We learn it as little girls. The stories we hear end with “and they lived happily ever after.” And we hear it as young women when they speak of finding your “knight in shining armor” or your “soulmate.”
The breakdown happens because we don’t truly know what’s going on in the “perfect” lives of others. The Hallmark film ends when the guy gets the girl; the Cinderella story ends with the perfect wedding. But in our lives, we realize that the shining armor just means there hasn’t been a battle yet.
In my experience, I’ve found two specific things that have kept our marriage going: God and grit.
Not a Fairy Tale
I met Brandon, my “knight in shining armor.” We dated for six months and were engaged for six months, but I didn’t really know him until we got married.
My failure to see my husband’s brokenness and my happily-ever-after presumption when we were first married set me up for disappointment. That’s when I found out he wasn’t really a “knight in shining armor.” He was a foot soldier who was already battered from battles previously won and lost.
Within three months of being married, the honeymoon stage was over.
I found out my husband was addicted to pornography. The realization that my husband was already cheating on me with other women washed over me, and I felt crushed. Over the next four years, we were thrown into a battle for our marriage.
My husband struggled with habits seeded and grown from over a decade of looking at pornography and self-indulgence. He was set up for failure in a society that values self-indulgence and whatever feels good. My husband’s desire for freedom was genuine but his will was battle-weary.
For four years I felt:
- Emotionally manipulated
This was not the fairy tale I imagined.
Learning to Trust God
At once I sought to fix the addiction with what I thought were a few strokes of general common sense, “Just decide not to do it. Why is that so hard?” We battled each other head-on, as though that was the real problem. We had to learn that the war wasn’t against each other, it was against the addiction and the learned behaviors. For my part, I was overwhelmed with impatience. I didn’t understand the nature of addiction and how hard it was to break away from it.
My reliance on God kept me sane. He became my knight in shining armor. I prayed and spoke with God on a daily basis. I argued with Him, I cried with Him, and I let Him know when I was mad at Him.
He never left me. He encouraged me in this fight to stay with my husband and fight by his side.
Becoming a Gritty Shield-Maiden
God taught me how to have grit. I wasn’t going to be the princess that gets saved in this story, I was a shield maiden, fighting alongside my foot soldier husband. I had to change my attitude; I could only change myself. If we hadn’t had had God in our marriage in a real and tangible way and believed in the vows we had made on the day of our wedding, I am positive we would not be together today.
We made progress slowly. We won some battles, and we lost some battles, but God gave us hope to win the war. We had to gain and learn to use a new set of weapons for this fight. We went to counseling. We attended an intense marriage retreat called Retrouvaille. We actively pursued Christ and had great community support.
After seven years, we are battle-wounded and scarred. Our armor is no longer shiny, but we are stronger than we have ever been. We are closer than we have ever been. Like two strangers that go into battle together, coming home together with wounds and scars; you’re now friends and on a whole deeper level than those who did not battle with you.
Tonia Clark is a wife to Brandon and a stay-at-home mom to two children. She and Brandon have fought hard to save their marriage after Brandon’s pornography addiction, and they use their story to encourage others to find hope and healing. Tonia and her family live in Minnesota.