The Man Who Changed a Grieving Heart

by | Jun 4, 2021 | Marriage, Research, Spiritual Intimacy, Uncategorized | 28 comments

The Man Who Healed Her Grieving Heart
Merchandise is Here!

So many women whose marriages have fallen apart end up on this blog, wondering if there is any hope for finding the kind of love that God designed for marriage. 

And today I have a lovely story I want to share with you from Manndi deBoef, one of my readers.

As may of you know, it’s been a heavy few months on the blog, and when Manndi sent me this story, it just made me happy. I hope it will make you happy, too!

Less than a year ago, I met a man that changed my life forever.

This man came at a time I had all but given up on love. I had been through two heartbreaking miscarriages, one devastating divorce, one horrific death of a partner; all losses unimaginable for the hopeless romantic in which the younger version of myself identified. When the decade of my thirties hit, they practically shook me free of every single romantic yet naive notion I had as a young woman. Yet, I never fully gave up. My heart would not allow it. Deep down in the recesses of my broken and battered heart, I knew somewhere out there was a man just for me. A man that would embrace my crazy, accept my baggage, understand my deficiencies and see my imperfect ways as perfectly suitable to his.

That man waltzed into my life mere months ago. At the height of Covid, on our infamous first date, he picked me up at my parents’ house. Yes, at the rife old age of forty, I was picked up at my parent’s place (only because they were watching my kids and it made more sense from a logistics standpoint). Not to mention I did not want him to see where I lived in case he was a serial killer. Still…it was awkward. This man actually met my Father before any of the others (we do not speak of).

Fast forward to the best first date ever.

We were practically kicked out of the restaurant (since when did high-pitched laughter and the sounds of a lifelong connection forming become a crime)? Pandemic life…UGH! Before they could ask us to leave, we took the cue and headed to a local botanical garden for some floral eye candy and wine-induced romance. The flowers were in full bloom, I was worried my self-tan would run due to the sticky summer humidity of the evening. He did not seem to care. We walked, we laughed, we talked about everything under the sun. I felt like a high school girl on my first date. It was glorious.

Next, we went to the bike trail near my house. I was not ready to let him see where I lived, but I figured bringing him a little closer to my natural habitat couldn’t hurt. We walked across the bridge and down to the river. We sat in the jutted pointy rocks at the river’s edge and talked about more things we had in common than not. When he said he had tickets to Alanis Morissette pre-covid, I knew there was something special that set him apart from the infamous others.

Finally, I said I needed to pick up my children and thus end the first date I desired to last forever. This mystery man that seemed almost too perfect drove me back to my parents’ house. Again, awkward. There was a goodnight hug and a promise of seeing me again. It was perfect.

When my head hit the pillow the night of our first date, I could not stop the reel replaying each moment I had spent just hours ago. I finally dozed off into a deep sleep with thoughts of this ultra-handsome, undeniably fun, seemingly perfect man still fresh in my mind.

After that first date, we agreed there was a very strong connection.

We continued to see each other as much as humanly possible, given that we lived in different cities. We hit the trails and rode bikes on the weekends. He introduced me to his local hang-outs. I introduced him to my best friends. He had already met my parents and children, so while we held off on spending much time with family, when the time came, it wasn’t as awkward as that initial meeting when a couple is dating and collectively decides it is time to meet the other’s family.

I search my memory for the moment I knew. The moment I knew this man would be my future. While I could not imagine the present without him in it, try as I might, I could not put my finger on one particular moment in time. It honestly just feels like I always knew it was him. Justin. My Justin. Even before I knew, I knew.

This kindred bond is one of those rare soul connections in life that only comes along after so much pain, heartache and life journeys have distinctly molded you into the best version of yourself.

When we met, I felt I had known him all my life.

We had so much in common. Even the passions and desires we did not share from the beginning have become interests we have each developed in efforts to spend more time with each other.

I never dreamed I would enjoy dirt biking. It is hot, dirty, dusty, loud and dangerous. Yet, the first time I saw Justin ride, his bike slicing through the air like it had wings, he pointed his index finger at me in a Tom-Cruise-Top-Gun sort of masculine heroic way, as he seamlessly sailed over the dirt-packed mound like it was nothing. Seeing him in his element made my soul burn with desire for a sport I had never given an ounce of thought to. Suddenly, I was a Super-Cross Super Fan!

We had many talks about our children. Being full-time single parents is not exactly a recipe for a prosperous dating portfolio, much less a healthy, lasting relationship. Yet, Justin knew from the beginning I was a package deal. If he were to fall in love with me, he would have to love my two young sons as well. I worried this might present a problem as it had with others. Yet, my worry was in vain. Justin easily accepted my sons as his own and developed a special, healthy, loving relationship with each child, separate but equal from that which he shared with their mother.

