Remembering that Nora enjoyed handwritten notes from me, I wrote her a nine-page letter, detailing my conciliatory thoughts. I asked her to forgive me, and admitted I didn’t know how to make our marriage work. I told Nora in essence, “I don’t know what you were looking for in me as your husband. I’ve been trying to demonstrate that I love you in words and actions, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for you. I’ve felt like I’ll never achieve the seemingly impossible standard you’ve set for your ideal husband.”
As part of our original Christmas plan, I flew to Missouri to help Nora drive back to our home. I gave her the letter I’d written and waited for her response. Although deeply hurt by my admission of thinking about leaving her, she acted like Jesus and forgave me.
Nora then shared that it had been a strange Christmas without me. She had observed her newlywed siblings (two brothers and youngest sister) and their spouses decked out in holiday attire and had seen their baby girls, Kaya and Annika, in big bows. Nora noticed the special efforts her parents and siblings made to celebrate the holy-day of Christmas. She wondered: What has happened to Danny and me. He’s off doing . . . what? – I don’t know. He didn’t even call me on Christmas Day.
During one of those days during Christmas 2010, Nora sat beside her dad (the consummate card player) in front of a fireplace at the Carlson’s cottage and said, “I wish I could give a rip about my marriage!”
“Danny’s a good man,” her dad replied. “Maybe because of his background and his losses, he just doesn’t have as many cards in his deck as most people do. Maybe he’s offering you all he does have.”
That image sank deep into Nora. She determined to be content with the cards I had to offer from the hand I’d been dealt. Even if I could never give Nora what she yearned for in a love relationship, she determined to accept what I could offer, and not demand what I could not give.
Nora felt as if she had been given another chance through my letter asking for her forgiveness and my admission that I didn’t know how to be the husband she wanted. She then dropped a bombshell on me in response to my question of “What do we need to do?”
“We need to go to counseling,” she said.
Immediately I pushed back internally and thought: What? Counseling? No way! I’m a lieutenant colonel in the Marines. I counsel people and help them get their acts together. I’ve got my act together!
But she gently pressed her solution to me. Soon after we returned home to Northern Virginia from our Christmas apart and after our renewed promise to nurture and heal our relationship, Nora bumped into a friend after a ladies’ luncheon.
Would we go to counseling to save our marriage?
To be continued