Marriage Summits, Valleys, and the Hikers You Encounter along the Way

The other night Brandon and I were hanging out in the living room after the kids went to bed.

“This is a well written article,” he said, quoting the opening lines of the Jerry Richardson article just released, yet another sexual harassment story. I agreed.

“You have to hear this,” he continued, then read the following:

Reflecting on her time with the team, she says that one of the great shames was that she loved the work itself, as well as most of her colleagues. “But,” she says, “it became exhausting. That’s something I don’t know if people realize. Being [harassed] is horrible in so many ways, but it’s also just exhausting. You think about it all the time. Did I do something or say something to give the wrong idea? Do other people know what’s going on? How do I avoid this guy today?” She then issued a refrain uttered by many women throughout the country who have been breaking the silence about sexual harassment these past few months: “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I went through.”, Sources: Jerry Richardson, Panthers Have Made Multiple Confidential Payouts for Workplace Misconduct, Including Sexual Harassment and Use of a Racial Slur

“Ugh, that makes my palms sweat,” I said. “You could’ve copied and pasted her experience right over top of mine, and it would have been exactly the same.”

When I first told colleagues at work about not-my-husband, I only brought it up because of another unrelated incident, after decisions had been made to not invite him back. Not knowing how else to put it, I said, “He’s caused a lot of trouble for me.” Later, HR felt like tearing my skin off to tuck away in a folder somewhere. Talking through the circumstances with my boss made me feel validated and then incriminated. Why didn’t you say something earlier? You had a responsibility to speak up as an administrator. What if he did the same to other women?

One of the great shames is I loved the work itself as well as most of my colleagues. But, it became exhausting. That’s something people don’t realize. Being harassed is horrible in so many ways, but it’s also just exhausting. You think about it all the time.

So I left. We left.

Today on Off the Page, I write about marriage in the wilderness, the vast time and space after the Big Event happens and God pulls you from the mountaintop or valley and places you in the desert to wander for a while. You eat, you drink, you sleep, you work, you repeat, and it all feels so pointless. And yet there’s purpose.

I hope you’ll join me over on Off the Page today.

I’ve written a lot about the various facets of this season of my life, from the immediate confusion and self-questioning to the immediate impact on marriage to the revelation about what sexual harassment looks like to the after effects, seeing the world through clearer lenses, repairing marriage, being on alert at public events. It consumed my thoughts when it was happening, devoured a year of my marriage, and changed our lives.

So, if you’ve been here – confused, afraid, ashamed, a wreck, alone – you aren’t alone.

And also, marriage can handle it. Marriage can weather the wilderness and come out stronger.

Here’s today’s OTP: Marriage in the Wilderness

Thanks for reading along.

Other Marriage Reflections along This Journey

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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