Seeing Justin with my boys gives me the confidence and assuredness to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is my person.

There was no doubt of my feelings for him early on. However, seeing his glorious interaction with my sons, showing interest in their activities, sitting at basketball games and through swim team practice, taking them on honey-do errands when it would no doubt be just as easy (and much quieter) to go solo, sealed the already-sealed deal. The bonding with my kids came so naturally there was no room for doubt. My once-broken, hurting, separated family had become healed, happy and beautifully nurtured. A dream I had long ago given up on.

When I hear the song, He Didn’t Have to Be by Brad Paisley, my eyes fill with tears of resolute understanding and immeasurable gratitude. The song tells a story of a little boy growing up with a single mother. His mother meets a man and the boy assumes it will end like all of the others. Yet, that man falls in hopelessly in love with his mother and in time, falls in love with the little boy as well. That man becomes a Dad to the little boy and one day, that little boy, as he is holding his own precious bundle of joy, sings the beautiful full-circle words to his own child: “I hope I’m at least half the Dad you didn’t have to be. Because you didn’t have to be.”. That is how I feel when I see this beautiful man with my sons. When I see Justin with our boys.

Sometimes I catch myself looking at him. It sounds a bit creepy. Yet, I catch glimpses when he is driving, on the phone, washing dishes, feeding the dogs, interacting with my boys or parents, or just sitting on the couch watching Netflix with me after a busy day at work. I see such a grace and tenderness in this man. He is everything I am not. Patient, quiet, considerate and thoughtful in his responses to others and the world. He is gentle and takes time to do things right the first time (to avoid having to repeatedly repeat things which is my particular spiritual gift).

When I look at Justin, I see a hero, a worker, a fighter, a tender, loving father, a kind and respectful son, a loving and protective big brother. I see so many traits that paint a beautiful picture of the complete and very competent man he has grown to be. It positively blows my mind how blessed I am to be loved by this man I met on a dating site less than one year ago.

Justin asked me to marry him less than two months ago.

Four words I painfully worried I may never hear again. While I am still floating on Cloud Nine, dreaming of our future, the impact of being his future wife has not fully set in. At times, I have to pinch myself to prove this is not a dream. This is reality. Sometimes reality is even better than the dreams our limited human minds can conceive.

I know we are still in the new stages of relationship. The rose-colored glasses phase. Yet, I have seen enough to feel confident that I want Justin as my partner in this life. I want to fight battles with him, I want to wage wars with him, I want to peacefully throw up the white flag of surrender with him. I want his to be the first Good Morning of the day and the last I love you of the night. I want to sit on our front porch someday in wooden rocking chairs and reminisce about the foolishness of our youth, lessons learned in our adulthood, mistakes our children are currently making and pure, unfiltered joy at the sight of our grandchildren happily playing in the yard just beyond our front porch.

“I wish you could see yourself through my eyes.”. While this is a statement you (Justin) have said to me countless times, it adequately portrays the desire I feel for you to see through the many layers to the very core of my own beating heart. Only then could you possibly know the abundance of respect, desire, passion, curiosity and love that flows through my veins when in your company and reveling in the life we have made together. I blame you for my happiness. I blame me for not giving up on the one true love I knew deep down in my heart of hearts was out there in the world, waiting just for me. I could not say it any better than the poignant words of Rascal Flatts’ song…”God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you”.

Sheila here again: That story just made me happy. I  know so many of my readers are leading lonely lives, and often we do have very broken roads. But I hope many of you find love, too, in whatever form it takes.

Keith says that Brad Paisley is responsible for most of the tears he’s cried in life, and he loves this song that Manndi mentioned, too, so I thought you may enjoy it as well:

Internet Dating: Finding Love and Healing Grieving Heart

Manndi works at the UMKC School of Pharmacy and as a freelance writer in her spare time. Her greatest passion is being a boy mom to her two rambunctious, creative, endearing sons, William, age 10 and Waylan, age 8. Her sons never fail to provide daily entertainment, which inspires many of her writings. She also loves to write about everything from being a single mom and dating after divorce to finding lasting love later in life, the devastation of miscarriage, the loss of a loved one and starting over. Her pieces are lovingly filled with inspiration, encouragement and always a touch of humor.

“Live a life others wish to read about.”

