The Day My Marriage Broke My Heart
BY: KELLY JOY FJESTAD
The heart is powerful. It wants to believe the best, hope for the unfathomable, and love deeply. The heart seeks to be understood, to be accepted, to be loved in return. The heart is our motivation for pushing harder, digging deeper, and hanging on when things get tough.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:23
When we fix our heart on something we want, there is nothing that can get in the way or prevent us from reaching our goal. We can climb to the highest heights, swim to the deepest depths, believe for the greatest miracles, and hope for the desired outcome beyond all reason.
When our heart is healthy, we can find strength we didn’t know we had, we can accomplish goals we didn’t know we had the ability to achieve, and we can love from the very depths of our souls.
If that was all there was to life, we would be unstoppable! We would set our focus on whatever our hearts desired and off we would go, overcoming the world. Unfortunately, most of us have experienced the cruel reality of a broken heart. In a moment, our dreams can shatter and leave the pieces of our lives crumbled in an unrecognizable pile on the floor.
The death of a loved one leaves a hole so wide and gaping in your heart that you don’t know if you’ll be able to take the next breath. The gut-wrenching words and actions of a friend cut so deep you’re sure there is a visible wound in your heart. The loneliness of unreturned love promises to swallow you whole if you let it.
Heartbroken. Lonely. Abandoned. Rejected. Betrayed. Grieved. Heartbroken.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be married. As early as Kindergarten, I was getting in trouble for chasing a boy around the room and trying to kiss him. Somewhere deep inside, my desire was always to be a wife.
God fulfilled that dream early. My husband and I started dating the weekend I graduated from high school. We dated for a couple years and married shortly after I turned 21… he was only 19-years-old. My heart was happy! Our wedding day was absolutely pure joy! I was so excited to spend the rest of my life with my best friend.
The first couple of years were great! Marriage was just as amazing as I had imagined it would be. I was convinced it was going to be that way forever.
But then something changed.
I should tell you my husband grew up on a dairy farm. When we got married, I knew farming was in our future. However, my husband had promised we would never dairy farm. We always planned on taking over the crops and the fields, but we had no intention of ever owning any cows.
You see, dairy farming is work. Twice a day, every day, morning and night, the cows HAVE to be milked. There are no sick days. There are no vacation days. There is no sleeping in. There are no “spend all day at the lake and get home late” days because the cows come first.
I didn’t want that lifestyle. And, neither did my husband.
After we got married, we moved away to go to college. Life was really good. We had our first baby and bought a house. Sure, my husband worked a lot and was busy with college, but we still found a lot of time to be together. We would walk and walk and walk — one of our favorite things to do together.
Shortly after our second anniversary, we moved back to our hometown. My husband transferred schools, and he began to farm with his parents. Still, the promise that we would not take over the dairy piece of the farm was firmly intact.
About 30 days later, my husband came home with some paperwork for me to sign. He had gone out with his dad that day and bought eight dairy cows. He needed me to sign the loan he had gotten to buy them. I was shocked. I was also young and didn’t really know what to do, so I signed the loan. A piece of my heart broke that day as I felt lied to and betrayed. All of a sudden, my life was starting to turn into something I had never imagined it would become. All the promises my husband had made turned to dust.
You might think I was overreacting. Believe me, I tried to tell myself I was. But, the reality of what had just happened did not take long to unfold.
You see, the Bible tells us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) My husband’s treasure — his money — was suddenly in the dairy. His heart followed shortly after.
The dairy became his number one priority. He started working even longer hours. I would joke other wives would complain when their husbands would come home late from their 9-5 jobs. But my husband worked 5am to 9pm, and that was if he left late and got home early. He was gone A LOT!
One of the things I had looked forward to the most about marriage was having someone to do things with. Unfortunately, my marriage didn’t look anything like that. My marriage was more about my husband having someone to take care of all the details of living — cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, taking care of the yard, etc. so he could focus on his true passion — the cows. I felt more like his mother than his wife.
For our third anniversary, we went to a dairy convention. Trust me, it is as boring as it sounds. We booked an extra night at the hotel to celebrate our anniversary. It was quite a sacrifice because we were beyond broke at this point and a night at a hotel was definitely not in our budget. However, I had high hopes a night together was exactly what we needed to get back on track. I thought if I told him how lonely I had been lately, he would respond with love and care and make me feel special as he always had done in the past.
I was wrong. That night, I shared with my husband how I felt lonely and abandoned, how I was sad the dairy cows seemed to be taking so much of his time, and how I didn’t feel as important as I used to. Instead of showing care and concern, he responded in anger and told me, “If I have to choose between you and the dairy, I’ll choose the dairy!”
That night as I opened my heart, instead of being mended back together, it was destroyed into a thousand tiny pieces.
I remember sitting on the bed, six months pregnant with our second son, feeling as if my world had stopped. This person who had promised to love me for the rest of our lives just told me he wouldn’t choose me. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.
My heart was broken that day. My dreams for the future seemed so very far away. What was I supposed to do? I felt so very, very unloved. And yet, I had made a commitment to love this man for the rest of my life. How could I love someone who didn’t love me back?
I did the only thing I knew to do — I ran into the arms of Jesus. I prayed and prayed. I read the Bible. I cried, a lot. I tried my very best to love my husband well. I made the choice to honor my covenant, even when it hurt so very much. Even when I wanted to leave. Even when he wasn’t honoring his.
It can be very tempting to take our broken hearts and wrap them in bubble wrap, so they can never break again. We put the pieces back together ourselves and put up walls and boundaries to protect our hearts from ever having to experience that type of pain again. The problem is, we also miss out on the blessings.
Allowing God to heal your heart is a process. Choosing to obey the word of God daily — to do things His way even when your flesh does not want to. To forgive, forgive, forgive. And then forgive some more. To take your broken heart and place it at the feet of Jesus, over and over again. It isn’t easy.
Isaiah 61:1 tells us Jesus came to “heal the brokenhearted.” Not just bandage it up. Not just reduce the pain. Not just treat the symptoms. But to HEAL! To make whole again!
It took time. It was not easy. But slowly my marriage began to heal. As I showed my husband the same grace and forgiveness God has shown me, God began to change my husband’s heart. He began to turn his heart back towards me. God began to open his eyes to the truth of how he had been treating me and slowly things began to improve.
God also healed my heart. He gracefully took the broken pieces and knit them back together— allowing me to love fully, to forgive completely, and to experience the freedom I had always longed for. My heart is not stitched back together with my own feeble attempts to achieve comfort and protection. Instead, my heart is truly healed by the powerful, unshakable LOVE of God.
I am so thankful I didn’t leave — that I chose to fight for my marriage. God took the heartbreak, the pain, the brokenness, and the loneliness and He turned it into something good. He restored what was lost. He gave me the marriage I had always dreamed of having.
When we allow God to heal our hearts, it is without protective barriers. God heals our hearts so we can truly love again. We can give and receive love fully, knowing the possibility of being broken again is a reality — but the same God who healed the first time will heal again.
Kelly is a wife and mother of five children living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She is an ordained minister and author of PAUSED: Protecting Your Faith When God Says "Wait" and Pursuit: The Cross. For more info visit: kellyjoy.org