Is Love Enough?

Christine Jahn

My best friend, Melanie, just sent me another email wondering where her husband is. He's been gone for four days. Am I surprised? Hardly. He does this all the time. My friend loves her family very much. Sometimes, I think too much. She puts up with stuff that nobody should have to put up with. She's a Christian and doesn't believe in divorce, if it's at all possible to work through it. She tells me that she really doesn't feel like she owes her husband anything anymore, but when she made her vows she not only made them to him, but to God. She wants to make sure she does the right thing.

Then there's Rochelle, who is in a disturbingly similar situation. She stays not for religious reasons but because she loves her husband. This is her first serious relationship. She says that she waited so long to get married, thirty-two years to be exact, that she doesn't want to just give up. She saved herself for marriage and he is the only man she has ever been intimate with. She tries hard to be a good wife and she feels like he's not doing his part. She's been trying to conceive. Just a couple of weeks ago, he told her that he doesn't want to have children. He knows how much she wants kids and, at first, he said he did too. Now, she is heartbroken.

I believe that both of these women are scared of being alone. I can relate because I've been in this situation before myself. They are all in love, but what exactly is love? Love is defined as a deep and tender feeling of affection for, or devotion to, a person. Love might be enough to start a relationship and maybe even a marriage, but will it keep one going? When is love enough?

As for Melanie's story, this is her second marriage. She has a daughter now grown by her first husband and an eleven-year-old daughter by her present husband. This husband is selfish, insecure, irresponsible, and angry. She has begged, screamed, cried, and understood more than any person can imagine. Last summer he ran their credit card bill up to eleven thousand dollars and didn't bring anything home to show for it. Melanie had to borrow money from her mother to pay it off so that they wouldn't have to file for bankruptcy. He doesn't show up for things he is supposed to, like his daughter's sixth grade graduation. Anytime she confronts him, he either won't talk about it or he cries and begs her not to leave him. She confided to me that he tells her that he's not good enough for her and he never will be. Melanie hurt her back at her last job and now she is unable to work. She says she's scared that she can't make it financially without him, so she keeps trying and he keeps lying.

Rochelle's husband is basically absent. They've only been married a year and the trouble started before they were even wed, as most problems do. He says he'll be somewhere and he's either hours late or never shows up at all. He always has an excuse and she always gives in, after a fuss of course. One night he didn't get home until almost morning and he told her it was because he had fallen asleep at the laundry mat. He did do the laundry, so who knows? Just two days ago, he didn't get home from work until six thirty a.m. and he should've been home at six thirty p.m. He said he'd fallen asleep in his truck in the parking lot because he was so tired that he was afraid to drive home. In his defense, I have seen him fall asleep at the drop of a dime. He also has helped more people with car trouble than anybody I have ever seen, at least that's what he says when he's late. Rochelle goes most places alone and when he does go, he doesn't have much to do with her. She's been fed up for a while now. Anytime she threatens to leave, he cries and begs her not to. What I don't understand is that if they care so much, why they won't change. Maybe they don't believe these women will really leave, and maybe they're right.

What if it were a man in this situation? Well, there's Will. I met him at my job and we became good friends. I was going through a divorce and having a hard time with it. He listened to me talk about my relationship problems and after a while he started confiding to me about his marriage. His wife came from a wealthy family, and he worked all the overtime he could because he felt the need to keep her in the lifestyle in which she was accustomed. He worked so much that on several different occasions he fell asleep driving home. Will told me that his wife had about fifty pairs of shoes and always wanted more. The thing that really struck me was the fact that he absolutely adored her. She was snotty to all of his friends and acted like she was better than everybody. She made him feel like he wasn't good enough and he worshipped her. After he really started trusting me, he told me that he suspected his wife of having an affair. He followed her to a man's apartment and when he went to the door, he got into a fight with the "other" man. Will ended up with a broken arm and his wife was mad at him for upsetting her friend. She denied there was anything going on and he let it drop. I think he was afraid that if he pushed the issue, she would leave him for the "friend."

My last relationship was similar in many ways to all of these. The man I dated, Kyle, was an alcoholic. Like the others, he didn't show up on time and usually came in drunk. When my kids had ball games he would tell me he would be there and then show up about two minutes before the game was over. His most famous excuse was that he had to mow his mother's yard. I am sure it was just another alibi. He did mow her yard for her (he is a very good son) but I don't think it needed mowing that often.

We dated for a couple of years but thankfully never married. We broke up quite often and most of the time I was the one who left and came back. Why? I loved him and didn't want to be alone. I also had this fairy tale image of changing him and living happily ever after. Sometimes he would pull the crying and begging thing and it always worked. Like Melanie's husband, Kyle told me that I deserved better than him and he didn't know why he did the things he did. I begged him to go to AA and to work on our relationship. He always promised he would, we'd get back together, and then he wouldn't.

Then after two years I was fed up, and my feelings for him started to change. I didn't want my kids to grow up around that kind of behavior and I wanted somebody who would be there for all three of us. One night, we were at a club with some of our friends and our waitress told me that she knew Kyle. I asked her how and she said that he always stopped by another bar she worked at on his way home from work. He had promised me that he wouldn't go to bars without me anymore, so I asked him about it. In front of all our friends, he told me that he had been lying to me and that he had never stopped going to that bar. We had a huge argument and I told him I never wanted to see him again. The thing that I knew, but he didn't, was that I meant it this time. After just a week, I went out on a date with someone else. That's the first time I had ever done that. I would normally sit at home crying over him. I finally figured out that he was right about one thing: I do deserve better.

When Kyle found out that I wasn't sitting home, he was very upset. He begged me to come back, promised he'd change, and even said he wanted to marry me. I knew he was lying and I told him so. I ended up marrying the man that I had the date with. He is an excellent husband to me and a wonderful father to my two children.

I can't help but wonder why all of us put up with being treated less than favorably. Melanie says she's afraid of missing God's will for her life. Rochelle's reason is that she saw my sister and I both go through divorces and she doesn't want to go through one. Will never even considered leaving. I, personally, was scared of never finding somebody who would treat me right and who would want both my children and me.

Why did all of these people treat us this way? Melanie's husband told her that he never felt like anything he did was good enough for her. He thinks he'll never live up to her expectations, and that they view marriage differently. Rochelle's husband says he's happy with the way things are. He doesn't feel the need to change himself or their relationship. Will thinks that his wife is just spoiled. As for Kyle, he didn't think he could give me the kind of relationship I needed. He didn't want to be responsible for somebody else's happiness. He did have a point; he couldn't make me happy, only I could. My conclusion? They treated us this way because we let them.

Melanie's always asked me if the final breakup between me and Kyle was hard. I tell her that all the times before that were, but once I made up my mind, it was pretty easy. She needs to decide whether she's going to leave her second husband and find what she's looking for or stay and stop fighting with him. The struggle is the hard part.

Is love enough? Melanie and Will and Rochelle will get there one of these days, because love isn't always enough. I believe you also need trust, respect, caring, honor, and time together. I had heard this said before. What got me going and kept me going was this: "All you have to do is hate where you're at more than you fear where you're going."

© Christine Jahn

Christine Jahn is a freelance writer from Utica, Ky. She specializes in family oriented and/or Christian nonfiction. She has numerous articles published in print and online magazines, as well as newspapers.

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