Demise Of A Marriage: A True Story - Chapter 3 Part 2 - The Tug Of Two Loves

Posted at 14:26pm on 9th December 2009

Catch up with the story so far in Part 1:1 The Inner Yearning. It will be posted, in parts, two or three times a week. For a free prompt to follow the story to its conclusion click the Subscribe button on the right.


Early one winter evening, as I was putting the children to bed, James arrived home with the sort of commotion that announced that he was drunk. There was nothing unusual about his condition; it was only the time of day that surprised me. He was rarely back from work until eight in the evening, and would then expect a quick meal before retiring, once again, to the pub. Promising to finish the bedtime story later, I left the children and ran downstairs to greet him.

“How lovely . . .” I called as I approached the sitting room.

He was slumped in a chair in the lounge, his heavy coat standing up about his ears so that his face was partially obscured. He mumbled inaudibly and, slowing my pace, I turned to seat myself rather than give him the kiss I’d intended. Clearly, something was up. I waited for him to elucidate.


“Is something wrong?” I asked, tentatively, and recoiled as he leapt from his chair.

“You bet there is!”

Overnight, it appeared, we were transformed from ‘millionaires’ to ‘paupers’; from riches to rags. Business problems of which I’d been unaware – James would consider discussion with any woman, let alone his wife, to be beneath him – had accumulated to such an extent that we were virtually penniless. Whilst trying to grasp the enormity of the situation, I wondered how much of a surprise this had been to James, himself.

Fear gripped me. Our commitments were enormous. We had two children upstairs and another on the way; a new house; huge mortgage; new carpeting throughout; professional decorators in; even the lovely, rich brocatelle curtains . . . How were we to meet the bills?

It is at times like this that faith - the 'hope of things unseen' - is put to the test. Even in that moment of extremis, I was aware that it was the most precious of gifts; and that it flourishes or fails in the soil of deprivation. When all goes well it is dispensable. Surrounded with tangible evidence of bounty and abundance, we have no need to rely on such hope. But without the substance of trust in our hearts, faith is mere conjecture: the theory of sermons heard, books read, and prayers made. All may fall away, empty and meaningless when put to the test.

And so the question of my faith confronted me. Forced to look it in the face, I had to ask myself: Was it rooted in what God had done for me? Or was it in God himself?

The enormity of what James had told me was overwhelming. I could do nothing to change it. Instinctively, I knew that it was only in accepting this and trusting that God reigned supreme that I could know peace, faith and hope for the future. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, we are told. Mine was miniscule. But it was all I had.

Somehow, we managed. Always thrifty, I had savings. And however meagre, they kept us going. Though he would never have admitted it, James seemed to draw strength from me – a strength I was scarcely aware of possessing. Once again, we drew closer and shared our plight. I tried to encourage him to pray with me as he had done the previous year when Sarah, our eldest, had meningitis. With his coping mechanism of flippancy firmly back in place, he replied:

“That was different! God may be around when you need him for a matter of life or death. But if I were to pray over all my business problems, that would give me an unfair advantage over my competitors.”

Ironically, he was unable to see the truth of his statement, ‘unfair’ or not!

In the meantime, our third daughter was born, as easy a birth has the previous two had been, despite the uncomfortable pregnancy. I looked forward greatly to her baptism into the church family, understanding for the first time the real implications of this. Sarah’s and Victoria’s christenings had been private affairs in the afternoon, best hats and champagne being much in evidence. Like the confirmation James had spoken of, it was almost a compulsory tradition, the ‘done thing’ when a baby reached a certain age. And, of course, a good excuse for a party!

Charles’ policy was to baptise infants during the usual morning service so that the church ‘family’ would be present to welcome the new child. Apart from the embarrassment that we were all late – my mother had a tummy upset – and Charles had held up the service, it all proceeded without a hitch. Eileen was one godmother; my sister the other.

As the year progressed and the disaster that had threatened began to recede, James withdrew again, spending more and more time at the office. Once again I learned to cope alone. Ruth was normally a very placid baby who slept for hours, or lay happily gurgling in her pram until she was picked up. Sarah had just started school and Vicky was at playschool. But still I found three children quite a handful: definitely more than a fifty percent increase on two!

Being late in church became a more frequent occurrence, until eventually I decided that it was virtually impossible to get myself and the three children to St Mark’s on time. Besides, having moved to a different district I convinced myself that it was morally wrong to bypass our local parish church. I made the switch to St Luke’s.

The move proved to be disastrous. With a tendency to act first and pray later, I had not really taken considered the matter in prayer. Unlike the congregation of St Mark’s, that of St Luke’s was older, child-free, and very upper class. Any sound from my three was anathema to the solemnity of the service and was greeted with frowning disapproval. Consequently, Ruth having made an exception to her normal behaviour, most Sundays I would find myself walking up and down the graveyard outside the church, with a wailing baby in my arms.

We now lived in a much wealthier area, where church-going was the ‘done thing’, respectable and expedient, as well as a chance to show off one’s new hat. It was certainly not what I was used to at St Mark’s. Always tenacious, I was determined, nevertheless, to make a go of it. Responding to the request of the Vicar, and with James’ permission, I hosted (though did not lead) a series of Lent home studies, and I gladly took my place as a member of the Social Committee. Neither, of course, was of any interest to James.

The Garden Party in this district was one of the social events in the city, attracting huge numbers of visitors and raising considerable funds. Beautiful grounds were at our disposal, as well as a great deal of talent and labour. It was customary, each year, for the Social Committee to nominate various charities to be the recipients of several thousands of pounds.

“Our profits this year could go to an overseas missionary society,” said one well-meaning lady, naming an organisation of renown. “The children in -” she named a third-world country “- have barely heard the Gospel, and they’re desperately short of Bibles.”

“Why send it abroad to people we don’t know?” said another. “We could use the money more profitably by landscaping the church grounds: straighten up the gravestones, and add some colour with spring-flowering bulbs.”

The debate which followed saddened me. And when a resolution was passed for the money to spent in this way, I resigned from the Committee and the church, returning, after some eighteen months absence, to St Mark’s once more. It appeared that bankruptcy of spirit was as impoverishing as its financial form.

© Mel Menzies - All Rights Reserved

Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.

All proceeds from Mel’s latest novel, A Painful Post Mortem, are for charities benefiting children worldwide. Buy a copy here and help raise cash for children like Rachel, who, at 13 is mother to 6 kids orphaned by AIDS, or this project, drug-proofing teenagers in the UK

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