I was excited to marry a smoking hot soldier! Clay and I skipped the entire courtship and dove in headfirst into marriage. In many ways he was virtually a stranger whom I had only known for two months.
Even though our marriage was a whirlwind and we eloped, I just knew deep down in my heart that our wedding night would be romantic. The night we got married, I was nervous and excited. That is, until I found myself in Walmart in that small town, crying my eyes out.
Clay fell asleep. Yep, you read that right. He headed right into our bedroom – into our wedding bed that we had yet to consummate – and was in a deep sleep before I joined him.
I was wounded. No, wounded doesn’t describe what I felt. I was crushed, beaten, hurt, mortified! How could I not take it personally? I mean, what man in his twenties falls asleep on his wedding night before celebrating his wedding night?!
I stewed. I cried. I grieved. I stewed, cried, and grieved all over again. Then I angrily grabbed my purse, drove to Walmart, and bought a picture frame. When I returned to that little dungeon called an apartment, I couldn’t let it go. There was no way I could crawl into bed with the man who fell asleep after marrying his bride without any intimacy. I didn’t receive as much as a kiss goodnight!
I continued to stew until it had reached a boiling point. I could not longer remain quiet and abruptly awakened Clay from his deep, peaceful sleep. If you know Clay, then you know that in itself takes a lot work. He was Artillery during his first several years in the military. His hearing is not the greatest – actually, he’s partially deaf – and he learned to sleep when and where he could. He is also a mean grizzly bear when he is awakened. The proverbial first shots were fired and we launched into our first fight as a married couple . . . on our wedding night. It was during that conversation that I found out about Clay’s porn problem. You can read more about that HERE.
As you can see, Clay and I began our marriage with a lot of baggage. Our first few years of marriage were tough. Between military life and our marriage struggles, it was a recipe for disaster. The porn struggles caused problems in our communication, our physical intimacy, and our spiritual relationship with each other and our Savior.
Our intimacy was non-existent during our first few years of marriage. We only came together when I pushed the issue. When we were intimate, it seemed it always led to me becoming pregnant. Our first pregnancy we lost after we were only married for two or three months. Shortly after my miscarriage, we found ourselves pregnant with my middle son.
The reason for the lack of physical intimacy was that my husband didn’t really see me . . . at least not in that physically intimate way. He went to work, came home, went to bed, and repeated this schedule each day. If he was in need of intimacy, he sought his man cave in the basement and watched porn. I was devastated but had no idea what to do about it.
I tried everything. I bought sexy lingerie. Who could resist erotically attractive unmentionables? He did. He just rolled over and went to sleep while I cried into my pillow. Deep down I hoped my tears would awaken him so he would apologize and we could make passionate love to one another. Surprise! That didn’t happen. Clay didn’t seem to have any feelings at all toward my being upset.
When nighties didn’t work, I decided maybe we should take a trip together. I booked a trip in Pigeon Forge, TN. That was a place I loved visiting throughout my adolescence. I thought how wonderful it would be to return there as a married woman. Besides, men like the woods and nature and all that outdoorsy stuff, right?
I found us a wonderful cabin to rent, complete with a hot tub. While we enjoyed much about the trip – Clay bungee jumping, our helicopter ride over the town, attending a live show, and eating at the Mill – there was zero romance. By this time I was pregnant again and believed in my heart that was the reason he had no interest in me. I birth large babies . . . very large babies. When I’m pregnant, I’m about the size of the Goodyear blimp, and my wardrobe consists of window curtains sewn together.
When the trip didn’t work the way I hoped it would, I bought Clay a book about 1,001 ways to romance your wife. That book was looked at and shelved.
Eventually Clay told me he wanted a divorce. I told him NO. I didn’t believe in divorce and why did he want one? He’s a Christian! What were his grounds for divorce? Just so he could be free to attend church on Sundays and watch porn the rest of the week? No way! He made the choice to marry me. He made a promise to me and to God to love, honor, and cherish me. I wasn’t letting him out of it that easily. So I did what any calm, level-headed, and angry woman would do: I reminded him how much child support he was going to have to pay.
Spiritually, Clay and I were miles apart. I wanted a nice Christian family with a little lot of romance mixed in. We appeared to have the perfect marriage and were the poster kids for Christian families on the outside. We attended church and professed our love for one another while inside those walls.
Oh, how easy it is to accept with your lips and deny with your lifestyle! We fought everyday. Our arguments would consist of important topics such as dust bunnies, dirty dishes, and laundry, just to name a few. I felt lost. I was wounded. I was constantly trying to pull the knife out of my back caused by the emotional pain of my husband’s emotional torture. In fact, many times I felt crushed and wondered if this was all my life would have to offer. I had been praying for Clay since I was twelve years old. Is this the life that God had for me?
I found myself pregnant again during our third year of marriage. Our marriage was in a better place in some ways, but in other ways not so much. We were intimate enough for me to keep getting pregnant, but that was about as far as our intimacy went.
Then one day Clay became very ill and called me from work. He said he was driving himself to the ER. If you know this man I call husband, then you know he is too stubborn to go to the doctor, let alone the ER. When he called me, I knew it was bad. I was worried and I had a really bad feeling about his ailments and eventual prognosis, but honestly, I wasn’t sure if I would meet him at the hospital. I had two kids sleeping and I was baking a casserole for dinner. What’s more important that a casserole in the oven, right?
As time progressed, I began feeling worse that he was there alone and I was home tending to my casserole. I called his cell phone. No answer. I texted him. No reply. Then my phone rang. It was Clay. He was begging me to come to the hospital. Clay had never begged for anything. This could not be Clay.
I grabbed the kids and took the casserole out of the oven half baked. Although we lived in a small town and the hospital wasn’t far from our town home, I drove to the hospital as quickly as possible.
When I arrived, the hospital staff refused me access into his room because I had the kids with me. They said the kids could be traumatized by the sight of Clay’s condition and the procedures there were trying. I was annoyed and told them that should be my decision or that maybe the kids could sit on a chair outside the door. They finally agreed that they could sit outside his room, but only long enough for me to go in and see him quickly.
When I saw him, this was not the Clay who was the tough soldier. He was in severe pain with a severe problem. As they kicked me out of the room, the medical specialist arrived to perform the procedure. I could hear Clay screaming all the way down the hall and out into the waiting room.
The procedure worked and Clay eventually came home that night. He was off work for a few weeks with a catheter. We were told his issue may be more serious than they initially thought. There was a chance that we would never be intimate again. I was 30 years old. How could this be? We had our differences that we still had to overcome. We needed to work out our intimacy issues – well, actually, his intimacy issues – and take our marriage to the next level. I was upset. I was upset for Clay and I was upset with the thought of never having another intimate moment in the sack with him.
While I was taking care of him – and by the way, I was pregnant – I sat on the bed and had a self-invited pity party. Although we were not intimate often, and while my feelings were hurt more times than not over sex, we had made children together. There may not be any more babies. There also may not ever be a chance to finish healing our intimate life because it could end. I never told Clay until years later how I was feeling that day. It wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things at the time.
Communication with Clay was horribly strained. Anytime I brought up issues about our marriage, my feelings, or anything in between, we concluded our discussion in an argument. He didn’t like me bringing up issues that I wanted him to work on. I also had a terrible way of approaching him about my concerns. My words were often a reaction of hurt and ridicule. My words tore him down, making him feel like less of a man and an unworthy husband. I nagged. I griped. I told him what I expected him to do.
All I wanted was a knight in shining armor, a fairy tale wedding and the perfect marriage. This was not what I imagined as a young girl when I dreamed about marriage. Not even close.
However, our marriage was somewhat starting to head in the right direction. Although we continued to argue, we eventually learned to tolerate each other during our second year of marriage. I always loved him; I just didn’t know if I liked him. Honestly, I didn’t know if I liked myself much during the whole thing.
To make matters worse, I knew that Clay was suffering from PTSD but couldn’t get the help he needed. Back then, asking for help with PTSD or any type of mental disorder would have given him a discharge from the military fast.
