In 2000, I was dating a man that I believed I would marry. We were extremely compatible and very happy and had dated for 2 years. Neither of us were Christians at the time, and we were practically living together even though we both maintained separate homes. During that year, I became pregnant, and subsequently miscarried. I nearly died as a result of the miscarriage, and spent almost a week in the hospital. After getting out of the hospital, I was encouraged by speaking to a pastor at a friend's church, and soon after I got saved. Things changed with my then boyfriend, as they should have just because I changed. He wasn’t ready to commit to a Christian lifestyle, and just wanted things back to ‘normal’. In 2001 we split up.
Fast forward to 2002, I met someone else, and for all intents and purposes, he is the perfect man. He's God-fearing, God-loving, mature, and caring. I initially didn’t want to date him, not because there were flaws within him, but because I had always held out hope that me and my ex would eventually work things out. But after we dated for a few months, he proposed. I accepted, not because I felt as deeply for him as he did for me but because I couldn’t think of one good reason why I shouldn’t.
We were engaged for a year, and during that year my ex got saved. It wasn’t something that he did for me, it was something that he did for himself, and that made him happy. I found that out (ran into him at a Christian event) about a month before my wedding. I wanted to call off the wedding that day but for a variety of reasons (not wanting to hurt my now husband, financial investments, relationship investments with his family and mine, etc) I did not. I have been married for almost three years, and I miss my ex daily. We have talked, and come to some big realizations about our former relationship, and we believe that we both made mistakes in moving on. I know how God feels about divorce, but I also feel like I have made a big mistake. Am I stuck?
--In Love with the One That Got Away
Dear In Love,
I am a sucker for a love story, always have been, and stories of impeded love are classics. Girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love. For whatever reason, things do not work out for girl and boy, which leaves them to go their separate ways. Time passes, girl and boy bump into each other at an event and there’s no denying that the feeling between them is still there. But things are complicated now. One or both of them is married. What will happen to girl and boy? Will they ever get the chance to be together?
Regardless of what happens, one thing is sure: someone is bound to be hurt in this story. You can bail out of your marriage and race back into the arms of the man that got away. But if you do that, know that your happiness was paid for by another man’s pain and broken heart, namely your husband’s. If he’s as perfect as you say, he doesn’t deserve the turmoil that awaits him. Of course, you can stay in this marriage, but why should you when you’re not, and never have been, truly in love with your husband? Your marriage has been a lie from the start, your letter tells me.
Unfortunately, you leave out some important details from your story: is your ex married? Are children involved? Have you talked with your husband about your feelings for your ex? What was your marriage like before your ex came back into your life?
But judging by the tone of your letter, I suppose that none of that matters. Your letter is that of a woman who’s already left her marriage, not a woman who’s trying to find a reason to stay in her marriage. Promise me one thing, however. Please don't try to convince yourself that because you met up with your ex at a “Christian event” that somehow God had a hand in bringing the two of you back together. If God can be said to have had anything to do with this, it’s just as likely that God orchestrated your bumping into each other to test your morals and your commitment to the vow you made before God.
My best counsel is that you sit down and have a conversation with your husband, tell him about your ex, and with professional counseling, decide together whether the marriage is indeed doomed. I have to tell you that my gut tells me that you’re too far gone to make your marriage work. You’ve convinced yourself that your ex is the man you were meant to be with. Reminds me of the words to a favorite song of mine: "Ever since this world began there is nothing sadder than a one-man woman looking for the man that got away."
When you get back together with him, though, keep in mind that neither of you is the same person you were years ago, and grass always looks greener on the other side. The love we've lost always seems better than the love we have. Only life and time can persuade you otherwise. Some women learn the hard way that the man meant for you, the one God sends into your life, is the man who sticks with you through the snares and tears of life, the man who has the inner scaffolding it takes to negotiate the give-and-take of intimacy and manages to stay centered and faithful.