Manndi Maphies DeBoef

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Dorthea

    ❤️❤️❤️ Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Phil

    Congratulations Mandi – Lovely story and I wish you the best. Brad Paisley is my favorite Country Artist….music is an awesome place to find strength healing and wonderful messages. For me..the last 5 months of my life have been like that old Country Song….Ya know…like you’re drunk( I actually don’t drink), you lost your dog, you got divorced, your truck broke down and you are out of money….but when you play that song backwards you are sober, your dog came home, you got your wife back, and you are rich beyond your wildest dreams!…I am almost back to the beginning of the song! LOL. Have great day everyone.

    • Manndi DeBoef

      I am beyond grateful to Sheila Wray Gregoire for sharing this story! It is not only my story, but the story of many out there: past, present and future. No matter how devastating the ashes of destruction in one’s life, God specializes in turning them into a bountiful blessing of beauty, if we look to him. He has turned my pain to passion and given me a chance of love with a great man, who not only loves me, but my children. I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my story! Thank you, Sheila!

  3. Erin M

    I love this! I almost could have written it! There was a (very) broken road that led me to my husband too. I too was a package deal with 3 sons (who also had baggage) My husband is also a gentle, patient, compassionate, loving man.
    But in my story, I’ve been married to my current husband for ten years now. And it’s STILL amazing! He has loved me (and my boys) through a lot of chaos. He’s steady and solid and I thank God for him daily. He’s exactly like that Country song, “One of the Good Ones.”
    We’ve had two kids together now, so we have five total. And he adopted the older 3 a couple of years ago. He’s the best dad!
    Yes, this level of beautiful, Godly love is out there. I told my husband if anything ever happened to him, I would never settle for the kind of marriage I had before just to be with someone. He has raised the bar SO much higher!

  4. Katydid

    That song means a lot to my husband who has a wonderful step-up-dad. He’s dad and we forget so easily the step part. People are surprised when they find out they aren’t biologically related because they are so alike.
    I grew up in the “divorce is sin, remarriage is adultery” camp, yet I see so many good, beautiful, loving, lasting 2nd (and even 3rd) marriages. I can’t reconcile that God would rather we suffer through a terrible first marriage and call a 2nd healthy marriage adultery. It doesn’t make sense.
    I’m so glad these two found each other. Praise the Lord!

    • Jane Eyre

      God prohibits divorce in all but a few instances for spiritual and practical reasons. The marriage bond is supposed to reflect the love between Christ and His church, so allowing that bond to be callously broken shakes people’s faith in God’s love for us. Is God’s love really permanent? Is anything permanent? When God says that His love is everlasting, just as a bridegroom’s is, does He really mean it?
      Pragmatically, a lot of people who divorce do so because they think they will find someone better. They remember being young and single, likely with rose coloured glasses, and expect that if they are back on the singles scene, life will be fun and exciting again, with plenty of people to choose from. When Jesus says, no, you have to stay single if your marriage falls apart, it is to cut off this line of thinking.
      The problem is that it takes two to make a marriage work and one to make a marriage fail. I read Jesus’ words as saying that even if you toss a loving, loyal spouse to the curb who then finds someone else, you have still done great wrong to that person.

      • Phil

        I read Jesus’ words that I am a child of God and I deserve to live the fruit of the spirit because he died for me/us and my/our sins. God’s love is permanent! Not a question. No one. NO ONE should stand in the way of God’s love and his will for us – marriage or not.

      • Jane Eyre

        Phil, what I mean is that marriages are a public witness to God’s faithfulness. Spouses who stay married despite having reason to throw in the towel (NOT talking about abuse or adultery here – more that two well meaning but imperfect people will give each other more than enough reason to start fresh) are a testament to God’s unfailing love and forgiveness.
        On the flip side, abusing your spouse, being unfaithful, or walking out just cuz is a tremendous blow to the public witness of Christian marriages.

      • Misty S.

        So beautiful! I have a similar story. After being torn into a million pieces in a thousand different ways during and after my first marriage I found myself a lonely single mom of teenagers in crisis, while in crisis myself. I fought and went to counseling and put my life together. I found myself again.
        Then I found him. Or rediscovered him. He was a friend in high school. We always kept up with each through acquitances. I walked into his workplace one day not realizing he worked there. Then I heard him say my name. I told my daughter right then, if he ever asked me out I would say yes. It took him 6 months. Our first date was very much like hers. We went to dinner and talked and laughed, then closed down a coffee shop, then sat in the car outside my house and talked and laughed until the wee hours of the morning.
        We’ve been together ever since. And married almost 2 years now. There have been some many moments of “you get it, when no one else does.
        You understand my scars.”
        And he and my daughter have the most wonderful relationship. She’s 17 and teenagers can be really hard on new people, but I have seen her turn to him when she’s upset, seen him hold her when
        she cries over the way her bio dad treats her. I see him be the dad she needs and it is beautiful.
        Someone told me the other day that we make them believe in love because we still look at each other like love sick teenagers. I truly believe we always will. When you’ve been through so much you know to value and invest in something so precious. I’m so blessed to have him.

