Editor’s Note: When I came up with the idea for Good Women Project when I was 23, this is exactly the kind of stuff I wanted to read. This is all the ‘stuff’ about love and dating and marriage and divorce that we don’t get to see unless we live it, or unless someone bares their soul and lets us into their inside life. Today’s story is by Tracy Wells. She blogs at theroadtobeautiful.com and tweets at @roadtobeautiful. – Lauren
Love is enough… Love conquers all…
My young heart took these statements into my marriage and lugged them around for 22 years. I knew before I ever said, “I do” that God was saying, “Don’t.” But I married anyway, and I paid a heavy price.
The first four years of marriage were blissful, and then it started. The cycle was always the same – he would accuse, I would cry, I would reason, we would talk, he would apologize – I’m so sorry. I know you’ve never cheated on me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me – and I would forgive. Over and over for 18 years my husband accused me of having multiple affairs. With every painful accusation, every cutting look, through each hellish argument I told myself, it will be okay because we love each other. I didn’t see that things weren’t even close to being okay.
I soon understood why God had said, “Don’t.”
I still remember the first accusation; I was shocked, blindsided, dumbfounded. I didn’t even know how to react. An affair?! Me?! I had never even had any offers or an inappropriate conversation with another man. I was never unfaithful, but that didn’t matter. My husband was my accuser. He was the source of my pain and my comfort. He was my best friend and my worst enemy.
Bad was mingled with good, hurt intertwined with love.
Years went by, our children came and grew and life seemed normal. But normal in my marriage wasn’t normal at all. My husband never laid a hand on me, but I was terrified of him. His words and eyes cut me deeper and did more damage than his fists ever could have. Physical wounds would have healed much sooner than the gaping cuts my heart walked around with. Maybe if he could have seen that I was battered and bleeding inside, he wouldn’t have repeatedly demanded that I “just get over it.”
Even when things were great between us, I was acutely aware that it all could go south in a heartbeat. I walked on eggshells all day, every day. The ache in my heart was constant. I cried more than I care to remember. All I had ever wanted out of life was to be married and have kids. I used to think, I guess I got my wish, but this is not what I had in mind.
On the outside, my marriage looked fine.
My kids were happy, and I was smiling. I wanted to be okay, so I acted like I was okay. Only God knew I was going through hell. No one at church knew, not even my family. I was completely isolated. I was a genius at covering up my pain. Survival mode said, “Preserve the marriage; protect the kids,” and I did.
I was then and am now deeply in love with Jesus. I love my kids dearly. They’re so great, and I love being a mom. I loved being married in spite of the junk. I was happy in spite of living in fear every day. I was full of joy and yet hopelessly sad. I didn’t want a divorce, I only wanted my husband to stop treating me so terribly. I wanted him to trust me. I wanted him to believe in me. To see into my heart and know that I truly loved him. To know that all my heart was for my family.
I was desperate for him to know, once and for all, that the affairs he imagined in his mind never happened, and that his suspicions were unwarranted. I wanted him to stop taking back his apology with the next accusation. I wanted him to be the good man that I knew he could be.
I told myself the same things that I’m sure most do, “But we’re Christians. If I pray enough, hope enough, believe enough…I know God can fix this. Divorce is not the plan!
And divorce is never the plan.
I know that God can fix a troubled marriage and that nothing is too hard for Him. I know He is the Great Physician and healer of all hurt. I know of His life-changing power. This knowledge kept me going, gave me hope and kept me sane. God will not, however, force someone to change.
I remember the day this realization hit me like a truck. If a person isn’t willing to change, change will not happen. No matter how much I prayed for God to change my husband, to change me, or how much I tried to adapt to this ever-changing/always-the-same situation, it was never enough. I told myself, If my words, expressions and actions are just right, he won’t suspect me of having an affair. If I just try to be the perfect wife, maybe then he will see that I really do love him. But no matter what I did, nothing changed. It never dawned on me that I was in an abusive relationship. My every move was controlled, and I didn’t even realize it.
The abuse escalated during the last three years of the marriage. The accusations became more disgusting, more harsh and more frequent. His words and eyes grew more violent. No one has ever looked at me or spoken to me with more contempt than my husband. My husband – the one who promised before God to cherish and protect me. The one who should know me better than anyone. How could he hate me so much one minute and love me so much the next?
I prayed repeatedly, How much of this do I have to take?! When will things change?! Each time I heard God softly tell me to stay. To this day I don’t know why, but I knew I couldn’t leave him. God didn’t remove me from the situation when I would have chosen, but He sustained me. He was so faithful to hold me and wipe my tears. Every. Time. Never. Failing.
And then one day, out of the blue, God said, “It’s time.”
I didn’t have to ask, “Time for what?” He didn’t have to tell me twice. I knew exactly what He meant, and I ran. I ran and didn’t look back. Some may argue that God would never tell a person to leave a marriage, but I have no doubt that had I stayed, the abuse would have become physical. I believe God rescued me that day.
I literally felt like I had been let out of a cage. I felt so free and yet so afraid! The thought of being a single mom kind of terrified me, and I was so concerned about my kids. Accusations continued to fly, and no matter what I did to protect my children and their ears, they were not to be immune from the lies. But a full year before the day of my escape, God had spoken to me very clearly. He said, “Don’t worry about your kids; I’ve got them. I love them more than you do.” Little did I know then how much those words would impact my life. I have clutched them so tightly, and they have brought me great peace.
I would love to tell you that my husband changed. I would love to tell you that we worked things out and my marriage was saved. But that is not the case. I learned some hard lessons when I disobeyed God all those years ago when I married him.
I learned that love does not conquer all. I learned that love is not enough.
Love does not always ‘fix.’
I said earlier that no matter what I did, nothing changed. That’s not entirely true. I changed.
God took my disobedience and exchanged it for priceless truth. He taught me how to run to Him, and every time He met me with strength and wisdom that I did not possess on my own. I learned how to pray and trust on an entirely different level. I learned that real worship doesn’t just happen on a warm and fuzzy Sunday morning. Real worship happens when you remain faithful in the trenches day after day even though your life is falling apart around you. I learned what it means to be truly happy despite your circumstances.
Real joy comes from God alone and cannot be taken from you when life gets hard. Little by little, year after year, through stubborn determination, I learned. I learned what real love is. You see, the truth is, I did have a love affair. I fell so desperately in love with God during those awful years, and that is how I survived. I had no one else to turn to. God was all I had, and I learned that He is all I need.
I learned that His love conquers all, and that His love is enough.
I disobeyed God and walked willingly into a situation with an outcome I could never have foreseen. But God, in His grace and mercy, didn’t abandon me. He followed me. He took my hand and walked with me on my journey, even though it was not His plan. He protected me and comforted me.
He never once said, “I told you so.”
He never once – not one time – left my side. He has never condemned me. He is gentle in His correction and passionate in His love for me.
I will be your God throughout your lifetime — until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. (Isaiah 46:4)
I am not advocating divorce. I hope that is not what you take from my story. I want to impress upon you the unconditional love of a God who passionately pursues us. A God who redeems all of our mistakes. A God who runs after us into our storm with an umbrella and an anchor. He is our refuge and our strength (Psalm 46:1). God is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer (Psalm 18:2). He will never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) even in our disobedience.
