How To Leave A Legacy

In the beginning of our marriage we didn’t communicate well. Or should I say, I didn’t communicate well. I thought I did. But I was nowhere near the level of skill my other half possessed. At any rate it was during our arguments that this became abundantly clear. Our language was ugly. Mine especially. Hers probably more so out of defense against mine. We said things we immediately regretted. We threw things, slammed things. Thankfully we were never violent toward the other. But by our voices one certainly would have had a hard time knowing for sure. I remember a moment about 3 years ago when we had a brief argument about who-knows-what and I stormed out of the house, slammed the door, and then Spartan kicked the wall as hard as I could… Fail…

Maybe you’ve been there. Hopefully you haven’t. But for me it was in the aftermath of that episode that I came to a crystal clear moment: I didn’t want to argue like this anymore. I wanted a new strategy and a new approach. How many times have you come to the edge of something and realized it wasn’t going to work and you desperately needed help? This article isn’t about arguments in marriage per se. But it is about coming to a place where you realize something needs to change……where something has to in order for survival. But even more than survival it’s about the fierce desire that says I want to thrive. And then demands this question be faced head on: What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Is it one where you barely made it by the skin of your teeth? Or is it a legacy of love that lasts into your children’s children’s memories? Does it have a foundation that lasts beyond the years of this life and into another world? Because for those of us who are married the odds are down the middle. We’ve got a 50/50 chance of making it. I don’t know about you but when I said my vows on my wedding day, for better or for worse, it wasn’t with an exit strategy in mind. There was never a Plan B. I made the vow to my bride not out of obligation but out of genuine love and desire to build something with her. Something that stood the test of time.

And then at a short 5 years in I found myself at a breaking point. Not the breaking point of divorce but more so on the edge of wandering. My eyes had been wandering…..the grass on the other side of the fence type of wandering. And if it wasn’t yet divorce that had taken aim at my marriage perhaps it was something else that threatened it. Did you know that in over 1/3 of marriages one or both partners admit to infidelity? WTF. And that’s a statistic only with those that admit it. Just stop for a second and consider how many haven’t told their spouse……. Double the WTF. Now, was I on the edge of an affair? No. Not with a human anyway. But I’d be lying if I said pornography wasn’t still hanging around in the quiet moments when no one was looking. And although I was doing my best to keep it at bay there were times when I was “struggling with it” as the euphemism goes. I had certainly never told my wife and now at 5 years into marriage it was still around. As if I were still a bachelor or something….. Why was this thing still here? I told a good friend of mine and he said I needed to tell my wife………Not cool… But I immediately knew in my spirit he was right.

So I swallowed my pride, braced for the impact, and told her the truth. I’m going to spare the readers the ugly details but I’ll say this: My wife is a psychotherapist. That means she specializes in figuring out why people do the stupid things they do and then coaches them thru the necessary changes they need to make in order to get better. Insert nervous laugh. Yep. Just my luck. Even still, I walked into this confession blind thinking I’ll tell her and it will be all better. God have mercy on my soul, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What happened instead was an onslaught of loving questions targeted at unpacking why. Why did I look? What drew me to it? What were my triggers? What was happening before I started looking? Was I sad, tired, lonely, depressed, angry? What was it about her that I didn’t like? Why didn’t I tell her in the beginning of our relationship when boldly she asked me? If you can think it, she asked. And rightly so. And I’m glad she did. Needless to say, coming out of that conversation we started going to counseling. And to this day I still see a counselor. Which, if you’ve never been to see a therapist let me say this as an aside: You take your car to get a tune up, don’t you? Why not take your most valuable asset (your brain) and go get it looked at from time to time by someone who knows what they’re talking about? Like a mechanic for your brain. Just saying. Anyway, I remember sitting in that moment with my wife and seeing the hurt in her spirit. I could see the damage I caused. I could literally feel her pain. I decided in that moment I’d rather rot in hell than do that to her ever again. And honestly, it would be a period of 6-8 months of routine hard conversations where I had to relive the moment of confession and answer her questions. And you know what? I did it. And I would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant an opportunity for me to solidify our foundation. Reassure her of my commitment to her and our love. No matter how many times she asks.

