To the Brink of Divorce and Back
This is the story from a chapter in Shoko’s life on how she had reached the brink of divorce and the lessons learned…
Falling in Love
I had seen him a number of times before at my favorite motorcycle shop but it wasn’t until he asked me out for dinner that I got to know him. He was an engineer who loved the outdoors and soon we were enjoying our shared hobbies together, touring on our motorcycles, noticing the same things and laughing at the same moments. It flattered me that he drove over an hour on weekends and weekdays just to see me. Drawn to his energy, confidence and forthrightness, I married him. I was 24; he was 29.
We built a house the same year we got married. During the weekdays, we both worked, but we always spent the weekends together. It was a happy time for both of us. But after just over a year had passed, I noticed he was quieter and seemed less of himself. I was worried but hesitated to ask him what the matter was, until he told me himself. He had committed himself to an investment with a friend that had failed and was now left with a debt of close to a hundred thousand dollars (US).
A hundred thousand dollars! I staggered at the news. How were we going to pay that back and the house loan? How were we going to survive? I agonized over how to make
ends meet, and then I remembered a woman selling insurance who once told me: “In this industry, it’s not impossible to earn a hundred thousand dollars a year if you tried.”
I jumped at the prospect. I found a job as a life insurance sales agent and worked with earnest in order to bring money into the house. I only told my husband about the job change later – he wasn’t happy about it, but as it was he who had pushed us into debt in the first place, he didn’t tell me to quit.
It was by pure coincidence that I started working in the insurance industry, but the job turned out to suit me very well. I was favored by my clients and soon I was recognized over the hundreds of other sales agents for my performance. My customers took top priority and I scheduled evening and weekend appointments for their convenience. Naturally, I began to spend less and less time with my husband. Although my pay was increasing, not only did he not appreciate the fact, but he complained about it. I didn’t see what he had to complain about – I was working a job and taking care of the house for both our sakes. Fed up, once our finances became more manageable, I frequently went out, dining with friends and spending my own money as I pleased. I prided myself in working and earning as much as the next man. At this stage, my husband was little more than a roommate and the word “divorce” had begun to cross my mind.
“You’re never home anymore. What’s going on?” One day my husband suddenly confronted me about my behavior. I abruptly confessed to what had been on my mind for a while now. “I’m tired of you always nagging – I want a divorce!” “What are you talking about!? No!” His objection was so strong that it took me by surprise. “Why? There’s no point in continuing this relationship.” But he continued to refuse. Unable to back down on what I had said earlier either, we locked horns and fought viciously every time we saw each other – I demanding a divorce and he adamantly refusing. He threatened to take this to court and at times it got so heated that he even got physically violent.
This continued for a year when, one night, unexpected visitors knocked on our door. They were my husband’s coworker and his wife who my husband had asked to come help us work out our issue. “We only yell at each other and we’re getting nowhere with the way we are now,” he explained.
The couple listened to each side of our story with such calmness and patience that it astonished me. They had a quality of character that was unlike anyone’s I had ever met before. I learned that they were members of Happy Science, which I knew a little of since my husband read some of their books and magazines. I too had read some of the material written about work and thought that what they had to say wasn’t bad. This encounter got me more intrigued with the organization.
Seeking a Resolution
A few days later, my husband and I visited the Happy Science temple nearby and talked to the minister about our problem. “That’s not right!” my husband exclaimed, cutting in as I was talking. “What do you mean ‘it’s not right’?” I countered. And then we were quarreling again right in front of the minister.
“Both of you have a point, but why don’t you study the teachings first, then use it to help you decide what to do?” He calmed us down and suggested that we pledge ourselves to study and practice the teachings by joining as members. My husband agreed, but I was a little hesitant. Still, though, I had a feeling something might change if I joined Happy Science. I knew something had to be done about the way we were now, so I too made the pledge. Despite dedicating ourselves to studying and practicing the teachings, we did so separately. He went to the temple by himself, and I went to the temple with friends or after work. The minister and my friends there tirelessly listened to me rant and fume that I would divorce him.
They told me, “Life is a workbook of problems. Maybe there’s something you need to learn from this relationship? If you leave him you might have to face a similar problem
again later.” I, however, couldn’t accept that husbands and wives share a particularly special bond. “I don’t think he and I share that kind of connection,” I laughed. Still they continued, “You should write out the things he’s done for you and the good things about him.” “Whenever you get irritated, before you berate him with harsh words, take a deep breath. It will calm you down.” They gave me all sorts of advice, from cooking to keeping the house clean. The sense that I had to do something became stronger.
Seeing the Truth
One day, a friend lent me a book by Master Okawa and urged me to read a particular section. It was about the financial issues of a married couple.
“ When the wife’s earning power surpasses that of her husband’s, meaning, she makes more money than he does, from what I’ve seen, more than 80% of such couples end up in divorce or something similar.”
“This is about us,” I thought. There had been a time when I had been earning more than he was.
“ Competition between a husband and wife can turn the home into a living hell.”
That revelation was like a crack to the head. I had started the job at the insurance company in order to help repay the debts, but my pride in being able to manage both the housework and the job had unknowingly turned into feelings of competition.
“ If you’re always thinking, “The reason why my job is going so well is because my husband is so understanding,” and if you are always voicing this, then rivalry would not arise between you.”
It struck me that I had never really thanked my husband. “I should try to be more caring…” I thought. At the next opportunity, I tried: “Do you want coffee?” “Huh?” Uh yeah, thanks.” He looked surprised, but when I tried to be nice, he was nice too. I gradually began to believe that the principle, “the other person changes when you change,” might be true.
The turning point came at a Happy Science seminar I participated in. I was remembering how our relationship had soured, how I had changed jobs for the sake of both of us but how he didn’t like it. How could he be m ad when I was working so hard? That had made me angry and I had stopped ca ring about him. But then I suddenly recalled him saying he wanted to finish paying the house loan quickly… He wasn’t careless with money
and, thinking back, that failed investment was the first and last money problem. That’s when I realized he hadn’t spent the money on a whim. He had done it because he wanted to lessen the burden of the house loan, to lessen the burden on me. All the while I had been concerned only about the money and had never stopped to consider his feelings. I felt deeply ashamed of my arrogance.
A Change in the Air
Coming home, I apologized immediately. “I realized how full of myself I was. I’m sorry, I should have given thought to what you must have been going through.” Then he apologized too, saying “I admit I was pretty irrational too, I’m sorry.” A warm breeze, one I had not felt for a long time, flowed between us. At that moment I made my decision: I was going to make this marriage work. I began by applying the advice my friends had given me in the past. That started with cleaning up the house so it would be
a place he would look forward to coming home to. Next was putting my heart into my cooking and making the things he liked. In order to be home on weekends and not have to work evenings, I switched jobs to working at the administrative office of a medical clinic.
Slowly but surely, I saw him change from being tense and cross to being kinder and calmer. Day by day I could tell we were growing more in tune with each other. It was fascinating to experience such a real change and also a tremendous joy to be able to go back to the way we were when we first married. I think the new-found sense of peace and security at home affected his job performance as well because not long after, he was awarded at work and given a promotion.
The Joy of Being a Family
Not too long afterwards, we welcomed our first child into our home. Watching my husband making time to play with him before he went to work makes me so glad I didn’t divorce him. At first I couldn’t believe husbands and wives share a special bond, but now I do. Thank you Lord, because if I hadn’t discovered faith, I would have walked down the path of divorce and would never have realized that I was walking away from the chance to discover the bond between us and the happiness of being a family.