7 Parables of a Completed Marriage: One – The Sacrifice of Pain, Part B

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A parable on pain from the marriage of Daniel and Chloe.

Daniel and I (Chloe) had been married almost two years. We were very much in love and spent almost all of our free time together. We were not accustomed to conflict between us and thus, were completely unprepared for the event which follows. Even now, I shutter to think of the damage this event could have brought in our marriage, if I had not realized something extraordinary about dealing with pain.

In the beginning of our marriage I wanted so much to please Daniel and serve him in ways that would give him pleasure. He was always doing so much for me. Therefore, I started preparing something for him everyday after he returned home from work. It was a very personal thing and I took a long time preparing it for him each day. He seemed to be really pleased with it and it gave me so much pleasure to do it for him. This had been continuing for almost 16 months when, one evening during our after-diner talk by the fire, he said; You know Chloe, I don’t really care for this (referring to my daily preparation for him). Would you mind not doing it.

I was stunned by this spontaneous moment of honesty since I had no idea he didn’t appreciate my effort. I suppose my face was a clear map of shock and hurt because he immediately read my reaction and tried to soften his comment. In answer to my obvious question; Why didn’t you say something 16 months ago?, he stumbled and stuttered out a defenseless reply. His reply was genuine and centered on the fact that he knew I really liked doing this and he didn’t want to hurt me by rejecting the gesture. He thought I wouldn’t continue with this and it would stop by its own accord.

We talked for about an hour. He apologized and asked me to forgive him. He also, fully admitted that it was wrong of him not to tell me honestly in the beginning, and that he had been ‘thick’ for not understanding that this would be interpreted by me as some kind of betrayal of trust. I did forgive him and tried to rationally deal with the tremendous sense humiliation I felt for doing something I thought was so self-sacrificing and wonderful for my husband while he, all this time, was wishing I wouldn’t do it. However, I felt betrayed and humiliated.

Over the next couple of days, I ran and re-ran all the logic as to why I needed to let this go now and return to the extremely generous and transparent intimacy Daniel and I had always shared. But, something was growing in me like a tumor. I had forgiven him and knew I loved him deeply…but, I didn’t know how to deal with the pain of having my trust in him betrayed. Deep down I knew I had a small, tiny fear of another betrayal happening. These ten days between the event and my realization were, I think, the most agonizing days I have ever spent.

I watched everyday at the disappointment and then suffering agony in Daniel’s face as I continued to defy his hopes that this was over and we would be as we were before. We were behaving with normal geniality and concern for one another. There were no angry accusations or arguments. But, we both knew that this unresolved pain in me was building, day by day, a partition in my soul. It was keeping me from giving myself to him completely. I was becoming destroyed by my own divided soul.

The crisis moment came on day ten when Daniel looked at me before leaving for work and uttered with pleading voice, You need to help me make it right Chloe. I can’t sustain this separation. I knew that it wasn’t he who should do something to make it right. It was me…but what? The pain seemed to be unbearable.

I turned to God and prostrated myself on the floor before His presence crying; Dear God, this wall of pain will kill us. I don’t know how to make it go away. Please, help me. I cried more and muttered into the carpet, and then, I went quiet inside. I listened, as a well-known scripture formed in my mind; …though you slay me, yet will I hope in you Job 13:13. I began to dwell on this idea of not having my pain somehow treated and soothed away by Daniel or God, which would be some kind of restitution for the wrong I had suffered. Instead, I started to feel a kind of exhilaration at the idea of simply giving it up – sacrificing it for the opportunity to once more completely and vulnerably trust Daniel. After some time, it became wonderfully clear. This is what real love was about…taking the risk again and again, trusting again and again in the one you loved so dearly… even if it happens once more. I made a decision at that moment to let go of my pain and concentrate on trusting Daniel – giving myself to him without reservation.

It was ironic. I realized that by sacrificing this pain in me and choosing instead to trust Daniel’s love for me, I had actually given him the most valuable gift of our marriage. He understood as much also and his gratitude was deeply moving.

Kathleen’s footnote:
I have taken this event into my own single life and applied this wisdom over and over. It has been a miraculous experience for me to simply abandon pain in a direct exchange for trusting, hoping and loving God’s providence in my life. I have gleaned from Daniel and Chloe’s marriage the liberating feeling of sacrificing pain and disarming its destructive results in my life: alienation, self-pity, bitterness, doubt and coldness. Once we refuse to hang onto pain, it looses its grip on us.

Next post will be Parable 2: An Offer of Grace