Once upon a time, though this is a true story, I facilitated an informal support group of wives married to men with disabilities. Most of the ladies were older than me, most had little exposure to disability prior to their husband’s accident or illness. None of them chose to marry someone with a disability. Each month I listened to their stories and concerns and realized my life with Jerry was easy compared to theirs. I held back from sharing too deeply from my life because it seemed to pale in comparison to what these ladies shared. They needed a safe place to be able to vent and talk freely.
After a few months I decided enough trust had been built and it was time for me to take the plunge with them. Jerry and I had recently been through a rough period – nothing earth shattering, but still, unpleasant. At our next meeting I shared some of that with the ladies. They expressed relief to know I/we were like them. I felt like our group had bonded on a deeper level.
Later that week I got a phone call from one of the husbands. After sharing the initial pleasantries he expressed his sorrow to hear about the difficulties Jerry and I were having. He never thought we’d be on the verge of divorce like this.
WHAT? I had no idea what he was talking about.
Then he went on to say that his wife had told him about the conflict Jerry and I had and he just hoped we would not split up. After all we were the first couple living with disability in marriage they had ever met.
My first inclination was to say, “Do you have any idea the things your wife has said about you?” Thankfully God held my tongue on that one. Next I wanted to ask to speak with his wife to see if she understood confidentiality. But God said this was not the time.
Instead I assured him that we had weathered a little storm, like every marriage encounters. We were not planning to split, and had never entertained that thought. I thanked him for his prayers and welcomed him to continue to intercede for us.
I learned a few lessons from this experience:
- Groups want and need their leaders to be real. Even if the leader’s life is different than that of the others, authenticity from the start matters. Leaders though, need to balance being open while also learning with whom and what we are safe to share.
- Marriage is hard. Every marriage goes through difficult spots. Don’t be surprised or alarmed when someone you thought “has it all together” shares that they don’t. We are all broken people in need of a Savior.
- Unless it persists, there is no need to fight back against the rumors, let them die. Love one another, take the matter to God, and pray for the other people involved.
We all need people who will accept us as we are, share real life with one another and encourage honesty and growth in our marriages. Where do you find that support in your marriage? If you don’t have someone, pray about finding that support, whether as a couple or individuals.
Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1 NIV