Esther: ‘Please don’t let go of each other. Never’

“We struggled a lot with our relationship for the first twelve years and were on the verge of divorce several times. I was eighteen and the seventh in a family of eleven children. As the priest’s daughter, it was expected that I would not live together, but would get married right away My husband came from a broken family with a sick father and went to inland shipping school at 13 to escape the tensions at home. He was not given a good example of marriage.

You bring your own brokenness into a relationship and we immediately felt: we have to go abroad or we will never be separated from the family. We left for Scotland. There I turned out to be pregnant after six weeks, so I became a mother at the age of twenty. We were still young, we were both still broken, and we were abroad together: there was no other option but to talk a lot.”

“Two years later we came back to Holland with a broken car, a broken washing machine and a baby almost a year old. That was all we had. No house, no things, no money. Because my husband felt too let down as a breadwinner for his family, he fell into a severe depression. He felt a great responsibility to take care of his wife and child, while I lacked development and could not do anything with a small child around me. He walked all night, I worried called the police while he turned out to be just hanging out at the pub.

Then we decided: we’ve been married for two years, we’re parents, and even if we don’t feel in love anymore, we’ll fix this and we’ll stay together. If we want to make something out of our lives, we have to take action. I thought of a note from the church that we had just received in the mail, and that’s where we turned to for help. We had to learn how to make a good foundation, how to raise children and how to interact with each other.”

Brother-sister relationship

“If you’re heartbroken yourself, it’s almost impossible to do. We made a conscious commitment to a brother-sister relationship and after a while it changed again and the feelings came back. It’s super vulnerable to talk about it, but it has saved us.

You often assume that you will be rejected if you are vulnerable, but this also makes the other vulnerable, and this creates a connection again. Soon after, I became pregnant with our second daughter.”

“Our marriage has been through many seasons. My husband was very strong physically, but when he got covid a year and a half ago, he was confronted with his own weakness. It’s not surprising that at 62 you can’t lift a washing machine anymore , but it did something to him.

In the meantime, I also got covid and was put into a coma, which was very sad and uncertain for him. On the advice of the intensive care nurse, he kept a diary and eventually kept it for 100 days. After two weeks I was slowly brought out of the coma. After I woke up I had severe delirium so I no longer recognized Bart, had all sorts of delusions and terrible nightmares. This often happens after a coma, and instead of arguing with me, Bart started asking questions. Little by little he helped me get the story right.”

Big dash through dreams

“This recovery process took months. When we were home, we both had to give it some space. My husband had a hard time with all the changes because he suddenly got a disabled wife. I am partially paralyzed on the left and only have 60 percent lung capacity as result of coma and corona.

And that while we were at a point in our lives where we had moved from the Randstaden to the country to run a B&B and a cooking school together. Suddenly a thick line was drawn through our dreams. With a little outside help, we found each other again in conversations, also on the basis of his IC diary.’

“This whole period has been very traumatic for us and our children. We both surrendered to who we once were and we cried about it together. We could never have done that if we hadn’t consciously chosen and learned to be vulnerable .We are now pretty much equal partners again instead of casual carers, but it really didn’t go smoothly.

We are lucky that we also have two adult daughters who dare to ask many questions, even the difficult ones. ‘How are you and what’s going on with you now?’, they wanted to know and that helped us. Unfortunately, there is now a new medical development which means that the outlook for the future is uncertain. But we will get through this together.”

Nurturing love the right way

“You don’t get a good marriage alone, you also need people around you, and you have to work hard for it. Keep seeing each other, talk to each other about your weakness, about your strength, your dreams and your wishes See how you bring out the best in each other Love each other and never let go of each other.

Even if you don’t feel the love sometimes, that same love will not disappear as long as you keep nurturing it in the right way. Together and with a little help when needed.”

Wanted: Love Lessons

For the Love Lesson section on RTL News Lifestyle, we are looking for beautiful, vulnerable, funny, inspiring and honest love lessons. An insight, a moment of reflection. Preferably with your hand in your own bosom. Did you end up being the one with the fear of commitment? Should you never have emigrated for love, or did a blended family turn out to be an illusion after all? Journalist Hanneke Mijnster would like to ask you all about it. It is allowed to report anonymously. Mail to: hanneke.mijnster@rtl.nl.

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