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
Three years have passed since God brought me out of that situation. He has taken me on a journey of healing that has been so amazing. I no longer live in fear or feel the incredible pain that was my constant companion for nearly my entire adult life. He has put my heart back together, replacing the missing pieces with pieces of His own heart. He has wiped away my regrets and my shame along with my tears. He is my perfect husband who knows me better than anyone. He cherishes me and protects me, and I am precious to Him. He speaks only words of life, and if I could see His eyes, I know they would be filled, not with hatred or contempt, but with great love. He is the forever faithful love of my life. I know this today more than ever before.
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17)
I hope that you feel the love of God today and every day no matter where you are in life or what you are going through. In gain and lack, in peace and turmoil, in hope and despair, God is a good God. He loves you unconditionally. This is my prayer for you always.
I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your heart as you trust in Him. That your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Lindsey Capperrune. If you are about-to-be-married or in the first year of marriage (CONGRATULATIONSSSSSSS!!!!), there is a list at the bottom of this post of other stories on our site for you! And as always, you can find all posts on marriage at goodwomenproject.com/marriage. Love love. – Lauren
The first year. Holy moly.
No one told me that this year would be one of the hardest years of my life.
Ok, great. Now let’s get back to planning my multi-thousand dollar wedding.
We were way too busy attending showers, opening gifts and registering for the waffle maker to even care that this year was going to be tough. And there was the huge decision between wood or Chiavari chairs for the ceremony. And was it improper to request that children not come to the wedding?
We had dated for 3 years and I knew this guy was the guy who would rock my world. He had it all; he was a Jesus follower, he was great on the eyes, he was smart and he made me laugh about a hundred times a day. We were seriously in love and seriously planning the most beautiful wedding I have ever been to.
We went to the Dominican Republic, on a honeymoon you only see in the magazines, kayaked in the ocean, made love, drank the best coffee ever, came home and life began.
Or did it?
Actually my life had begun 23 years ago, in a Baptist home with 2 sisters my younger. My life in the city with malls and restaurants and in a home where we put the milk on the door in the refrigerator.
And his life had begun 26 years ago. In a Lutheran home with one older sister. In a small town with one stop light and a gas station with sprinkle donuts. In a home where they put the milk on the shelf in the refrigerator.
I played volleyball and Barbie’s and he played guitar and Super Mario Bros. I majored in Communications and he in Worship Ministry.
There’s this problem, and it’s that we think life starts with marriage.
As if marriage is the start of it all. It’s a fallacy that life begins there and everything prior to the vows evaporates suddenly. I’m not sure why exactly; maybe we want it to be that way, or we know it’d be easier that way. Maybe because we want to be the only life our new spouse has ever known, but the truth is life begins before “I do.”
You bring your family, your norms and values, your “we’ve always done it” ways and you marry a person who just happens to have those ways too and you collide. You find yourself wondering, “Why does he do it like that?! Why does the garbage sit there in a bag by the back door? Why does he fold his underwear?”
And things he probably asked of me: Why are we having cupcakes for dinner? And why do you steal the covers every. single. night?
The impact of that collision is so strong that we start to think something is majorly wrong.
Crap. We will never get along. I really thought this “honeymoon phase” would last a lot longer than 2 weeks. This the 3rd time this week I’m crying because I don’t understand him. How are we going to make time for all 3 family Thanksgiving celebrations? And so the collision goes.
The beauty of the first year is that it’s the first year, and there is only one.
It’s the beginning of a new life together. It’s the start, the take-off of this new thing we call marriage. We can only learn more from here. We can choose to believe that this person we now live with had a life before us. A life that was full of ways we didn’t live, full of different experiences, and different family norms.
It’s true that there’s no single way to operate a home or family. It’s true that it doesn’t really matter where in the fridge the milk sits, or if we fold our underwear. What matters is that we live life together in love and peace. Honoring God with our marriage and not letting the little (yet seemingly so big) things get in the way.
So it’s true. The first year really is a hard year. Not very many people will tell you that, but I will, and my husband will too. When that collision happens and you find yourself wondering if you’re ever going to be able to live under one roof in peace, just wait. It’s okay. Wait for your eyes to be open to your new love and life together and wait for all of the debris to hit the pavement.
Take note of the debris – the things that you want to incorporate into your new family and household , and the things that really don’t matter. And go peacefully walking down that road we call love.
Stories about the wedding/honeymoon: What No One Told Me Before Marriage, What No One Told Me About The Honeymoon, Transitioning From Dating To Marriage
Stories about the first year: When The First Month Of Marriage Isn’t Bliss, On Being The Female Breadwinner, What No One Told Me: You’ll Still Be You, Sex Expectations, What No One Told Me: The Best Parts.
Editor’s Note: Today, Jonalyn Fincher has graciously allowed us to republish this piece. She blogs at rubyslippers.com and has also written a second review of 50 Shades of Grey and her thoughts on BDSM here. You can follow Jonalyn at @jonalynfincher. – Lauren
A man walks past your office, he’s eating a sandwich that smells like heaven. You notice it’s past lunch. You want your own. You don’t steal this man’s sandwich, instead you go out looking for your own. You eat. You are satisfied.
A hot man walks past your office. You notice him and you notice your own desire. Not for him, but for your husband. You recognize the rhythm, it’s time. After work (or lunch break?) you go home. You make love. You are satisfied.
But what if this man is a co-worker. What if he greets you regularly and you start to notice that he has become the fire behind your love making with your husband? Is this good?
It all depends.
Our appetite for sex, like our appetite for food, reveals how similar and different we are from each other.
When eating, we each prefer different portions, different times, different table manners. We all have unique cravings.
We each have different triggers of our sexual appetite, different amounts of sex we want, different ways we want to do it. We all have things (a scent, a song, a photo) unrelated to sex that turn us on.
Despite our different appetites, we all have lines we don’t want to cross. We all know some sex, like some food, is not good for us.
With E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy topping the New York Times’ bestseller list, it’s rather obvious to me that women are sexually hungry. If you haven’t had good sex in years, you will do a happy swan dive into Fifty Shades of Gray. Thirty to fifty-year-old women are recommending the series as the jump start to mommy libido.
The male lead, Christian Grey, is reminiscent of Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre). Despite the more than adequate proof that Grey is good in bed, I found myself uninterested in finishing the book. Grey’s fetish for sadomasochism, while erotic, is also troubling. Punishment turns him on in a way reminiscent of sexual and physical abusers. Even the compassionate female protagonist, Anastasia Steel reaches her limit and (spoiler alert) leaves at the end of the first book.
Still it’s easy to relate to Ana and her hope to save Grey from his darker side. I could relate to her fixer-upper hopes and yet, Fifty Shades of Gray felt both boring, a somewhat predictable S&M Cinderella story.
So why are so many women intrigued?
Christian cares about knowing Ana. If the man you’re with no longer wants to know you, Christian Grey is a very handsome substitute.
Whenever a man studies you to bring out your pleasure, from the herbal tea to the music to the brown leather whip… do you really care what he’s doing, so long as you tumble into another orgasm?
Sexual boredom can make S&M look like a fairyland. How?
Nothing feels so good (to woman or man) as intentional service for your pleasure. But Christian Gray isn’t serving me, he’s serving Anastasia Steele.
And I’m watching.
What Makes Sex Good?
Most marriages are like a hot bath. They’re great when you first get in, but after awhile they’re not so hot anymore (The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What it Really Takes to Stay Married).
The key ingredient to keeping marriage hot is desire.
