I'm working on a book proposal for Naghmeh Abedini. If you don't remember her story, she was married to the American pastor imprisoned in Iran back in 2012. She fought for him to be set free then shocked the world when filing for a legal separation after his release. There's so much more to the story, and I'm honored to get to tell it.
Really, it's a love story about how much God loves us. Even though I quit writing romance after my divorce, God has redeemed my career. He prepared me for this in a way I never could have imagined.
Naghmeh signed with a publisher to collaborate with an author once before, but it didn't work out, and she decided that if she ever wrote a book, it would be with someone who understood abuse. She told me this morning that it was the following part of my story that stuck with her and made her want to work with me:
My husband "David" didn’t want me around. So that summer I visited friends and family all over the Northwest with our kids.
David would sleep in the living room when I was home. I told him I wouldn’t divorce him until we went to counseling together, and the morning of our first session with Dr. Todd Bennett, I crawled onto the mattress with him and put my arms around him. I didn’t know if it would be my last chance to ever hold him. He laid there and let me.
Then I sobbed all through my half of the counseling session. I’d been reading books on divorce, and I had a list of everything I’d done wrong that would make David want to leave me.
The only reason I would even consider letting go of David is if he’d had a physical affair. He’d done this once before. It was a one-night stand, and he repented the next day. Promised to do anything for our family. Promised it would never happen again. At that time when I took him back, I said, “If you ever cheat on me again, it’s over.”
I found out later that this is why David was so set on divorce. He knew that I would divorce him if I found out about the adultery, so he was going to get me before I got him. I told Todd my one stipulation. I wanted to ask David in front of Todd if he’d physically cheated on me. But when it came time to do it, I asked, “Is there anything else I need to know about Belinda?”
He said, “No.” And convinced himself that it was the truth.
I continued to ask him this question outside of counseling. David admitted to kissing her on the forehead like he would a little child. But he promised that was all.
Sometimes he would open up and apologize. He’d moved out by this time. But he would come back every now and then and say things like, “I tried to watch our favorite movie without you last night, Ang. And I couldn’t do it because I missed you too much.”
So I continued to fight for him. Texted him scriptures. Wrote on his Facebook page, “I love my husband.” Finished the entire Love Dare despite how hard he made it. I believed with everything in me that we were going to make it.
It didn’t get better. He would say things like, “With the kind of wife you’ve been, you’re lucky I didn’t have more affairs.”
When I told this to Todd, Todd suggested I slap David. He explained that David’s personality liked one thing but respected another. So the next chance I had, I became a little more assertive.
David’s parents were in town for a cousin’s wedding. We were all supposed to attend then David was going to go with his parents up to the family cabin while I stayed behind. I decided to dress up and have a great time at the wedding. After all, Dr. Dobson points out in one of his books that the partner wanting out of a marriage is not going to be lured back in by a needy, helpless spouse. So I was going to be strong, beautiful, and charming. I’d have everyone ask David, “What the heck are you thinking?”
But I didn’t make it to the wedding. Right before we were to leave David came into the bedroom and said, “I need to tell you something, Angela. I went to a movie with Belinda the other day.”
He’d promised me that he’d set up boundaries and had accountability. I wanted to slap him in the face. But for David that’s always been the ultimate sign of disrespect. I would never do that. First, I threw my phone. Then my heels came off. Hit him all three times. I let loose all the bottled emotion. It wasn’t pretty.
My husband was dating another woman. And telling me about it with his parents in the house. Right before we were supposed to attend a wedding together. I couldn’t go.
The eruption scared the kids. My mother-in-law took them to the backyard while I blindly stormed out. This is one of many times that I took off with no idea where I was headed.
David’s dad told me that David fell into his arms afterward and started weeping like he would never stop but then pulled it together when the kids came back in the house. David’s mom called and left a message saying she was sorry and that she would take care of the kids, and she hoped I didn’t feel bad about my anger because she completely understood. But David also called and went off on me about how I was so selfish, and he blamed me for upsetting the kids.
“Is this how I can expect you to react when I’m real?”
“When you’re a real asshole.”
After the shoe-throwing incident I ended up at church for the Saturday service where the woman next to me gave me a card for her divorce class. I said, “I hope I won’t need it.”
But I was running scared. I’d met David my very first day of college. I dropped out to marry him. I’d become a stay-at-home mom. That was my life.
I never imagined David would resent me. Take away my phone. Take my name off the bank account. Tell me to get "a f@*%ing job." And tell me that he wished the day he met me he would have turned around and walked away.
I never thought he would slam his fist down on the table demanding I leave because he couldn’t stand me eating the dinner I made at the table I picked out while he was there. Or push me in the hallway so he could get past me faster. Or try to force his way back into the house when I asked him to leave because he told me I was no wife.
I dressed up for divorce mediation. I claimed the verse from Proverbs 31… “She is clothed in strength and dignity, she can laugh at her days to come.”
Then I broke down in front of the mediator who asked me, “Do you really want to stay married to him?”
“I want the man I married back. I don’t know who that man is.”
I still believed our marriage would be saved. That he was Anakin and there was still good in him even though he’d turned into Darth Vader. After all, he hadn’t slept with Belinda yet, right? So there was still hope.
God is now using my heartbreak to share His love with others. He doesn't waste a thing. And He can do the same for you.