You see, I had come to a breaking point. I had enough wisdom to know that the road I was wandering on would lead nowhere good. I also knew that the defensive perimeter around my marriage was weakened. And I desperately needed some tools to help me. I didn’t want simply to survive in my marriage. I intend to thrive and leave a legacy of love. Because the road that was widening before me was headed straight to an affair and heartache. That was the eventuality. And if I were to be honest with myself I was already cheating on her just by looking at pornography. And that’s a hard reality pill to swallow. Maybe you’ve heard someone quote Jesus when he said, “If you so much as look at another woman with lust you’ve committed adultery with her in your heart.” Let that sink in for a second……. No one wants to look that demon in eye. But there I was…at the breaking point…deciding that the way I had been doing it wasn’t working. And that I desperately needed a better way.

There’s a concept in the Christian faith that talks about exposing darkness to light. And that darkness cannot exist where there is light. The idea being that when we bring the hidden sins into light they lose their power. And the only way to bring them into the light is by confessing them. And I’m not talking about a hyper-spiritual confession to some god thru a silent prayer in your head. I’m talking about the open, raw, bare-your-soul-to-your-mate type of confession. The kind that leaves no room for the darkness to linger. The kind that thru the act of confession expels darkness so it no longer has any control in our lives. That kind. Does it happen overnight? No, of course not. But with intentional open dialogue and a communication style that presses in to your spouse – give it a little time and you will certainly see results. And within this honest type of dialogue comes the unpacking of patterned behaviors that have plagued the mind, soul and body for however long. Trigger identification. Emotional evaluation during the times of unwanted behaviors. I’m referring now to all kinds of actions and not only porn. But facing these kinds of demons, staring these giants in the face with nothing but a sling and a few small stones – now that’s an opportunity for creating a legacy. This is an opportunity for rebuilding love that lasts into the next life.

Now, I don’t have it all figured out. Not even close. But I do know that I’m on a war path right now. I’ve declared war on pornography as the killer of healthy sexual intimacy. I’ve declared war on divorce. And I’m on the offensive to building my marriage and family as a fortified city that will stand as a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. Is it easy? Not by a long shot. Is it hard? Yup. But nothing in this world is worth anything if it comes easy. Only the things that come thru determination and perseverance are worth their weight in gold. And my marriage, my children, the way I lead and walk with them, the other marriages and families I’ll walk beside – these are the things worth their weight in gold. And I’ll not trade my soul for anything less than a city filled with the children I’ve inherited alongside the one wife of my youth.

If you’re reading this and you are at a breaking point, good. Don’t give up. The place you currently find yourself is only a moment. Decide for yourself which direction to go. My hope is that no matter what – you commit to your family and spouse. But how, you may be asking? How do I it when I feel so completely lost and want to give up? Start with a prayer. Yeah, it might sound cliché but do it. Let my faith in your marriage be enough to help kick start a quiet prayer. Because I believe with everything inside of me that the Creator of our world is a good God. And that He built us for this very purpose: That we become unified through the bond of marriage. Relationship, sexuality, family, intimacy – all in a healthy cohesive structure designed to stand the test of time and leave a legacy of love. So start with a prayer. And then do some work. Find a counselor. Go by yourself if your spouse won’t go with you. Start by working on you. And then you’ll gain enough momentum to help your spouse and children. There are any number of specific tools and resources from highly trained professionals. Find some tools for your tool belt and learn how to use them. A good counselor will equip you with the proper tools. And then, within this process begin to find a positive peer group. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to press in and not give up. Maybe that means finding some new friends. Maybe it means going to a church for the first time. Whatever it is be sure you surround yourself with people who believe in you.

I hope you’ve been encouraged in some way by reading this. This is part of my story. It’s messy. I’m not proud of everything. But I’m proud of where I am today. And I know where I’m going. If nothing else, remember this question and think about it regularly: What kind of legacy do I want my marriage to leave? It will help shape the direction you wish to go.


Gratia Plena,

Tony Martelle