Fifty Shades of Gray works, for some, because Gray was written as desirable. E. L. James explained on The Today Show, “I put all my fantasies out there.” You read enough sex scenes, you imagine that being done to your body and you put the book down and go hunting for your husband. No wonder husbands love the book.
So what can be wrong with a book that’s helping couples do it?
It all depends. Once you’ve found your husband, who are you really making love to? Him or Gray?
It turns out you cannot judge your sex life simply by how easily or how often you get turned on. You gauge your sex life by how much you desire your spouse.
The goal is to be turned on by the person you have married. To cultivate a taste for him.
Sex and Knowledge
As followers of the God of Israel, we want more than tittilation in bed. We want what Adam had with Eve.
We want knowledge, vulnerability, safety… and sex.” And Adam knew his wife” (Gen. 4:1).
Good sex is about wanting and feeling known. Even Ana craves that with Christian Gray: “Do I know Christian intimately? I know him sexually, I figure there’s a lot more to discover.”
I have little doubt the next two books will find Ana discovering. But if the first book is any indication, it will be through co-dependently offering her body for more beatings so she can unlock Christian’s fear of being known. Then, they’ll live happily ever after.
Personally, if I need a jumpstart to my desire I’ll read Passionista: The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man or Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Relationships. Or I’ll recall how the man I married makes love to me.
He knows me better than Christian Grey.
Fifty Shades of Grey is easy arousal because it doesn’t ask anything. You simply consume.
But I want my sexual cravings met with the real thing.
A husband with his body and soul in my bed.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Anne Wilson! She tweets at @annemwilson and blogs here. I have to admit, I cringed a little bit reading this. I’m bad with boundaries. I want to trust everyone, love everyone, and think the best of everybody. But I also have seen firsthand boundaries have been conducive to growing MORE love and trust between my husband and I – and isn’t that how it should be? Anne’s post is by no means a list of rules for you to follow, but rather her being open and honest with what she has personally chosen. I encourage you to write down your own little list, for you. – Lauren
Sitting across the table from my friend, Pam, I heard it for the first time.
“I think you need to set some boundaries.”
I had just moved to a new city for an internship and found Pam, a friend from home, was living about an hour from me. I asked her to mentor me and she gladly accepted. So, we met once a month at Starbucks halfway between my home and hers and got to talking, growing, and laughing.
One Thursday morning, she asked how work was going when I casually mentioned that I had just been to a conference with my co-worker, who happened to be a man. She got a little bit of a nervous look and said,
“Did you drive together?”
To which I casually and confusingly replied, “Well, yes, it was over an hour away, so it would’ve been silly to drive by ourselves.”
“Were you the only ones in the car?”
“Is he married?”
“Yes, why?” At this point I began to clue in in that, I, unknowingly and naively, had crossed a boundary.
She looked at me sympathetically and then launched into the speech. The speech about boundaries in dating, work relationships, and marriage. I would’ve liked to think that I was privy to boundaries. I didn’t hang out with married men or ask them personal questions about their lives. I had no desire for any of the men I worked with, nor did I seek their interest. The very thought of a romantic relationship with any of them made me feel nauseous. So why was I getting a speech like I’m the other woman? Because although I my intentions were pure, no one wakes up to an affair. It is a slow process of boundary-less decisions.
And so, as a single woman, here are some boundaries I adopted:
- Don’t ride alone in the car with a married man. Even though it’s innocent, car rides can be long and isolated. Inside jokes are created and a deeper form of friendship comes through being alone together. If he’s married, there’s no need for him to have that kind of relationship with any woman except his wife.
- Don’t be in the office alone with a married man. If there’s only two of us left in the office, one of us needs to leave. Or ask another co-worker to stay. I know this creates an awkward dynamic at first, but once it’s the standard, it becomes second-nature. Even if it’s only because of the pretense of what could be happening and definitely isn’t, it doesn’t matter. It’s worth it the safety-net.
- If someone who is married begins to complain to me about their spouse, end it immediately. Say it’s inappropriate and that it makes you uncomfortable. If I were to tell my 18-year-old self one thing, it would’ve been that. I listened to far too many wife-bashing stories that I now, as a wife, really regret listening to. They have plenty of male friends they can talk with, and if they don’t, they can find some.
- Don’t text/IM with a married man unless his wife is present, or I know she could read everything I’m saying without questioning my integrity or intentions.
Because my job lends me to work with more men than women, one of my “boundaries” is to intentionally befriend the wives of men I work with. Not in manipulation, but as a way of reassuring them and allowing them to feel safe and comfortable with me. This actually quickly became a requirement when looking for a potential job. One of my internal “required” questions was, “Could I be friends with his wife? Is she welcoming of me, or threatened by a female’s presence?” If the answer to the last question was yes, I committed to say no to the job. My reason? It’s not worth becoming the target of someone else’s insecurity, if I can help it.
When my husband and I got married, the boundaries changed. As someone who grew up in the home of divorce, it’s entirely worth it. I know neither of my parents said “I do,” thinking someday they would live separately and drop their kids off at each other’s houses.
None of these are 11th Commandments, or necessary for every couple on the planet, but for us, they are agreements we made for the sake of protecting and nurturing our marriage. A wise person told me once that no one is above an affair. And I think they are right. When we become invincible in our minds, we let lies seep in, ignore our intuition that quietly says, “mayday!” and excuse it for self-consciousness. If my heart skips a couple of negative beats before making a decision, that’s the Divine telling me to run. Or the Word becoming flesh in my subconscious. Or the Holy Spirit. All of those are viable options.
And so, as a married person, here are some of our boundaries:
- No communication with exes, from any stage of life. The heart can be an absolute fool. What happens when you and your spouse are in an argument that’s going on days, you feel under-appreciated and an ex tells you how beautiful and wonderful you are? Only a few more steps into an affair. How many stories have you heard/seen about people who reconnected via Facebook and left their spouse? I’ve heard too many. I doubt any of them were planning to end up in affairs.
- Never ride alone in the car with someone of the opposite sex. Again, this can be the starting place for an isolated relationship with a man other than my husband. Driving in the car isn’t the danger – rather the togetherness a long car ride can bring. For that matter, the same principle applies–don’t be at work alone with a male co-worker, or vice versa. Scratch that–if you are married, just don’t hang out by yourself with someone of the opposite sex.
- When it comes to friendships, if you’re a woman, be friends with women. I’m not saying you can’t have male friends. But please don’t be one of the girls that say, “I just can’t get along with women.” Do you know that means you are probably the problem in that equation? I have no doubts that women have hurt you and been cruel. But I also know a lot of great women who encourage and strengthen. So don’t stop at the “I don’t like women,” door; push beyond it and seek out deep, meaningful friendships with other women.
- Try very hard not to put down (even in a joking way) our spouse around other people. My friend says it this way–when she was pregnant, one of her husband’s co-workers asked, “So, is your wife getting really moody and hard to deal with as her pregnancy ticks on?” Even though in other settings they could all laugh and poke fun at the ridiculousness, her husband gave a short, “Nope, we’re just thankful she’s been able to carry her this long.” I really respect that.
- Don’t go to bed without saying I’m sorry and/or I love you. In our 2 and 1/2 years of marriage, we’ve had our minor blow-outs. Anyone can tell you–I’m a difficult person (and I’m guessing you are, too!) and so I have my fair share of life to apologize for. Humility and forgiveness has paved such an open dialogue and space for apology.
