What felt like the end of the world for us, was an opportunity for deeper connection in our marriage. I’m so glad we didn’t miss this opportunity. Here’s what happened.

Tami and I fell in love at 17 and 18 years old, respectively. What a wonderful, fun time this was in our lives. Once we started dating, we enjoyed four foundational years of romance and were married by the time we were 21 and 22. We both came from humble backgrounds — so, in our new married life together, we had nothing except each other, but in each other we had everything we needed.

So, in our new married life together, we had nothing except each other, but in each other we had everything we needed.

But to backtrack a few years, before we were married, I was going to college to be a firefighter and I worked for a small, family-owned jewelry store. It was the kind of job that I wasn’t looking for, but it found me. It was a means to an end, a way to work myself through college. This jewelry store job was also a huge benefit to a guy who realized he had found the girl of his dreams who he intended to marry — and buy an engagement ring for! In the four years I worked at the jewelry store, I had worked my way up to store manager. As you might imagine, this provided me with connections to some of the best people in the jewelry business and I would leverage those connections to make Tami the most beautiful wedding ring ever! Not an over-the-top ring like those found on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but certainly a ring that was over-the-top by our humble standards.

I spent about 9 months designing my future bride’s wedding ring, picking out each and every stone, and fitting it all together just perfectly. It was the very definition of, “a labor of love.” It was stunning, especially coming from someone like myself who was not accustomed to having much in the way of material possessions. I was so pleased with this ring and I knew that Tami would be too–as soon as I popped the big question to her. I am high-fiving myself just thinking about it!

After we tied the knot, this ring came to represent so many things about our new life together. Among other things, it represented how we would learn to sacrifice continually for each other. The wedding ring and engagement ring represented the individual uniqueness and beauty of two separate things (like Tami and I) and how well they could fit together with time and patience. And, since this wedding ring was quite valuable to us, it represented the value in our commitment to love, honor, and cherish each other as long as we both had breath.

Fast forward 30+ years and we had raised 2 amazing daughters, lived in 3 different houses, had several dogs whose tails never stopped wagging, adopted some goldfish that died much too soon, survived several household catastrophes, and made a load of memories together. Life was good, really good. And normal. And uneventful in a good way. And that’s when it happened. Our home was broken in to, and we were robbed. The thief took a lot of stuff that day, just stuff. All things that can be replaced — eventually. But the one thing that caused the wind to be knocked out of us, and still does, was losing Tami’s wedding ring and all that it represented to us. When we realized that her ring was gone, forever gone, the two of us just cried. We sat on the floor and cried on and off for weeks. It was often that kind of ugly cry that you are ashamed to admit to others. Yes, we still have the memories that no one can ever steal from us. So why did this feel like such a blow to us? Why was this incident so difficult to talk to others about and process fully?

It’s just stuff, I keep telling myself. But it’s the kind of stuff that has profound memories attached to it. Like your child’s first tooth to fall out or your adult child’s college diploma. This mere stuff represents profound memories, and lots of blood and sweat. For us, this ring represented 30+ years of marriage vows kept, a feat that no one in either of our families has ever accomplished before. It represented over 30 years of Tami’s cold feet in our bed as they wiggled their way over to my side in search of a playful way to make her feet a little warmer — and mine a little colder. It felt like we lost so much that day, but did we really?

We had so many friends who stepped up and were there for us, even though they didn’t know what to say. We are sincerely thankful for those friends who were less-than-helpful, but well-intentioned as they would say, “You know, it’s only stuff?” We do know how sincerely they were trying to help. And yes, we know it just stuff! We tried to tell ourselves of that same thing following the robbery, but it never succeeded in making us feel any better.

It’s as if the, “it’s only stuff” message is a puzzle piece that fits perfectly in our brains as we try to rationalize the situation, but this logic was never intended to fill such a gaping hole in our hearts. This void we had could not be mended with logic. Feelings are real and messy and all-consuming; emotions can be so hard to process adequately. Tami had been trying to teach me how to deal with feelings for so long, but I always wanted to fix everything and move on. To me, it had always seemed so lame to merely say, “I’m sorry,” in the midst of life’s curve balls because merely saying those words does not fix the problem. Now, hearing those words come out of my mouth (I’m sorry) suddenly felt like a breath of fresh air. I get it now. Tami was right, again, and I am still learning to empathize.

You see, marriage is messy and amazing and complicated and difficult and so very comfortable. Marriage is — beautiful chaos. Yes, it’s beautiful chaos. So when something like a robbery takes place in the middle of that lovely mess, it seems as if it adds nothing to the beautiful, but only intensifies the chaos. But I have learned that often in the trenches of the chaos, beauty can still be found when I force myself to look for it.

So, here are my “beautiful” revelations in no particular order:

  1. Life can be harsh, but it can be so good too. Focus on the good.
  2. When I don’t know what to say, then I should say nothing. This is the time for me to feel and truly empathize. Even though this is hard for me to do, that does not mean I should stop trying to do it better.
  3. I can learn much from my spouse, but only if I listen.
  4. Even when we feel like we have nothing, or like something profoundly important has been taken from us, the things that cannot be taken are the ones that truly matter. Having nice things that can be taken from us does not make us rich, rather, it is the things that can never be stolen that do. And, in that sense, we are so very rich!

It’s been 24 months since the robbery and we still have not replaced Tami’s wedding ring — yet. We have been able to put a bit of money aside for a new ring, and we are more than halfway there. We are still working through the emotional part and talking more about our lives together and the incredible memories we have made along the way. And we have realized that when we have nothing, we really have everything, because we are smack dab in the middle of this beautiful chaos we call our marriage. And “our marriage” is what they can never take away from us!

Let us encourage you and your spouse today to talk about your story together. Reminisce about the good things and learn to process the not-so-good things together. In doing so, you will both be learning how to grow closer through your own beautiful chaos.

Link to: https://tandemmarriage.com/takeaway

If you have any comments or questions about this post, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.

By Brad & Tami Miller. Contact us at brad@TandemMarriage.com. Copyright © 2017