I had two distinct thoughts when I finished Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior. The first was, I don’t think it’s possible to live like this. The second thought was, What if I did live like this?
Love Warrior is a memoir, but more specifically, it’s a through-the-bedroom-window view into Doyle Melton’s marriage. And she doesn’t close a single curtain. From her stay in a psychiatric ward when she was 17 to her husband’s infidelity, Love Warrior is an unflinching account of pain and recovery, failure and faith. When Doyle Melton is ten, she learns about bulimia from a television show and for years, she uses her disordered eating as a way to “go underneath.” In high school, she works hard to fit in. “I throw back my shoulders, smile, and walk into the hallway like a superhero in a cape. …I hold my breath all day at school, and then when I get home I relax with pounds of food and the toilet. This rhythm works.”
With this same, detailed honesty, Doyle Melton recounts the horrifying ways alcohol adds to her destructive rhythm, until the rhythm inevitably stops working. Doyle Melton finds herself unexpectedly pregnant (for the second time) and works hard to get sober. She marries her college boyfriend Craig and writes beautifully about the vulnerability of having a new baby.
“We begin to understand that to coparent is to one day look up and notice that you are on a roller coaster with another human being. You are in the same car, strapped down side by side and you can never, ever get off. There will never be another moment in your lives when your hearts don’t rise and fall together, when your minds don’t race and panic together, when your stomachs don’t churn in tandem, when you stop seeing huge hills emerge in the distance and simultaneously grab the side of the car and hold on tight.”
Much of this is detailed on her blog, Momastery, which is parlayed into her first book, Carry On Warrior. What makes Love Warrior different is that it feels more steely, as if Doyle Melton is now saying to us: Okay, I worked really hard to be brave and good and now I’m going to tell you how much it all sucked.
About life as a newlywed with a baby, she writes, “I’m getting lonelier and more afraid. Having something to say and no one to hear it is so lonely. Expecting less than true friendship in my most important relationship is so depressing. Every day when Craig gets home from work, I want to grab him and say, I’m in here – I’m offering myself to you – do you hear me? Instead, when he asks how I am I say, “I’m fine, just fine.”
One night, Craig leads her to the bedroom. “My heart sinks and I stiffen,” Doyle Melton writes. “I can tell by his voice that he wants sex. I don’t want sex; I want my bowl of ice cream and my corner of the couch. I’m so tired, but I stand up and follow Craig. I need to be a good wife so we can all be happy.”
What follows is a painful revelation of her husband’s infidelity while they are meeting with their therapist. And this is where Doyle Melton shines. She could have easily sailed over the details, events being what they were, but she doesn’t. To the questionable therapist, she says, “You should get an adjustable chair in this office so female-size people can put their (expletive) feet on the ground.”
To her husband, she says, “To me, there is no ‘you’ anymore. Whoever the hell you are – you’ve destroyed our family and I will never forgive you. Never. I’m leaving now to pick up my kids.”
The subsequent story is where Doyle Melton’s honesty is both impressive and intimidating and frankly, a bit perplexing, and maybe even what got Oprah’s attention. As Doyle Melton processes her anger and takes responsibility for her role in her marriage implosion she writes, “What if my anger, my fear, my loneliness were never mistakes, but invitations? What if in skipping the pain, I was missing my lessons? Instead of running away from my pain, was I supposed to run toward it? Perhaps pain was not a hot potato after all, but a traveling professor.”
Doyle Melton mentions that the word crisis means “to sift,” and that is what she does in Love Warrior. With her trademark humor and honesty, she sifts, and writes down what happened. This is not a manual for how to stay in a marriage after a partner is unfaithful. Nor is it an argument on why and when to leave. Rather, it is a story about staying close to our own hearts, even during the painful parts. Maybe even especially then.
Have you read Love Warrior? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!
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