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What My Husband’s Death Taught Me about Marriage

Gina & Jim BinderAfter 27 years of marriage, my husband died unexpectedly while lifting weights on a Friday morning. The moment I found his unresponsive body, chaos entered my life.

At the hospital, my son and I sat in a private waiting room.  When three medical professionals entered, I knew he was gone.

But since he died, I’ve learned some profound truths about death and marriage…

Marriage Truth #1: Death doesn’t destroy a relationship.

When a spouse dies, all the feelings we have for them are alive and well.  That’s why the loss feels so huge – one half of our matrimonial unit still functions, while the other half is strangely silent.  At least that’s what I’ve experienced.  My love for this man, and my commitment to him, still flow strong.  Insurance companies and financial institutions can remove his name from our joint accounts.  But nothing can remove him from my heart because…

Death means that the relationship we had morphs into something new.  And it’s my job to discover my new role in that changed relationship, to reconcile my life with his death.  And that leads to the most important thing I’ve learned…..

Marriage Truth #2: Death means we live in the house that love built.       

When a spouse dies, we live with the results of the cumulative effort we put into the relationship. If the marriage was filled with crap, we’re left with a cesspit of dysfunction.  But if it was filled with the consistent effort of two committed people to correct errors, we’re left with a warm embrace and gratitude.  And that eventually helps buffer the huge loss. (Not make it go away, just make it a bit more bearable).

When my husband died, we each knew that we were fiercely devoted to one another. We loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company.  But we did not have a perfect marriage: we were just two imperfect humans committed to making it work.  With remarkable differences, this love and fierce devotion made us perfectly suited for each other.

After more than two decades together, we each learned to take responsibility for our own part of  marital challenges.   We worked hard to build a solid foundation for our relationship.  At various times, divergent religious beliefs, political views, money disagreements, and more serious things huffed and puffed against the house that our love built.  But it stood, surprising some friends and family.

So now I’m still living in the solid house that love built. Our children have witnessed our efforts to correct what was wrong.  And I live with gratitude for the effort we put into our marriage.

What this means for your marriage:  

If you’re married, you’re living in a house that love built. But like the Three Little Pigs, you have a choice of building materials and of effort expended.  What you choose matters, because the Big Bad Wolf of Relationships huffs and puffs on almost all marriages at some point.

If you ignore problems, and take your marriage for granted, the house that love built may be no stronger that one of straw or sticks.  But if you each look in the mirror and ask, “What needs to change in me?”,  and you each work to make those changes, the house that love built is like one of bricks.  Safe from the Big Bad Wolf of Relationships.

I lived a love story for almost three decades.  Sometimes it seemed like a fairy tale, and other times we each starred in the other’s nightmare.  And that’s okay, because real life love stories are messy. The husband and wife are imperfect.  They struggle individually and together. But if they are equally committed to make marriage work, the house that love built becomes solid.

And that’s what I wish for you – to live in a solid house that love built. Not out of fear for what death may one day bring.  But for the beauty of what marriage can mean while you live it.   

What do you think about what I’ve learned?  Speak your mind in the comments.

 

About Gina Binder

Gina Binder loves helping people find the change they need to live the lives they want - one individual or couple at a time. Got a relationship problem? Grab her FREE guide, How to Make Your Relationship Work, where Gina describes practical tips any couple can start using today.
Gina Binder is a Resident in Counseling, supervised by Katherine Rosemond, LPC.

Comments

  1. Gina – this was beautifully written! God will surely use you to help many others who go through similar circumstances. And what a beautiful picture you painted of marriage.

    • Thank you, Dee. I’ve learned that marriage can be a treasure, even when packed with a bit of dysfunction.

  2. Natalie Norris says:

    Beautifully written Gina. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I will keep your wise words in mind – “what needs to change in me?”

    • Natalie – I’ve learned that “What needs to change in me?” is the most powerful question I can ask. Just tweaking our response can move mountains in a relationship.

  3. Debi Bodan says:

    Beautifully stated!!!