- Love each other like crazy. Don’t withhold love, apology, or grace.
If you’re thinking by now that I have surely lost my mind, that I wear jeans up to my bra, and that I haven’t had my hair styled since 1996, you’re wrong. I’m actually kind of cool. I teeter on the edge of hip (can you be hip and use the word “teeter?”). And would you know it? I want a healthy marriage. I wish healthy marriages were written about, talked about, filmed around… but I know why they’re not. They’re boring! Who wants to read a novel about my boundary-filled, healthy life? About a couple making a meal together at night in their home, planning the month’s budget, investing their lives in their jobs, friends, Church, and community…? You’re already falling asleep. But that’s because it’s only boring to the outsider. On the inside, it’s freeing and incredible. Mumford & Sons sings it like this (told you I’m cool):
Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design, an alignment, a cry
At my heart you see
The beauty of love as it was made to be
(Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons)
Love sets us free. Free to laugh, cry, dream, give, and receive. In a paranoid, nervous relationship, you are placed in a hopeless cage of anxiety and guilt. Boundaries set you free to love your spouse in a way you can never love anyone else. Trust, loyalty, and promise win out over the flesh. . . and that is something to be celebrated.
Editor’s Note: This post is Anonymous. She had an affair with a married man. He ended up leaving his wife for her. They got married. Had a daughter. And then he left her for another woman. If you are one of these women and want to speak with today’s author, please send an email to goodwomenproject[at]gmail.com with OTHER WOMAN in the subject line. And I give you my love. Read on. – Lauren
I didn’t have an affair with a married man when I ran away with him on a dark spring night.
I had an affair with him the first time I took mental note of the shape of his shoulders and the way he smiled at me.
That’s when it happened.
When I sat outside a studio in my car in the middle of a March winter and called a friend, I told her that something felt weird, different.
“It’s strange, isn’t? That I feel these things?” I whispered.
“Turn on your car. Leave right now. Don’t ever go back,” She said to me. Oh, how I wish I had listened. Instead I turned the engine off. Put one foot into the mud and began a journey that took me seven years in a very large, silent circle.
Seven years of broken relationships.
Of marrying him.
Only to have him break my heart the same way he broke his other wife’s heart.
To leave again and again.
Leaving me with a child and an unknown future.
God redeems, don’t get me wrong.
God redeems and rescues, and after five years of running, it’s taken two years of repentance, making amends, awkward conversations, humbling myself, swallowing my pride, and recognizing that I can only boast in His grace. I feel like Hester Prynne, and my scarlet letter is stitched into my words, my heart, my conscience.
But, oh, if only I could have seen the depths of my depravity without this bleeding storyline. Without the carnage of hearts.
I can’t help but flinch a little when I hear someone say, “I would never do that.” Because really, I said the same thing. That’s the thing about deception. You don’t realize you’re being deceived. And sin is crafty. It was just the sweetest, juiciest bite that destroyed the story of Eden.
So, when I hear a girl talk about a married guy, and I see the spark in her eye, I want to take her by the shoulders and say, “Turn on your car. Leave right now. Don’t ever go back.”
Or if you think it’s weird that you’re so close with him and not his wife.
Leave now. Don’t ever go back.
Or if you feel butterflies when he shows up, and you wonder why he’s with a girl like his wife. When he smiles at you, and your stomach knots up and you linger in his gaze for too many beats.
Leave now. Don’t ever go back.
If you’re the girl he calls when he’s fighting with his wife, stop trying to convince yourself that you’re just friends. Because I guarantee that there is a part of his wife that wonders why he turns to you and not someone else. Or her.
And if you’re first response to that is “Oh well,” then I beg of you. BEG of you.
Leave now. Don’t ever go back.
I didn’t have an affair with a married man when I snuck out of my house to meet him in secret.
It was the moment I didn’t turn my car around.
Editor’s Note: I don’t want to add a single word to Leslie’s post below. Read it, and read it again. Share it with the newlyweds or not-so-newlyweds in your life. Leslie Lee blogs about faith, creativity, and life at leslielaughs.com and tweets at @leslielaughs. – Lauren
Right now, I’m the main bread-winner for our family.
My husband hates that I have to write that sentence.
I hate the emotional strife this sometimes leads to in our marriage.
I hate that sinking dread that precedes looking up the checking account balance.
I hate it when people think I must be unhappy because of where we are in life.
The thing is, I am happy, and I’m finally starting to see that this season in life has taught us invaluable lessons that we would not have learned on an easier road. We’ve learned to fight against resistance, to push into honesty, to pursue sacrifice, and to protect each other for the world-weariness that can tear so fast so deep.
My husband is still working on his degree, and he also works a labor-intensive full-time job to help us pay the bills. I’ve graduated and am working at a great job. So, we still live in the college town that I moved to back in 2005.
Four years here has turned into… more.
Four years has turned into waiting and learning.
Four years has turned into calling this season of in-between home, sweet home.
And me and In-between? We’re BFFs now, after being frenemies for quite a while.
Honestly, I’m surprised that I’ve learned to deal with In-between. I think the keys have been, one, learning the importance of remembering that my husband and I are on the same team and, two, realizing the power of hard-fought contentment.
The fact is that genuine contentment doesn’t come easy. For me, longing to start a family and start “putting down roots” can throw me down quick into a deep, dark hole of discontentment. Losing sleep, pounding my fists against the wall of In-between, turning God-given longings into childish whining – it can weigh me down all at once.
But eventually my fists get sore and I recognize familiar, insidious discontentment.
It seeps through the cracks in your heart, eventually making you unhappy about everything – dirty dishes, hopes, apartments, babies, cars, parties, jobs, carpet—it all gets sucked in and labeled NOT WHAT I WANT.
But by the grace of God, instead of hanging out with my NOT WHAT I WANT label-maker, these days I’m holding tight to a pieced-together, mismatched, fragile hem of hard-fought contentment.
My contentment is frayed on the edges and worn in the middle because my emotions are emotions: they can build up or tear down, they can point to issues or conceal them. They can help me identify problems, deeply feeling both the good and the bad, and they can help me listen to my intuition as a woman. But, when I take them to be absolute truth, putting my very heavy hope in what my feelings say, tightly hoarding them up into a layer of faux protection, I actually open myself up to discontentment. In-between starts to look like an attack against me and my beautifully orchestrated plans that must be God’s will.
Thankfully, finally, by God’s grace I’ve learned to make nice with In-between. And it’s a good thing too, because life is a long series of in-betweens. Life doesn’t always fall into our pre-scheduled blocks. Expectations fail and we find ourselves floundering in the In-between.
‘Arriving’ and finally getting to where you want to be in life is contrived. I think that as a culture, we usually get to one milestone and sit and enjoy it for about a second, only to quickly move on and set our eyes on the next milestone – because that next step will surely, surely make all of life better.
What we sometimes forget is how much shaping and learning goes on during these in-between times. The habits you make in the in-betweens will not magically evaporate when you get where you want to be.
So, I try hard to remember that the perseverance we’re cultivating now will serve us so much better than sitting unhappy until we get to that next milestone. We actually haven’t hit any huge milestones since we got married a year and a half ago. We’ve seen tons of sweet, small successes, and we’ve celebrated those together. We’re having fun, trucking along in this hybrid adult/college student season. Sometimes we screw up. Sometimes the valleys seem long. Sometimes we ask for help. Sometimes I love this season. And sometimes I don’t. But we’re still here, still in the college town, still persevering and learning.
