It’s unfortunate that some have interpreted what I’ve shared in this blog as judgmental, and believe maybe I should worry more about the plank in my own eye than the speck in my neighbor’s eye. This surprised me initially, since most of what I’ve shared is directly related to what I have learned from my personal failures – in love, marriage, and fatherhood. But I’ve tried to dwell more on the positive lessons, the successes following failures, and what I have found are the principles in turning Good Love into Better Love.
I have alluded to the fact that I refer to Thanksgiving 2011 as my Black Thanksgiving, and promised to share some of that history. This past June 23, at the big dinner for my 41st high school reunion, there had been a lot of talk about failed marriages and messy divorces. A classmate asked me how long I had been married. I replied that I had been married for 36 years, although we had each left the marriage for a period of separation. The classmate responded: “so, you’ve actually had two pseudo-divorces?”
I wouldn’t call them pseudo-divorces, but on Thanksgiving morning in 2011, I had a quite unpleasant surprise. At 11:30 AM, with the turkey in the oven and my sons, my mother, and my sister enroute to my house for dinner, my wife came to the bedroom door and announced “I’m leaving,” and left.
I had become involved with a recovery program called Celebrate Recovery, after examining myself and looking at past hurts, hang ups, and habits, as well as compulsive behaviors and character defects. This was partially the result of realizing that I could do nothing to change or fix another person I love, and that I could only work on changing myself and how I respond to my circumstances. But Black Thanksgiving was a wake-up call and definitely got my attention. There were two areas of my life that changed immediately, one without even realizing it until nine months later. And there was renewed emphasis on some other areas that need work. My wife had planned to stay separated for 6 to 12 months, until she saw some real, and permanent, change. But, in that first month she saw the real changes and sensed that they were lasting changes, and so moved back in on Christmas Eve – one month to the day from Black Thanksgiving.
I had shared the 1983 surprise of showing up on a white horse in a suit of armor – the tv news clip is here. But for years the knight on a white horse had a dark heart. In the nine month post-Black Thanksgiving conversation, we both agreed that this last year of our marriage has been the best by far, better even than the first year as newlyweds.
These are the lessons I learned, that I would like to share with you:
(1) you can’t change or fix someone else, you can only change yourself
(2) a true commitment, as in a covenant marriage, is the foundation for overcoming struggles and growing into a stronger relationship
(3) sometimes you have to accept that you can’t change something by yourself, you have to seek the power and guidance of a Higher Power, the Lord Jesus Christ
(4) Celebrate Recovery share and support groups, and lessons, are valuable tools in recovering from hurts, hang ups and habits. (Google “Celebrate Recovery” to find a group near you.)
(5) The book What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him by Byron Forrest Yawn led me to realize and understand some of my shortcomings as a father, and brought to light a character defect that I didn’t realize for nine months was what had prompted Black Thanksgiving. Even if you don’t like the spiritual side of the book, or it seems “religious,” and that is a turn off to you, you will definitely get something useful from this book.
Have you had a failure that led to starting over and a huge success? If not, it is indeed less painful to learn from the mistakes of others rather than repeat them.