When my husband and I eloped nearly 28 years ago, we had no idea what we were doing. But we were so distracted by the butterflies running amuck in our bellies that it didn’t even matter.
At 18 years old, we knew everything, and though we’d only dated for three weeks, for me, there was no doubt that he was the one.
I’d like to tell you that once we tied the knot, every day was filled with joyful bliss, but I’m sure you already know that was not the case. The truth is that love and marriage, and the search for happily-ever-afters, can seem pretty complex when it comes to people and emotions and real life. To complicate it further, we added children to the mix immediately.
Over the next couple years, like most marriages, we acquired bills, and sick days, jobs we sort of liked, and difficulty finding the “us” time that was so vital to rekindling that early flame. And by the two-year mark, we were on the fast track to that place that more than 50 percent of marriages end up: divorce.
I still loved him. He still loved me. But “we” were somehow broken, and no talking, soothing or consoling could fix it. It got to a place where I actually packed up and went to my mother’s. That night, my heart was fractured in a million tiny pieces and the physical aching is still tangible as I recall the feeling of utter hopelessness.
Where do you go when you’ve got nowhere to go? I didn’t want to be a divorced mother at 20. Most of all, I just wanted what I was so sure about in the beginning.
That’s when I found a book that a friend had given us as a wedding gift with a simple note:
“When it seems like it just won’t work. Read this.” I pulled it out and started reading and reading, line by line.
When I was done, I knew with certainty two things:
1. Why my marriage was crumbling
2. That I could absolutely fix it.
I applied the practical tools he laid out and within a week my marriage was not only back on track, it was squishy and yummy, and I was vindicated in the fact that he was still the one.
Twenty-eight years later, four kids, two grandkids, we’ve traveled all over the world, and we’ve created a life where we actually get asked frequently, “What’s your secret?”
Which brings me to the actual point of this post.
Our knowledge (and certainty) has given us the tools to help save at least four marriages that I can think of off the top of my head. These were friends who knew we were Scientologists, so it didn’t surprise them when the tools we used were based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard, even though only some of them were Scientologists themselves.
But encountering strangers is a whole different matter. When they open up and tell me that the magic seems to have vanished, or it just feels forced, or they just seem to be co-existing together, or they don’t say anything, but the wonder in their expression is clear when they ask us, “What’s your secret?”
I always struggle with that a little.
I want to tell them, “Well, there’s these tools in Scientology on how to fix a marriage (or any relationship really).”
But there’s this part of me that holds back, because what if they’ve watched some stupid piece of trash TV that gives them some wrong idea about my religion? Have I made enough of an impression that they will recognize it as false and biased, and see me for who I actually am? Will the conversation suddenly change to my needing to handle whatever false information they have about my religion? And if we’re in a very public place, and time is pressed, these questions come up in my head all the more so.
I guess this really comes from having to manage the unanticipated snarkyness that we occasionally come across when a stranger discovers that we’re Scientologists. After all, people don’t typically introduce themselves and then declare their religious inclination. They usually get to know each other, and then perhaps it comes up in more meaningful discussion.
But when you have something practical that can help another, isn’t it more humane to share it, even if there’s a risk they may reject it or you or both? I think so.
I have a friend, Chris, who has been a Scientologist for many years. He was on a flight from Florida to L.A. and sat next to a guy with whom he hit it off immediately. They talked about work, life, marriage and more over the next several hours, and when they landed, they parted with a hearty handshake and the feeling of warmth at having made a new friend.
A year and a half or so later, Chris was walking through the lobby at the Church of Scientology in Clearwater, Florida, and saw his plane friend. Understandably, they were both overjoyed and very surprised to find each other there. The plane friend said to Chris, “Wow! When did you get into Scientology?” And Chris replied, “Oh, I’ve been a Scientologist for over 20 years.” The guy’s face fell as he looked at Chris uncomprehendingly. “But you never mentioned it to me in all those hours that we talked. Why? Didn’t you like me?” The hurt was plain in his eyes as he explained, “I only found out about Scientology eight months ago, and it has saved my life. I needed it before that.” To say that Chris was crushed is an understatement. Of course he wanted to tell him about Scientology, but he had that same “what if…”
The thing is that if you have something that can genuinely help another, it sometimes takes courage to share it, because there are people who will try to taint that offer of help. The trick is to help others anyway.
But he learned a valuable lesson that day, which is why he shared that story with me in the first place, even though it clearly made him uneasy to retell it.
I get it. The thing is that if you have something that can genuinely help another, it sometimes takes courage to share it, because there are people who will try to taint that offer of help. The trick is to help others anyway. The world needs more helpers, and quietly standing by while others suffer is not the answer.
This seems fitting:
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson