My first marriage ended on a Tuesday afternoon as we battled over finances on the front porch.

“Fine—you want to leave. Just go!” He pointed to my car which was already running in the driveway.

This was not a command on his part but a reaction to a note he found sitting on the kitchen counter.

I was sneaking out of my house with our four-month-old baby in tow. It was a coward’s way out of a relationship that became harder than I was prepared for. We argued more than we talked; we griped more than we laughed; we hated more than we loved.

He was not the man I married eight years ago, and I was no longer happy.

Society told me these ingredients were the recipe for divorce.

Months of prayer did not produce change in my husband, and my frustration with God brought me to the world’s counsel. On this couch, I was a queen—I deserved better than what my husband offered me. I was the victim in a one-sided marriage, and how dare he fail to daily remind me of how beautiful I am. Those words tasted so good as I repeated them like a new mantra.

Self-righteous assurance is like drinking salt water, though, instead of quenching the need for validation it increases thirst. It just left me wanting more.

All the Google searches, magazine articles, and vent sessions with friends coated my heart with bitter anger toward my husband. I was convinced the advice to follow my heart would ultimately lead to happiness. I was wrong.

My pride-filled heart led me straight into despair that day as I held back my overwhelming desire to stay; I couldn’t stay, though. The words were spoken, the car was running, and I had already turned my back on him. I could not undo any of that without looking weak. Over the last several months a wall was built around me that I mislabeled as strength when it was truly constructed of hardened pain.

A new job, a new baby, and responsibilities overwhelmed us. We had different opinions, especially with finances, and how to handle our new life, so we lived in frustration with one another.

And I believed I was the victim of our financial strain.

My woes went out to every ear that would hear them, and good-intentioned friends listened to me as I bashed my husband without ceasing.

Though I never lied about him, I also failed to include my wrongdoings. It was about his refusal to buy what we needed—never about my tendencies to overspend, and especially when it came to eating out. If we did discuss that, I perfectly framed it so we all agreed I deserved to treat myself, without acknowledging that my husband was working an intense schedule and I was staying at home overspending.

As a believer, I prayed for my husband. I prayed God would change him so that we could return to happier times, but I never just prayed for my marriage.

Not until the day I left him.

My head lay on my steering wheel in the Walmart parking lot, I banged my fists against the wheel—angry at him and angry at God. Even though it was me who explained what a horrible husband he was in a nasty goodbye note, I still expected him to ask me to stay.

Just like I expected God to fix my husband and never considered He might start by fixing me.

In this sink or swim moment, I gasped as God’s voice surfaced: This is your fault too.

What? Wait! I was the victim. Wasn’t I?

Self-righteousness melted away to reveal a woman on a mission to prove herself right—a mission that was unraveling my marriage. Slinging mud at his name resulted in the immaculate image I formed of myself, but it was far from accurate. I painted a picture to my friends that I started believing myself; it was one where I had no fault in our problems.

There in the ruins of my marriage was where God met me. Waves of sorrow washed over me, as I repented, face down in my steering wheel. As I shed layers of pride, the image I built for myself fell away too. I didn’t care if I was weak. I didn’t care if I was right. I wanted a solution—which meant it was time to be real with God and with my husband.

Tears blurred the road on my drive home, and with baby in tow, I walked back into the house and ended my first marriage with these two words.

“I’m sorry.”

It was a humility vow to never to put myself over us again. Together we vowed never to put us over God. Like that, we began to rebuild everything with God at the foundation.

Our marriage was not fixed overnight. God still has many things still to teach us, and His lessons are hard some days. Now, though, there is no danger of our structure sinking into the sand. We can stand strong in knowing what we are building on top of is strong and worthy of something beautiful.

Only God can make it that way.

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Meg Duncan

Meg Duncan is a Christian author and columnist. Her writing takes readers to recognizable places and assures them they aren’t alone. From raising children, navigating marriage, sorting laundry piles, and avoiding carbs (or blissfully embracing them, depending on the day), she combats self-doubt with humor and grace.

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