      • Phil


      • Exwifeofasexaddict

        Jane Eyre, according to Gretchen Baskerville’s research, fully 50% of Christians who divorce do so for a lifesaving reason. Infidelity, abuse, addiction. And most of them have been staying and trying and praying for a decade or more. The belief that most people leave for frivolous reasons is a myth.

      • Hannah

        It’s usually impossible to say anything that will sway someone who sees divorce and marriage in the black and white view that you are seeing it through.
        However I will say that pretty much every divorced person I know, save for one, got divorced because they were being severely abused or abandoned through unrepentant infidelity. Myself included.
        And as someone who *agonized* over it for years, and only left as it was about to literally kill me, I can say….most who divorce don’t do so lightly or because ‘they just want to find someone else’. My ex-husband treated me terribly, yet I still deeply grieved when I finally walked away.
        Gretchen Baskerville is a good read on Biblical divorce – and the stats and studies she’s done show that at least 52% of divorces are life saving divorces.
        I hope that maybe next time you’re talking to a divorced person, you’ll take the time to try to understand them as a person and their experiences and ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ before you judge. Nobody can save a marriage alone, and many divorced people tried to keep a marriage alive alone for so long it nearly killed them. Just something to think about.
        For my part, I know God released me from my first marriage – He saved me when I could no longer endure the abuse, and I will always be thankful to Him for rescuing me from that dark, horrible place.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I think we may be misreading what Jane Eyre was saying. She was saying that OTHER than abuse and adultery etc. there are problems, but she certainly supports getting divorce for those things. And her last sentence is that the person who abuses (not the one who is abused) is the problem here.
          I think you’re right, though, that we often assume most divorces are “just cuz”. They’re not. Some, sure. But most are not.

      • Phil

        I would just like to add that my 10-4 was directed at Jane as understood now….thank you for splaining it to me 😬

  5. Meghan

    Awwwwwwwww! That was so sweet!!! I love reading love stories! And your way of writing is so engaging too. It took me back to when I was dating my husband 6 years ago. I still do the staring thing, BTW. He’s just so stinking cute. 😉

  6. Jane Eyre

    What a beautiful story!

  7. Melissa

    “I knew before I knew.” Yup I know what you mean! People ask me when I “knew” my husband was The One, and there wasn’t an exact moment. It was that from the moment we met, being together was the most natural thing in the world. Still is, 14 years later. We aren’t perfect and we’ve had our challenges, but we’re each other’s people.

  8. Nathan

    What a wonderful story, and I’m very happy for you, Manndi.
    One thing we can all learn. Whether it’s finding love, conquering an addiction, escaping an abusive situation, or anything else, there’s ALWAYS hope.

  9. Alison

    This is very similar to my own story, only we had our first dates little more than three months before quarantine started here. He is the most amazing man I have ever met, and he has been consistently exactly what I and my children needed. I waited 42 years for him to b given to me and it was very worth it.

  10. Belinda

    And now I’m attempting to sob quietly at the gut-wrenching beauty of this testimony.
    To those who are further along the path than I, will you pray for those of us behind you? <3

  11. anon

    this sounds dangerously naive to me… it hasn’t even been a full year, and kids’ hearts are involved. i am old enough to have seen a lot of new relationships after divorce, eventually turn out even worse than the first marriage… but people usually keep the latter disasters more quiet, if they can, out of greater embarrassment.

  12. Laura

    Wow! What a wonderful love story! I’m still waiting for mine at almost 45, if it’s God’s will for me. I understand about wanting to give up and thinking it may never happen for me after heartache. I got divorced almost 19 years ago because the relationship was sexually abusive. I didn’t date for 15 years because not only was I very picky, but I was also afraid of getting hurt. I took a risk four years ago and dated again, then got engaged at 41. That relationship didn’t work out, but we’re still friends and in the last year, I almost found myself in a relationship that turned out not to be right. So, a part of me just wants to give up and remain single, but when I hear stories like Manndie’s, I feel as though God is reminding me to keep believing in His promises. So, I am going to keep trusting that God has His best for me somewhere and someday.