And damnit, that’s okay.
Because I’ve learned that there is no arriving.
Yes, we must cultivate dreams and longings and goals, and we must work hard at them, but I am beginning to learn that the Lord will come through on those when it’s time.
And, even in the midst of His provision, every. single. season. will have its own imperfections and struggles. There will never be a flawless season in your life.
Someday soon, I won’t be main bread-winner for our little family anymore. But, guess what? Life will still be screwy then, too.
So, I say we don’t have to thrash through the In-between, pushing reckless to get to that magical arrival point at any cost, in any condition.
Instead, let’s stick to our guns. While we work hard to move forward, let’s stick to our hard-earned contentment and learn to embrace In-between.
Editor’s Note: In my first month of marriage, I learned that marriage is full of highs and lows. All-consuming joy, and fully-felt pain. We’ve all heard that marriage is difficult, but when ‘difficult’ makes its way into the bedroom, the emotions run rampant. Alyssa Ferrero shares a little of her just-married story. She blogs at Alyssa Mae Stories. – Lauren
What’s a girl to do when the weight of her past, her upbringing, and the unforgiving disappointments of her hopeful future come crashing down the day after her wedding?
Well, cry, I suppose.
And what’s a girl to do when the God she had so recently fallen in love with, entrusted her life to, and finally begun to know, walks her through a journey that seems meant for a more mature, more experienced, more faithful, and more knowledgeable woman?
Cry a little more, I think.
I had been dreaming of my wedding day and being a wife since I can remember. It probably stems from the ‘chick-flicks’ and Disney fairytales I’d been watching from day one. Or, perhaps it was the desire to have a home and babies and a ‘grown-up life’. Whatever the reason, when I met him – my husband – I knew for sure he was the ticket to those fantasies. I saw us having a truly wonderful life, fulfilling big dreams, having lots of babies, great careers, and a cozy home.
The day of our wedding, harsh realities hit. Many things reared their ugly heads that day and that night, things that cannot be publicly displayed, for respect of people’s privacy and privacy for marriage. But let me just say that my husband and I still have not had intimacy in our marriage. Oh, and we’re seeing a marriage counselor. That started two months into our marriage.
While my girlfriends and their friends and complete strangers talk about their newlywed life in terms of “utter bliss”, “the best time of their lives”, and “making out in the parking lot”, I am here, crying and hurting, and so obviously jealous and angry. Two very unattractive emotions.
What’s a girl to do when her entire being, down to her inner-most depths, aches? When her heart feels more broken than ever? Or when she feels like her hopes and dreams have vanished? What’s a girl to do when her emotions are overtaking her, and her God feels so far away?
I have learned that ultimately, it’s not about what we want out of life, but what He wants for us. It’s not about what makes us feel good, because He makes us feel better. It’s not about the easy road, because His road is paved with grace, mercy, and a whole lotta love.
While it may not feel good right now, what He is doing in us is good. A kind of good we can trust.
We were made with a passion and a heart to heal the world. We yearn for great love and peace and unity. Our emotions speak of what our hearts are made of. And our hearts are made from God. Our hearts are a direct reflection of His character.
So, then what? It’s easy to say those things. It’s easy to try and write them on a sticky or put them in a journal to remind yourself. To try to trust God more. But what about living it? What about the crap that no one told you about?
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Common to mankind. Temptation, hurt, suffering, tears, heartache; they’re all common to all of us. Emotions are common to us. And God knows that.
I believe that God can see and feel every emotion I encounter today. He’s holding these tears because he knows my sorrows and my hurts. And the guilt of feeling these emotions does not come from a God who loves me so. He does not condemn me for wanting to jump on the next train to St. Louis. He does not turn away from me because I spend many minutes a day wondering how and if I will survive this.
Instead, He asks me to fully trust Him. He waits for me to leave those fears in the garbage where they belong, and watch Him fight this battle for me. (Exodus 14:14) He waits for me to rest in His arms.
I grew up on emotions; what feels good, what makes you happy, and so on. I lived my live trying to find true happiness, and letting my emotional heart lead the way. And just when I thought I’d found those things, they slipped away, didn’t they? I took so many wrong turns and chose quite a few ‘false happiness’ things before I started running the other way, to Him. And now, He wants me running, harder and faster.
I want to surrender in all the wrong ways. I want out of this mess. I want a different life. But my Father does not disown me, put me in a corner, or abandon me because I feel these things.
He guides me, with a soft hand, right back to His arms, where he comforts me. Where he soothes my emotions with truth and love. He does this because, well, He created me this way.
He adores the passion and desire I have for good things. He just wants to give me something passionate and desirable of His own creation.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Diana Rausin. She blogs at Just Be Loved and tweets at @LadyDi1115. I really love all the relationship advice that is crammed into this article! SO MUCH goodness. – Lauren
This past year I’ve come in contact with many different forms of relationships.
Some of my friends entered their second year of marriage.
Some of my friends got married.
Some got engaged.
Some just started dating.
Some broke up.
Some have been married for many years.
And none of them are the same.
I decided a while back that I would try to learn from what everyone around me in relationships had to offer. How do relationships really work? What’s normal? What’s is trying to make it work and what is beating a dead horse? What makes a relationship last?
So I’ve watched. I’ve asked. I’ve taken mental notes. And I’ve prayed. Most of all, I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that no two relationships are the same. They all start differently, they all have different struggles, and they all have different ways of functioning. You cannot compare your relationship to that of someone else. Just because one relationship starts really quickly and one takes months of months of being friends before dating… doesn’t mean one will last and one won’t. There is no cookie-cutter relationship that we should all hold as our standard.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be hard. I’m not saying that it is always going to be easy, or that you will never fight. But I’ve seen a lot of my friends in couples over the past few months… and it doesn’t have to be that hard! If while you are dating: you fight every single day, you can’t agree on anything, you talk bad about each other when you aren’t around one another, you’d rather be alone more than being with your significant other, you can’t trust them… there is better! Maybe you work it out with the person you’re with. Maybe you decide to move on. But I’ve seen it. It does exist. Relationships are work, but they don’t have to constantly be hard work.
I’ve learned the importance of dealing with your baggage BEFORE you enter a relationship. I never realized that the things that have scarred me in my past –’daddy’ issues, the way I have been treated in past relationships, the way I behaved myself and the scars I caused myself – will show up in your relationships! In a major way. No one person can make me whole. No one person can ‘fix’ me. It is up to me to allow Christ to do that and to genuinely seek becoming more like Him and healing those scars. He is the ONLY one that can do that.
I’ve learned that your spouse will always come second. I used to believe that my future husband would come above anything and everything else in my life. If we had children, they would follow. Then I fell in love with Jesus Christ. And He wants to be first in my life. ABOVE ALL ELSE. That includes a husband and kids. That includes family. That includes EVERYTHING. If you do not have a significant other that feels the same way or sees Christ the way you do, you need to seek Christ together and ask Him to change your hearts, make you fall in love with HIM, that way you can allow room for Christ in your heart and in your relationship.
I’ve learned my position as a woman in a relationship. I used to get soooo offended at the thought of ‘submitting’ to my husband. I am my own person, why should I let him get the say? It takes an entire post to expound upon this, but in the end, it’s not a power thing… it’s respect, it’s Godly, it’s trust. The Bible calls me to be with a man worth leading me and making the decisions when it comes to our well being, our walk with Christ, our children. Ladies, if he’s not worth submitting to, don’t. Men, we need you to lead us. We need you to be worth submitting to.
