I think there is no other day more fitting than my wedding anniversary to finally share about my husband Eric. Today is our 13th wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary Eric! When my husband saw what I had entitled this – “Mr. Right” – he laughed out loud and said “You can’t call it that! At best, you could title it ‘Mr. Ok’ or ‘Mr. So-so.’” However, my arguments and title prevailed when I pointed out the simple fact – he is Mr. Right for me! Plus, it’s my blog and I never really had any intentions of changing the title to begin with. His protests did make me laugh though.
As I have been sharing my story I have been asked “What my husband thinks,” and “How did he respond to me telling him I had been raped?” Loaded questions! I think I have also left people wondering – how do you go from being raped, sexually assaulted, feeling unlovable, undate-able, worthless, going through a failed engagement, plummeting into depression, and attempting suicide to being happily married with three kids? I know that was a lot of drama! In short – by the grace of God!
As I have explained in depth in many of my posts, God redeemed my terrible experiences by using them to transform my heart and deepen my faith. Honestly, when I look back at who I was pre-rape, I am embarrassed and grateful for the transformations God has made. Once I started facing the reality of being raped and cried out to God for help, he brought people into my life to walk alongside and encourage me. My husband was one of those people.
Every time I share my story it makes me fall in love with my husband all over again. It makes me appreciate him so much. I am so grateful for his support and his love! Why? He met me at my worst. At my rock bottom. The semester my grades plummeted, when I was in the throes of facing the reality of being raped – that is when I met my husband, Eric. By my estimations, he should have turned and ran. I was a mess! Yet, he saw beyond that. He saw my potential. Where God was taking me.
Our first year of dating was the hardest year we have faced together! After that we felt like we could conquer the world. People frequently say the first year of marriage is rough. Whenever we heard that in our first year of marriage, or even after that, we would turn to each other laughing and say in unison: “The first year of dating – yes! But the first year of marriage – no! It’s been easy!” And honestly, it had been easy! At least relatively speaking for us.
So how did I meet Eric? In short, he was in my college. We were in the same graduating class. We were one of two couples who were married in our relatively small graduating class. However, I did not meet him until I set out to intentionally do so. I had overheard a conversation between two of my male classmates during a late-night studio session. They were discussing another male student. They described him as a seemingly normal guy, but a devoted Christian. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but listen when I heard that. They also described him as a really cool guy. One of the two had nothing but respect for him (he was actually one of the groomsmen at our wedding), but he mentioned that this guy wouldn’t party with him.
I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. Frankly, I was still entrenched in my man-hating phase, but up until that point I had no Christian friends in my major. So, when I walked into a classroom with open seating the next semester I sat in front of him. I recently admitted this to my husband. He had no idea I had intentionally sat by him in the hopes of getting to know him. He immediately started laughing and didn’t believe me. He always assumed it was just a lucky coincidence. There is no luck, just God’s perfect plan.
As the semester progressed I got to know him. We started hanging out outside of college classes. We became friends. I was painfully honest with him. I was struggling. I told him I had been raped and that I was going through counseling, but I was still struggling with depression. There were the days when I wouldn’t show up to class. The days when I wouldn’t answer the phone – some of which were his calls. He looked beyond that. He knew I was hurting and he was patient with me.
Midway through the semester, Eric asked me if I would ever consider dating him. I wanted to say yes, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to start dating again. We ended up reading a book together – Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship by Joshua Harris. If that book doesn’t sound familiar, you may know the precursor to it – I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I have never read that book, but after my terrible dating experiences, Boy Meets Girl resonated with me. The book forgoes conventional ideas of just casually dating for fun, which in my case did not turn out to be fun. Joshua Harris proposed that the goal of dating is to determine if someone could be your future spouse.
The book caused me to do some serious soul searching. At that point, I couldn’t imagine ever being married or having children. Were those thoughts truly my opinions or simply reactions to my traumatic experiences? I didn’t want to lead Eric on if marriage and children truly were never going to be an option for me. Considering the issues I was wrestling with, we took a day to fast (first time I had ever tried fasting) and consider if we should pursue a dating relationship. Soon after we decided to start dating. It was so official. I had never approached dating like that before.
Eric knew everything I was facing and suggested we take it very slow. He knew I had issues from the rape and being sexually assaulted and he suggested we refrain from kissing. Basically, we avoided anything physical. Other than the occasional hug, he gave me space to heal. In retrospect, it was amazing how much freedom and peace that gave me. There was no fear with him. There was never any fear with him. I could trust him. He proved it to me.
Eric encouraged me as I dealt with being raped. He wasn’t judgmental. He knew who my rapist was. Not because I told him, but because he saw him come to visit me at my studio desk at 1am. Eric walked over to me after he walked away and said: “That was him, wasn’t it?” He knew what year my rapist was and frankly my rapist was the only fifth-year male who would seek me out to talk or ask favors. I had never intended for him to know, but there was no avoiding it. After I confirmed his suspicions he responded with: “Really him? He would be the last person I expected.” He read my letter to my rapist before I delivered it. He cried.
Eric also challenged me to get involved in a Campus Ministry. After my first experience with the Campus Ministry turned out to be a cult, I was very hesitant to try new groups on campus. I was involved in a Campus Ministry through my church that was in its infancy, but I wasn’t making any meaningful friendships. Not for lack of trying, I met weekly with another girl from the group, but we just never connected. The group was also very small. Since it was just starting out, most people came to check it out once, but didn’t stay. Probably because it was so small and not well established. As an outsider, he could see real relationships were lacking. He was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and he suggested I give it a try, too. Eric kept emphasizing that I needed Christian girlfriends. He even went so far as to tell me to go check out a specific girl’s Bible Study, because he knew the leader and thought she would be an awesome friend.
I tried the Bible Study and immediately realized how amazing these girls were. It was effortless to make friends with them! I had never had close Christian girlfriends. I had had church-going friends, but with the constant moving as a military kid, I would never have been so presumptuous as to look specifically for Christian friends. I was just satisfied to have a friend! I ended up co-leading the Bible Study my last two years of college. My Co-leader, Theresa, the one my husband originally wanted me to meet, is still one of my best friends. Her friendship has meant the world to me. I know whatever I am facing, I can call her and she will give me sound Godly advice.
A year into dating, Eric’s parents included me on their family vacation to St. Thomas. I had never been on a vacation like that before. We snorkeled and went sight-seeing non-stop. One evening just the two of us took a walk down to the beach to watch the sunset. On a bridge overlooking the ocean he asked me if he could kiss me. Um, yes! What can I say? He is super romantic and has great timing. I will never forget our first kiss! We even revisited that exact spot six years later on a vacation with friends.
We dated for three years and during that time I always felt safe with him. I never worried if he would do something to me I wasn’t comfortable with. He never even asked me to do anything physically. I could relax and just enjoy his company. He is the life of the party. He loves to make me laugh. He has no problem making a fool of himself in front of others to make me laugh so hard I cry.
We were married one week after college graduation. Even on our honeymoon, he was sensitive to my past. I would love to say I didn’t have any baggage from the rape five years prior when I entered my marriage, but that simply wasn’t the case. We took things incredibly slow. I realized I had programed myself to automatically disengage whenever I felt pain in an intimate setting. He noticed it and would immediately stop. He had the love, respect and patience to help me work through that.