So what did we do? Sometime during our first few years of marriage, I read a book called Created to be his Helpmeet. This is a very controversial book among Christians, but during that time I needed something extreme to snap me out of my attitude. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for me to read, let alone accept. In fact, I threw it across the room a time or four.
Next I read another book called The Power of the Praying Wife. This was another eye-opening read. Did I pray about my marriage and for my husband as much as I complained? How could I take what I had learned and apply it to our marriage?
- I realized that marriage was not 50/50 as I had once imagined. It was 100/100. I was still responsible for my 100% regardless of what my husband did or didn’t do.
- Meeting my husband at the door with a list of demands, complaints, and nagging was not going to get me anywhere on solving issues that were the root of the problem.
- Communication issues didn’t solely lie upon his shoulders. I must control my reactions and expectations, thus allowing a better chance to dig into those roots and fix things from the inside out.
- I had to let go of the knight-in-shining-armor mentality and understand that, while he may never save this damsel in distress nor ride a gallant steed, combat boots and Army green camouflage were enough. I needed to stop expecting him to be what he wasn’t and learn to embrace what he was.
- I learned how to communicate in the way he communicated so that I could find our strengths and build our relationship using our love languages.
- Not everything had to be solved right when it bothered me. The world was not going to end if I didn’t talk to him right away. Which leads me to my next point…
- Taking time to think about how I was going to approach him could settle a lot of arguments. It gave me time to discern what was important to our marriage and what was not important. Arguing about the presentation of a toilet paper roll on the dispenser isn’t exactly a deal breaker in a marriage. Some things just need to be let go. Taking time to reflect instead of reacting can make a huge difference in our marriages and in life.
- I prayed and I continue to pray. I prayed for patience and understanding. I prayed that God would give me discernment. I prayed to see things from his perspective. I prayed and asked God to help me let go of my anger. Many situations weren’t as bad as I immediately assumed. Just because we squeeze the tube of toothpaste from different ends doesn’t require a knock-down, drag-out argument.
Clay and I began attending yearly marriage retreats through the Army. They were put on by our chaplain and geared toward military life and the struggles we faced. We learned much of what was listed above and implemented what we learned.
It didn’t happen over night and it wasn’t always perfect. Although we failed many times, admitting we had an issue was the first step. Seeking help with both the Lord and our chaplain’s ministry was the second.
Sometime throughout this process, I built up the courage to tell Clay that I would not tolerate the porn. As much as I told him “NO” to divorce when he threatened it, I also realized I could no longer live with the man I had married if he continued to cheat on me through pornographic material. It had to stop. So I told him that he had to pick between the porn and me. He picked me and our marriage.
During our fourth year of marriage, Clay deployed again. As much as I didn’t want him to deploy and worried over this deployment, it was a much-needed deployment. I know that sounds odd and I was devastated for myself, the boys, and Clay, but our marriage had to have an earth-shattering moment. While he was gone, our marriage began to heal and, more importantly, flourish! There is nothing like your husband being in a combat zone to remind you of what is important.
While he was living in the land of sand, I also found my PWOC sisters and began a Bible study on a regular basis. That was just what I needed! I also started writing Clay the scriptures from Song of Solomon in his letters. Each letter contained more verses. I don’t know why I did this, but I did.
Our marriage has continued to strengthen each day. After 20+ years of service, multiple combat tours, and all the Army hooah training, Clay retired this past year. He is diagnosed with PTSD and combat-induced anxiety and continues to receive help. We are stronger than we ever have been in our marriage. We don’t just love each other – we are in love. God can write a beautiful love story and teach us how to communicate, but only if we allow Him.
I am blessed and so thankful that I finally stepped back and allowed God to guide me in figuring things out. Doing it myself didn’t work, but with Him, all things are possible. I would love for you to find me over at our website; you can read more about our story there.
Laura is a stay at home, homeschooling mom to their three boys. She is also an area volunteer for National Military Family Association. You can find them talking about many topics from education, faith, politics, military life, and parenting on their website and social media Facebook,