I’ve learned that no matter how hard, difficult, or confusing it may seem at the time, sometimes you have to walk away. I get so upset with friends who allow themselves to be walked all over. Because I’ve been there. Ladies, if he is having an emotional affair with someone BEFORE you get married, what makes you think he won’t run to another woman when you’re married? Guys, if she’s cheated on you once, what on earth makes you think she’ll never do it again? She did not have the respect or love for you to not do it the first time. You may be afraid of being alone, you may not want to give up, but God wants you to. Let go of a bad, abusive, emotionally trying relationship. Don’t settle.
I’ve learned not to settle. I need someone to lead me in my everyday life and my spiritual walk. Someone who makes me laugh and laughs with me. Someone who appreciates me. Someone who is not abusive in any way. Someone who loves Jesus way more than he will ever love me. Someone who is ok with the fact that I may know just as much about football and baseball as he does. Someone Godly, respectable, and endearing. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I’d rather be picky, have high standards, and not settle than be in a relationship that is destructive for the rest of my life. I’ve come too far to give up now.
I’ve learned it’s not about me. My entire life, I have desired a relationship with a man. I’ve wanted a family. And more recently, I have desired to be a stay-at-home wife and mom. But these are selfish desires. I’ve learned we must align our hearts with God’s. If my relationships, if my life, does not honor and glorify Him, then what is the point? I do not want a relationship, simply to have a relationship. If I can serve God more furiously as a married woman, FANTASTIC. If I serve Him better single, then He will grant me the peace and understanding to do so for the rest of my life. I fully believe and put my hope in this truth.
I’ve learned the best and most fruit-bearing relationships bring you closer to God every single day. I’ve observed some pretty incredible relationships this year and have been so lucky to get to be a part of the lives of those in them and learn from them. And the biggest lesson they have all taught me? You can’t get closer to each other, without getting closer to God. Intimacy was CREATED by God Himself. How do we expect to know it, to have it, without Him? It’s like a triangle: The closer you get to Him at the top, the closer you get to each other. It also keeps your relationship strong and keeps Satan from attacking you with the everyday struggles of life. Those can either magnify the relationship or destroy it.
What advice do you have? What have you learned through relationships of your own or from others around you? Are you looking to learn? What could you learn?
Editor’s Note: I adore Heir to Blair. She has written for us before on “We Don’t Fight” and “Keeping Romance Alive” – and I love the way she meets life with strength, joy, and a matter-of-fact perspective. The wisdom found in this post of hers is beyond value. Read it and hold onto it. Oh, and also. Have you entered to win the giveaway yet? - Lauren
For five years, my husband & I have built a home & family. We started off fresh-faced & innocent, two 23-year-olds facing a world of possibilities. We settled into a small apartment, then quickly upgraded to owning our home. We adopted a rescue dog & brought home a beautiful blonde boy. It has been five years of love, triumphs, heartbreaks, & those life-altering decisions that shape an entire future. It has been easy at times; it has been tough at others.
I grew up as many young girls did in the 1990′s, watching first-class Rose fall impossibly in love with third-class Jack. I watched classics with my mother & heard Ali MacGraw utter “Love means never having to say you’re sorry!” I read Jane Austen in public & snuck romance novels under my bed – tales of fate & kismet. I grew up with fables of soul mates - find “the one” & marriage fades perfectly into the sunset because it is destiny. That soul mates are always in love, always wiling to selflessly sacrifice & that every year will be a confetti-filled chapter in happily ever after.
It certainly felt like destiny in those moments when my eyes locked his at the end of a long aisle, a white dress cascading & flouncing at my feet.
But truthfully, marriage is a decision that we make every day.
While I want to say that I wish someone had told me that marriage is a decision, I am thankful to admit that one person did whisper that secret the summer my future husband slipped a diamond on that fourth finger. “Marriage is a decision to make every day,” my aunt wisely counseled. “Every morning, you wake up & roll over & decide to love that person, no matter what comes. Some days it is easy. Other days it is work. But the important thing is to make the decision.”
During the first year of our marriage, we struggled deciding where to live – he wanted to move “home” to the friends & countryside that he missed; I craved to stay in the city with a job I loved. Many tears were shed at night while we discussed the options & many times, we fell asleep still unsettled. But each morning, we rose with the decision to make our life together work despite our opposite stances. & this decision gave us hope that we would eventually meet a compromise. (We did.)
The year we were pregnant, love came easily. As I lost our first pregnancy, we held each other close in comfort. He held my hand while I slept off the pain; I assured him that we would be parents some day. Months later, we laid in bed with happy hearts as our second baby kicked from inside my belly. We laughed through a maternity photo shoot & I will never forget the adoration on his face when he handed me our son for the very first time. Love was seamless, easy, & comfortable. The decision to stay married was a second-nature that rarely crossed our conscious minds.
Last year, my husband decided to honor the vow “in sickness & in health” as he stood by me through a hospital stay & hours of therapy. My mental health took a toll on our marriage & threw more responsibilities on him; I am sure there were moments where he thought “I didn’t sign up for this!” yet he decided to love me in my darkness, to pray with me & stay strong. This summer, we will celebrate our fifth anniversary with the joy that comes from making it into the light together.
These days, we have fallen back into a comfortable pattern of the unconscious decision as we support each other through job changes & teach our toddler to blow bubbles on the back porch. We talk of future plans to grow our family more, to move once again, to begin saving for a trip across the ocean. For now, these dreams & hopes are easy, but I know that the path to reach them together will be marked.
But we’re ready to make that decision. Every day.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Laura; she blogs over at Along For The Ride and tweets at @aftr_laura. It breaks my heart that we hear all the awful parts of marriage and so rarely the good. I love her list of the-best-parts-of-marriage. We are wrapping up our month’s topic on What No One Told Me About Marriage next Tuesday, and to celebrate, we are doing a giveaway for the book Love & War by John & Staci Eldredge. To enter, just leave a comment on the giveway post! June’s topic will be on Body Image, Beauty & all things related. If you want to share your story, email me at goodwomenproject[at]gmail.com! – Lauren
My husband and I have been married for almost two years. Although I had been dreaming about my wedding long before I ever met my hubby to-be, the moment I met him, the minute he asked me to be his wife, and the instant we took our vows, I knew that only one thing mattered… spending my life with Kyle.
Sure, looking back on these past two years, there are lots of things I wish someone would have told me:
Weddings are just as much about who is invited (and not invited) as the two people getting married. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
The first few weeks/months are a honeymoon. Then reality sets in.
Save as much money as you can when you can. When you’re married there are way more important things to think about than what’s hanging in your closet.
Marriage is hard and it’s hard work. Then again, things that are worth it usually are.
Most of the sentiments I’ve ever heard tend to be a bit more on the negative side of things. Even though they are well meant, when shared with new brides, they tend to burst a few bubbles, squash a few puffed up dreams, and bring a bride down.
In light of that, here are few more things I wish someone would have told me:
It’s an unbelievable feeling always having your best friend around.
Some of the greatest conversations are when you hardly say anything and just enjoy each other’s company.
Nothing beats waking up next to your hubby every day.
Don’t take yourselves too seriously.