  4. Cathy Gee says:

    There are so many truths in this. Love is not an emotion or a feeling, love is a deliberate choice that we make every day to stay committed and to stay married no matter what we face. I pray if I am ever faced with the hand you have been dealt I will somehow be able to see that side of our love. You are an amazing pilar of strength, Gina!

    • Thanks, Cathy. In a marriage, we each make daily investments in our usual reactions and responses. Time and circumstances will reveal the value of those cumulative investments. We all need to invest wisely, stating today.

  5. Gina –
    Thank you for sharing so powerfully about the realities of a house that love built! Martin and I have been married 32 years and I identify with so many of the things you say about two imperfect people being fiercely committed to our marriage.

    • Rebecca, I’m glad we don’t need perfect spouses. We just need two people who are equally committed to make it work, two people who are individually committed to change as needed. So glad you understand that mojo.

  6. Lisa Cicero says:

    Simply Beautiful!

  7. Vera DeWeese says:

    “And that’s what I wish for you – to live in a solid house that love built. Not out of fear for what death may one day bring. But for the beauty of what marriage can mean while you live it.”
    –Gina Binder

    It has been 10 years since my husband of almost 40 years died unexpectedly. Gina, every single thing you say rings exactly true in my ears. On my side I continue to evolve because of that relationship, knowing that nothing can be added to living life together, but nothing and no one can take anything away from it either. The time we spent together has a wholeness that is part of me and still helps make me who I am. Now that I married again, none of that has changed. These arte beautiful true words.

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Vera. These are truths that matter to us before and after the death of our spouses.

  8. Lori says:

    Gina, I love your post. You are an amazing woman! Despite your loss you are able to share your feelings and incredible insight about marraige and committment. I thank you for that. Like you said, we are all imperfect, and I’m sure most of us could find something in ourselves or in our marraiges that we need to work on. I hope your clients realize how blessed they are to have such an amazing, caring person guiding them through their struggles. Thank you again for sharing with us!

    • I’m glad my post resonated with you, Lori. I’ve learned that the greatest truths are best understood when we share our personal stories.

  9. Shaewc says:

    Thank you for sharing so openly. I have been married 21 years, and my husband and I are finally learning to build our marriage house of brick. Sometimes I think God allowed us to struggle through the ugliness so that we could fully appreciate the beauty of our relationship once we allowed Him to guide it. Thank you again.

    • Shae – it took us about 2 decades to kick our relationship building practices into high gear. You are right: Moving through struggles as a Team builds relationship strength.

  10. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  11. Carol Jamison says:

    Gina, thanks so much for sharing this. God is using you, and a very difficult time in your life, to reach out and help others who have experienced or will experience the sudden loss of a spouse. I will be sharing this. I am so proud of you and continue to keep you in my prayers.

  12. Susan says:

    Thanks for the reminder that just because a loved one dies the relationship is not destroyed & that our feelings are alive & well. I’m so sorry for your loss, Sweet Friend.

  13. Amy Robertson-Smith says:

    Gina,
    Well said! I live in a house that Love AND the Lord has built. It’s true that all strong relationships have a commitment. We took those vows and who could have predicted 30 years ago what that would mean. I never would have imagined the life adventure the Lord has provided us. What a blessing your marriage has been to you. Now you have the gift to spread. Thanks for sharing. God bless, Amy

  14. Becky says:

    I lost my beloved husband of 25 years from metastatic pancreatic cancer on September 29, 2014. He was my best friend and soulmate. He loved and Cherished me…… When he died, a part of me died too. I miss his comforting hugs, soft touches, smiles across a room, sound of a kiss when I entered a room, his laughter, his joy of life and living. He was the happiest person I have ever known. Always looking for an opportunity to help others. It was my honor and my blessing to have been loved by him. I was having a particularly difficult afternoon when I came across your post Gina…., I just want you to know that your words brought me so much comfort. Thank you.

    • I’m so glad my words resonated with you, Becky. Thank you for sharing your story. Just this week, I thought about how the love we shared helps to balance the sense of loss that remains. We must remember that we are still cherished and loved daily.

  15. Lisa Connors says:

    Gina,

    You definitely touched the heart of what many of us think. Thanks for being transparent, and thanks for being the woman of God that you are. You are a jewel!

    Lisa

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