  13. Manndi DeBoef

    This is to the negative comment. I don’t wish to be divisive. Just feel the need to defend this love! Here is what I wrote on my FB page in response to the negative comment.:
    The little voice on my right pleads: “Don’t read the comments, don’t read the comments, DON’T read the comments!”. The little voice on my left barks: “Ah, heck….what harm could it do?”. I read the comments…
    One nay-sayer amidst nearly 20 other kind, congratulatory, respectful, hopeful commenters. Yet, guess which one stands out in my mind? That’s right….Mr. Negative. ‘Anon’, as he calls himself. At first I thought it was some ridiculously unoriginal nickname, but then I realized it was a cowardly attempt at being anonymous.
    He basically preached how naive and emotionally immature I am to be entering a marriage after such a short time knowing someone. Fair point. What he doesn’t know (though you can be sure I will educate him) is this:
    Both Justin and I have made a myriad of relationship mistakes that we have both acknowledged, learned from and do not plan to repeat (don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll make new ones)! We have also, between us, dated enough others to know a special thing when we see it. We saw (and felt) it with each other.
    After going through a divorce nearly seven years ago, then miraculously finding love again, only to have it cruelly ripped away far before it fermented to fruition, I think I know a thing or two. Possibly three.
    Nothing in life is certain. Human plans are a mockery of God’s fateful direction for His children. Time is moving continuously faster the older we get. Might I experience another heartbreak? Possibly. What if another loss finds my heart? It will, at some point. I can ‘what if’ and play-it-safe for the rest of my life. Only. I’m 41.
    I want to live! I want to love. I want to take risks and chances and tempt the fate of failure. How embarrassing will it be to fail at something so meaningful I have touted it from the social media rooftops to the wondering world below? (No more embarrassing than any other life event I have shared). I am a writer. I share my story with others. Not every chapter is pretty. Not every era has a happy ending. Not every character is victorious. Yet.
    There are other chapters that are blindingly beautiful! Seasons of joy. This is my season of joy. No one can take that from Justin and myself. As much as I would prefer no negative comments, I actually welcome them, to a point. I feel a passion and intensity to defend our love. It should be enough to know how we both feel, but I truly want the world to feel it too!
    Might we fail? I sure hope not. But I am also a pessimistic realist. Coupled with a heaping helping of hopeless romantic. That may be a recipe for disaster. Yet I believe with all my heart that God brought this man into my life and me to his. We prayed for each other. We hoped for each other. We believed in each other. And, I think in some primitive extraterrestrial way, we even loved each other before acknowledging our love for each other.
    So, to this stranger nay-sayer, I say:
    I would much rather live my life with no regrets; possibly at the end admitting to failure after having tried, than to devastatingly die, feeling a disastrous failure of a person, because I never did try. 💗

    • Phil

      With You Manndi – sometimes I get so disappointed with people and their negative comments around here. I suppose it is a reflection of how sad it is that they have no one else to talk to so they come here and leave negative comments that reflects their life…on a an different note – the rocking chair comment in your story has stuck with me the last 24….I really wish I could just give you those chairs 😬….but I know you will get them soon!

  14. Lisa M

    “Justin easily accepted my sons as his own and developed a special, healthy, loving relationship with each child, separate but equal from that which he shared with their mother.”
    This is beautiful.
    I am really saddened by the silly idea many Christians have that spouses need to love each other more than their children– and the children need to know that. That’s crazy. I love my children more than I can describe, and I love my husband that much, too. It’s different and equal.
    I’m so happy for you!

  15. Lauren Davis

    I can so relate!!! I went through a bad divorce with a narcissist after 17 years. I didn’t want to date and lived cross country but reconnected with my first boyfriend and he had been through similar situation as me. He moved me and my children back home in January and we married in April. So thankful for Gods grace and our 4 children. I wouldn’t have ever chosen a blended family but Gods grace has abounded and to say I’m thankful is an understatement. Congrats to the lady in this story too 💜

  16. Manndi DeBoef

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for the kind comments, congratulations and love for my story! It is heart-warming to feel the love and genuine happiness from those I have never even met…
    Thank you again to Sheila Gregoire for sharing this story! It means the world to me and my fiance’, Justin. We have shared it with all of our family and friends as well!
    Also, while I wrote this to commemorate a special season in my own life, I also wanted to share hope and encouragement for those out there going through difficulties and life challenges. While in the midst of trial, it can seem there is no way out, but through God, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. He took a devastating situation in my own life and has birthed a blessing of bounty. I have seen this in others’ lives as well. I would never advocate divorce; it is quite honestly the worst thing I have ever been through and I would not wish it upon my worst enemy! However, there IS life after…and maybe even love, if that is your desire. God specializes in bringing beauty from the ashes of destruction.
    Again, thank you for the love and well-wishes. Shelia, your readers are the BEST!


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