It’s important to have date nights.
No screens (TV, computer, or otherwise) in the bedroom.
Sometimes you’ll want to go to bed mad, but always kiss before you fall asleep. You might still be frustrated, but at least you’ll go to bed knowing you’re loved.
Kiss your spouse like you mean it. My husband says that sometimes I give “pencil eraser” kisses…just little pecks. I’m working on this one.
Tell your spouse you love them. And truly mean it.
You know what? Marriage really is all that it’s cracked up to be. Sure there will always be tough spots because, with the joining of two imperfect people, things are bound to be a little imperfect.
After a few years of marriage and hopefully many more to come, I have found that marriage truly is, and truly can be, everything we dreamed of.
Editor’s Note: I’ve learned that as women, half of us have put men on a pedestal, and the other half of us tear them down as the awful creatures we believe them to be. The problem with this is that we all end up throwing our words around, either convinced that we couldn’t pull them off the white horse if we tried, or that they deserve our criticism. Joy Eggerich’s made a fantastic observation this week in her RSOTU series that a woman challenging a man’s competency is arguably as devastating as him commenting on your jeans being a size too small. As good women, we are challenged to view men and woman as equals, encouraging the good in one another and bearing patiently with the bad. Below, Arianna shares her honeymoon story & the lessons she has learned in supporting, respecting & encouraging her man. She blogs at A Vintage Bambino, and tweets at @ariannapatrick.
You know that big burly man that you love and adore? Or the man that you are waiting for to come and sweep you off of your feet? He’s handsome, strong, hunky, and invincible. He will provide for you for life and walk across fire to hold your hand. He’s the best lover and caretaker, but he has a huge secret.
And you, as his woman, are the one person who can knock him down the fastest.
I got married when I was 22 to the hottest, smartest, best guy I had ever met. He was my best friend and I couldn’t wait to start my life with him. We had an amazing wedding at the base of a mountain in Colorado. It was the best party ever thrown.
We left on our honeymoon as two crazy youngsters who couldn’t get enough of each other. After a few glitches due to hurricanes, we landed in Cabo San Lucas. I felt like I was floating. There I was, in Mexico with my new husband, and I had already set impossible standards for him to meet.
Women are bombarded day after day with picture perfect romances and vacations. We are trained to believe that every girl gets hundreds of roses, candles and exotic getaways. We expect our men to provide in ways that only a television show can do.
Cabo did not go down like an episode of The Bachelor. We waited for three hours to check-in, and we got a room with a broken toilet and two twin beds (not a good situation for newlyweds). The pool was grimy and full of men who brought their own boom box with techno beats blasting. My new husband wanted to make up for it and bought us a couple’s massage. We both broke out in rashes from the aromatherapy and spent the rest of the trip with ice packs in bed. At that time, things were not going as I had imagined them, or as society had told me they needed to go.
I quickly learned that my husband, in all of his manliness, as he was trying to provide for me, was being torn apart by my griping and frustration.
Nothing will rip apart a man faster than shame, guilt and a lack of trust.
Men are in a constant battle of trying to prove themselves. They feel the need to prove themselves to women, their buddies, and that construction project that has been looming. They struggle daily with striving to be the manliest man out there. As his wife, the last thing I should do is question my man’s authority, drive or decision for petty, selfish reasons.
In our home, the phrase, “I love you” is exchanged a lot. My husband doesn’t question my love for him. He knows I will always be there waiting for him when he comes home from work, but I also know that there are a few other phrases that may mean more to him than those three words.
I am proud of you.
I trust you.
I will follow you forever.
As women, we were created to be man’s helper: to build him up and care for him, not to tear him down if he fails. Because he is human, your man will fail. Your job is to encourage him in every circumstance.
Don’t baby him. Let him know that he is your man, your hunk, and the only man you will ever need.
This book is one of five books I would whole-heartedly recommend to both women AND men before getting married, even if you’re years away. It’s even more important to read if you’re already married. If you are familiar with John & Staci, I don’t have to tell you how well they write together, or how you’ll want to lend it to everyone you know as soon as you finish it.
To enter, leave a comment below with your email address.
For a double-entry, tweet the giveaway, and make sure to include @GoodWomenProj in your tweet.
The giveaway closes on June 1st, 2011.
Editor’s Note: Nish Weiseth has been married for just under 5 years, has a super cute son, and is one of the most beautiful women in the blogosphere. She is founder of DeeperStory, and blogs at The Outdoor Wife. You can follow her on Twitter at @theoutdoorwife. I asked if she could write on the things she wished someone had told her before her wedding day, and she sent back 7 great truths. Thank you, Nish! – Lauren
It’s been nearly five years since I donned that impeccable designer dress, my hips hugged in ivory silk taffeta. I only had those heels on for five minutes before my feet were throbbing.
The first thing I’d tell you before you get married – make sure you wear shoes comfortable enough to walk down the aisle. The blisters aren’t worth it.
I met my Erik at the altar. We recited those vows so holy, prayed and were united in the arms of a loving God. I was ready. He was ready. We were young, and everyone liked to remind us how young we really were, but we knew it was time. I knew it like I knew my own skin.
The next thing I’d tell you is… if you’re ready, get married. Don’t wait for everything to fall into place. Don’t wait for your life to be “perfect.” If you both know that you’re meant to be married (and trust me, you’ll know), do it.
Editor’s Note: At risk of showing favoritism, this may be one of my favorite submissions yet. I was always able to picture my life up to the point of getting married – and then everything after. But those two lives looked completely different. I never understood how this “transformation” would take place; the miracle that would happen overnight to turn a single, pretty much broke, full-of-flaws Lauren into a put together, always-perfect, married woman with a house, career, and two brand new cars. Annie Jones did a phenomenal job of explaining the lie behind a ‘miracle transformation’ that most of us have been fed ever since we started dressing up Barbie to marry Ken. Annie blogs here and tweets at @anniebjones. Thanks for reading, and as always, if you know a woman who needs to read this, pass it along. – Lauren
In high school, if you had told me that I would be married at the age of 22, happily living back in my hometown with my very Southern husband, I would have laughed in your face. Even at 16, I had very specific images of myself in my 20s, and none of them included a spouse, a desk job, or my hometown.
Yet here I am, happy and fulfilled, despite not living in Manhattan or writing for a major news organization.
And guess what? I don’t think that 16-year-old me would be so terribly disappointed in what she sees today.
The truth is, I was lucky growing up. Lucky that my parents didn’t constantly talk about dating or marriage or shove a copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye in my face. Lucky that I graduated high school without psychological damage from immature boys who wanted to get in my pants. Lucky that I went blissfully off to Christian college without a clue as to what an “MRS degree” even was.
Editor’s Note: I began the Good Women Project because I believe young women are in desperate need of wisdom, passed along from smart, sexy, successful older women. We don’t get much honest, open advice from those who have already struggled & dealt with the pain that comes from mistakes made. Very few women are being mentored, and even fewer are mentoring others. It is my heart’s desire to provide a platform for this. Today’s post is written by a woman whose first marriage was disastrous, and is now in a healthy, love-full marriage. Theresa’s submission is straight-up truth, no fluff. Please read, take it to heart, and let it add to the good woman that you are. – Lauren
Like you, I’ve made mistakes in my life. One of my biggest whoppers was my first marriage. I try to teach my children (from my current healthy, happy marriage) that mistakes are what really teach us. They are less about regret and more about what you can take from them. In that light, here is what I now know:
I know that if someone has serious issues that they have not gotten help for or tried at all to resolve, they are probably not ready to get married. I am a potential spouse, not a potential therapist. I most likely can’t change ‘em or fix ‘em. One unhealthy person + one reasonably healthy person = an UNhealthy marriage.
