Somehow, Ben and I are constantly involved in marriage continuing education. Before we were married, we participated in pre-marital counseling. While we were engaged and in our first couple years of marriage, we participated in a weekly married couples Sunday school class. In all honesty, we went for the free food. When we moved to Texas, we led an Art of Marriage table for young couples. Now, we lead a life group for young couples where we often discuss marriage. Even then, on our weekly Saturday morning dates, we often talk about our own marriage. So, it is a huge part of our lives. In our four and a half years of marriage, we choose to make ours a priority. With divorce rates sky-rocketing, especially among military couples, we choose to surround ourselves with positive examples, so that we may be a positive example.
During these classes, we often hear of the typical characteristics of a wife in the marriage and the typical characteristics of the husband. During these conversations, you will find Ben and I smiling at each other. We know we are completely opposite than the typical married couple. We laugh at the fact that in our own marriage, I am known for being cold-hearted and a poor communicator. Ben, on the contrary, is known for constantly taking inventory of our marriage, communicating through the peaks and valleys of life, and being willing to express himself.
Ben is so, so good for me. He saved me from becoming an unemotional stone woman who refused to have any fun. Before meeting Ben, I never really dreamed of marriage or my wedding. Ben, however, very much dreamed of this. While little boys were dreaming of becoming an astronaut or a doctor, Ben dreamed of becoming a husband and father. I, on the other hand, always figured I would marry a doctor when I was thirty. Not because it was some dream of mine. It just made sense. I would be a nurse, meet a doctor, then we would get married. We would proceed to live our financially stable lives parallel to each other while pursuing our own careers. It just made sense.
Then I met Ben when I was twenty, not thirty. He significantly turned my life upside down, for the better. I realize how I could never have married someone so similar to me. Ben and I are similar just enough to make us a great team. We both have A-type personalities which allows us to accomplish goals together and be effective partners. But, we are so different in other areas that it allows us to grow each other. I brought organization and structure to our marriage. Ben brought communication and fun.
Those that knew me before I met Ben, like my family and close friends, saw a dramatic difference in my nature when Ben entered my life. Like Laura, I brought the eating disorder baggage into our early years of marriage. I tell Ben now that he had the power to make or break me. I was in a vulnerable and fragile state when I met him, although I did not know it at the time. If you were to ask Ben today, he would say that he looked at me like a flower. A fragile flower that had not yet bloomed. He knew God entrusted me to him, so he could nurture and grow me to my full potential. And that is exactly what Ben did. He handled me with such care.
My stone-cold nature was a façade. I found, through my relationship with Ben, that I was extremely sensitive and emotional. But, I used a stone-cold front as a barrier because I did not know how to process emotions healthily. That is what the eating disorder was for. The eating disorder allowed me to process any emotion, so I did not have to sit with it and process it myself. The eating disorder was my protective mechanism. By engaging the eating disorder, I did not have to feel the brunt of anxiety, stress, incompetence, or embarrassment. Instead, I would just dump it all down the toilet. But, Ben did not permit the eating disorder to infiltrate our marriage. While I did relapse and struggle during those early years, it was all on the road to recovery.
Ben would always ask two questions when I came to him after a relapse: Have you asked God for forgiveness? And what is the root issue?
By always asking these questions, Ben accomplished two major things that were key to my recovery. First and foremost, he taught me to have a relationship with Christ before our marriage relationship. As a result, I ended up falling in love with this Jesus. Then, I developed a heart for ministry which is how I am here writing to you. By pursuing my own relationship with Christ, I found the perfect friend, my true companion. While I love speaking positively of Ben, he is not perfect, and I am not perfect. By putting Christ first in my life, I consequently put less pressure on Ben to be the perfect husband and vice versa.
Secondly, by exploring the root issue, I was forced to look beyond superficial answers. I had to examine my heart and mind instead. Oftentimes, the relapse was out of selfishness, lack of self-control, and distance from Christ. It was a rocky road. But, as my relationship with Christ grew, the Holy Spirit’s voice spoke louder and louder. It got to the point that I would be on the verge of a relapse and stop because the conviction was that strong.
Each day, as the eating disorder became a thing of my past, I began taking care of my spirit, my mind, and my body. That fragile flower that Ben so delicately cared for began to blossom. And it showed. I learned how to dress myself instead of hiding behind baggy clothing. I learned how to relax and rejuvenate instead of go-go-going all the time. And I fell in love with Jesus. All thanks to Ben handling his fragile flower with care.