.
I did that a lot with him. I ignored things that I should have dug into more. I ignored instincts that told me something wasn’t right. After all… he was so sweet to me and he was the father of my child. It all happened so fast. What else was I going to do?
So, I stayed with him. Ignoring my better judgement as well as my family’s, I married him a week shy of our first son’s first birthday. By that time, the honeymoon was already over. Even so, I just kept on ignoring. I had gotten so good at it.
Some who have experienced abuse say it’s like a switch flipped one day. That’s not exactly how it was for me. For the most part, it happened gradually, over time, so subtly slipping in that I didn’t even notice. He made me feel small, he would yell, scream even, but he’d always come back later and apologize, saying he was wrong. I just thought it took him time to come around. But I lived on eggshells, never knowing what reaction I was going to get on any given day to any given comment or situation. Living in fear that one day he might snap and take the screaming, the belittling, and the intimidation one step further.
Over time, I believed more and more of the lies he told me, not just about who he was, but about who I was. If only I was better. He did so much for me. I should be more grateful. I could never find someone else like him.
Although I couldn’t put my finger on it, I knew our marriage wasn’t great. But I also knew I said vows. So, when he told me he was ready to have another baby, I jumped at the chance. In my memory, he was so sweet to me during the first pregnancy, and I really wanted to get back to that place. By our first anniversary, I was pregnant.
But things didn’t get better. And soon, without realizing it, I was being isolated from friends and family. I was being forced to choose. I was pulled away from those who might have seen what was truly going on. And what’s worse, I had started lying for him. I was embarrassed by how badly I was treated and I didn’t want people to know. I put on a happy face, and pretended to have a happy marriage. Meanwhile, I lived for those rare days when he was over the top sweet to me again. It was like a hit of dopamine when I got to feel so loved on those days. But those days became more and more rare.
By our second anniversary, I had started looking for Christian marriage counselors. God had been softening my heart over the past two years. I had been seeing a Christian business coach for my job, I had found a new church, and I had started spending much more time in the Word and in prayer, asking God for a heart that desired Him more. Little did I know what God had in store for me. Little did I know he was preparing my heart and putting me in a community of people who would be a pivotal part of my future. By this point, I was 28 years old, and I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to reach that turning point I first told you about.
Before I could even suggest a counselor, things took a sharp turn. He finally admitted to me that he was an addict and an alcoholic. Then, he shut me out, would leave as soon as I got home from work every night, and wouldn’t get home until early morning hours, and even then, he wouldn’t come to bed. He told me he needed space to sort through things. A week later, he sat me down and told me he wanted out, that he had married me for the wrong reasons, and he’d never truly been happy.
The divorce was awful. The absolute worst year of my life. He would agree to something and then take it back days before a hearing. He would use guilt tactics to try to manipulate me. I remember telling my dad one day how I felt like I’d been beaten. His reply, ‘That’s because you have been. You may not have been physically beaten, but you’ve been emotionally beaten.’ That was the first time it finally occurred to me: I had been in an abusive marriage. And I hadn’t even realized it. How does that happen!?
I spent the next several years working on myself while raising my two young children (they were 3 and 1 the year of the divorce). I saw counselors, went to church regularly, started going to my Bible study group, read books and listened to podcasts about abuse, and read my Bible the whole way through for the first time ever. It was a time of healing for me. And God was so faithful to me through it all. His timing in every single part of my journey was (and continues to be) so beautifully planned. It would take many books to share all those beautiful details with you.
I did my best to shelter my children from the pain of it all during those years. I kept them, as best as I could, from knowing what kind of a person their father was. I tried to be my best for them, and to make the best life I could for them. We created our own traditions, routines, memories. It wasn’t long before we had our new normal. And when they talk about it now, I’m happy to say that’s what they remember of it. But… they also know it was hard for me being a single mom.
I dated a few different guys during that time, but it never got serious enough for me to introduce them to my boys until I met a man from our church. He was recently divorced with a daughter and a similar story to mine. I knew early on that he was different. I had been praying about it for years. I told God I was okay being by myself if that is what He had in store for me, but that if it was His Will, I would love a second chance at a true Christian marriage. I knew with this man, God had answered that prayer with a resounding ‘yes!’
God began creating beauty from our ashes instantly. He was writing our beautiful redemption story, and it was very clear to both of us. So, it didn’t take either of us long before we decided we were ready to get married. Especially when our kids seemed nearly as smitten as we were. We began talking in August, started dating in November, told the kids about our relationship in January, got engaged in May, and we were married, officially blending our families together, in August, almost exactly a year from when we first started talking. I call it our grace marriage.
Now, I wish I could end here and say, ‘And we all lived happily ever after.’ But those who have blended families would know that’s a flat out lie. Although our marriage is exponentially happier, more peaceful, and healthier than either of our previous marriages, (spoiler alert) marriage is still hard work! We still disagree. We still get on each others’ nerves. We are still imperfect sinners living in a fallen world. And not only is marriage imperfect, but so is parenting. Especially when it comes to parenting a blended family. There are so many twists and turns to the dynamics of blending two families together. Some that you would never think about until you’re actually living them.
The good Lord knows our first year of marriage wasn’t an easy one. We learned we were pregnant with our son (child number 4 for us) just months after we said, ‘I do,’ (but before we knew we’d be bringing him into the world right smack dab in the middle of a pandemic). Then, I decided to leave my job once he was born so I could stay home with him and do my ‘side hustle’ full time. Then, I made the decision to homeschool the older boys due to everything going on. (So if you’re keeping track, that means in a year I went from a working single mom of 2 to being a married, homeschooling, stay at home mom of 4). And to top it all off, due to some issues with the boys’ bio dad that we hadn’t foreseen, we dealt with a contempt of court case as well as a couple custody battles that resulted in his time being suspended two different times. Needless to say, our first year blending was one heck of a wild ride!
However, my husband and I both have Jesus to come back to. We both desire to love and respect each other well, being an example of Christ and the Church, as marriage was designed to be. We both love all four of our children as our own and want the absolute best for them. And we both desire a healthy and happy marriage and family. One where we not only ‘make it,’ but where we thrive.
They say that on average, it takes about 3-5 years to blend a family together. I can confidently say that we’re still a work in progress after a year and a half. We are still getting to know our bonus children. We are still building relationships with one another. We are still learning and adapting to the changing situations on any given day. We’ve come a long way, but we still have work to do. And maybe we always will.
Being blended is a growing, sanctifying, hard, and yet beautiful experience. I am so proud of our children, my husband, and our family as a whole. When I look back to where the boys and I started at the beginning of the divorce, and see how far we’ve come, it makes me swell with joy. There has been so much healing, so many memories, and so many blessings that have come in that time. And I know there is so much more to come as God continues to create a beautiful testimony from our story. I pray if you are able to relate to any part of our story, that He will do the same for you.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lacy Brown from Nebraska. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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