I know that the opinions of the people who have loved me for a long time really matter. If I find myself trying to avoid their opinions, or notice that they are not giving me any opinions, that’s a sure sign that they’ve got some heavy duty opinions. Their opinions may or may not make me change my mind, but they will always help me view my own thoughts and feelings more clearly and honestly.
I know that I can change my mind. No matter how far along I am on a charted course, I can change the path. Even if it’s the day I’m putting on my makeup to walk down the aisle, and I know somewhere deep inside that this isn’t right, it is MY life and MY responsibility to say no if that’s the answer that is true for me.
Editor’s Note: This month, we are taking submissions from women (and men) on What No One Told Me About Marriage. Want to share your story? Email it to Lauren at goodwomenproject[at]gmail.com along with a photo of you and your spouse if you have one! Today’s post was written by a sweet friend, Alisha Skeel. She is a designer & photographer, and you can check out her site here. I can attest to her and Brian’s awesome marriage and friendship. Thanks, Alisha! – Lauren
Being a typical girl, I had been looking forward to marriage since I can remember. I was one heck of a tomboy growing up, but I always had crushes on boys, even if they didn’t often crush back. One of my earlier crushes ended up being the man who would one day become my husband. Brian was standing all alone on the last day of his 8th grade year (my 6th grade year), with a Zao shirt on, wearing all black and a spiked collar. He was intimidating, but for some reason I felt compelled to talk to him. God does amazing things sometimes in bringing people together.
Brian and I were friends off and on for 5 years. He was always that one guy who was just quite out of my reach. He was an absurdly talented musician, hilarious, and unbearably sweet. It wasn’t until we parted for a few years, and then decided to hang out after quite a while, that things finally clicked. We fell in love fast, but were kicked back into reality with the divorce of my parents a few months into dating. Brian was there for me in a the way only someone who truly loves you can be. Though this was only the beginning, it always put a doubt in the back of my head about how marriage would really turn out. My trust in this fact had been wavered. And all I could picture was: “This will end badly”.
Editor’s Note: For the rest of the year, we are going to be tackling certain topics, and having different women share their experience & advice with us. For the rest of May, we are going to be digging into things that no one ever told us about marriage; insights graciously shared by women in healthy marriages. For June, we will be digging through, “Things I Wish We’d Done Before We Got Married.” Do you want to write on either of these two topics, or suggest a topic for July? Shoot me an email at goodwomenproject [at] gmail.com! – Lauren
This submission was written by Christan Resz. Wife and mother to three sweet little girls, she tweets at @mamabearping and blogs here. She’s a little messy, a little crazy, and a lot of awesome. Thanks, Christan!
Engagements and weddings are such happy times. Couples tend to spend a lot of time planning the perfect wedding and sometimes forget there’s a marriage to cultivate after the big day. When my guy slipped an engagement ring on my finger, a lot of people had a lot of advice for me. I took much of it to heart.
What I found, however, was that there were certain things that people either failed to mention or purposefully omitted.
These are the things I wish they would have told me.
If I had my own time machine and the current me could go back and tell the engaged me what to expect, this is what I’d say:
Editor’s Note: I’m sorry for the delay in posting! We are back up and at it. This post is by Holly Young – and I love it. Our ability to forgive one another will make or break a marriage. And her insight on this is fantastic. You can follow her blog here: http://yourstrulyh.blogspot.com – Lauren
When Lauren so graciously offered me a space on The Good Women Project site, I felt like I was going to have a lot to say. Ha. Ha. Famous last words, right?
The truth is, I find that the trying times are when I’m the most inspired- when I’m learning a lot, and when the words just seem to flow. My husband is rounding the corner on a three month lay off, and it looks like we could be in for another three more, perhaps.
However, right now, we are surprisingly good. We haven’t had to touch our savings account. I just made blueberry muffins, and Tim did all of our laundry. All of it. Not that those tiny (and delicious) details are what make a marriage work, but when it’s good, it’s good, you know?
On the other hand, we are not “all together.” Tim is going back to school (he started today) and my desk at work needs an afternoon with a bulldozer and an industrial sized dumpster. Bah.
But it’s times like these that I realize that any wisdom I may think I have to impart is absolutely God-breathed. It has to be, cause on my own, I’ve got nothing much to say.
During our correspondence, Lauren suggested I write a post about forgiveness. It seemed like a great idea at the time. But then I was, admittedly, stumped.
Don’t get me wrong, God has taught me a lot about forgiveness within my marriage.
But, perhaps more importantly, I have also learned a lot about not-forgiveness for lack of a better term.
I think we are often conditioned in our relationships to talk things out while we are under the assumption that, “One of us is wrong, so one of us should be sorry and by golly, it sure isn’t me.”
Just the other day, we were having a silly argument over the best methods for staying in shape (walking, weight lifting, etc.) The truth is, neither one of us is incredibly qualified to be tossing around statistics and opinions on that matter, but still we both wanted, so badly, to be RIGHT.
And my first instinct was to get grumpy and mad.
And I was- grumpy and mad- for a while.
Flashback to when I first heard about Tim’s layoff. I decided that the best defense is a good offense, or something like that. I decided that when it is all said and done, I wanted to be able to look back at this season in our lives and say, “I don’t know how I could have been more loving, more forgiving, more supportive…”
Such a tall order, right?
With that being said, I will give you the advice that is absolutely saving my marriage right now. Are you ready? Ok. Next time you are in a disagreement with someone, simply raise your right hand with your palm facing outward. Then, gently move your palm towards your face until it covers your mouth. Now stay there, exactly like that, until you are ready to behave.
In other words, for the love of Pete, stop. talking.
Tim and I are two completely different people. I was raised in an extremely positive, encouraging family. Not that Tim wasn’t, but he is just so much better suited for the tough love approach. After having made a mistake, I think I was raised to acknowledge my flaws, but also focus on what I did RIGHT in a situation and grow from that experience.
And then I met Tim.
And Tim calls a spade a spade. I about died the first time he said I was being selfish. I, so foolishly, responded with arguments like, “….but I’m so adorable…and don’t you think I’m pretty? And nice!?!?! Aren’t I nice…?”
To which he replied, “Yes. But that doesn’t mean you are never selfish. Lots of people are ‘nice’ and selfish.”
And then comes the anger, the grumpiness, and along with it, the feeling that there is something to forgive.
So there’s that. And there’s the realization that sometimes, no one is wrong.
Yes, you read that correctly. Sometimes, no one is wrong.
Sometimes, I don’t think God is teaching us how to forgive as much as he is teaching us how to recognize when there is something to forgive.
Sometimes, no one is wrong. Tim’s right. Sometimes, I AM selfish.
See? There is nothing to forgive.
The Bible says, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” Romans 3:4
I really love that. Really I do.
Remember what I said about us not having it all together? Well, I actually had to Google, “The Bible- no one is wrong” to find out exactly what that guy Jesus had to say about all this. And then I had to muster a quick prayer. I only say all that to let you know that I meant what I said, this post really has come completely from God. Cause without God (and Google), I pretty much had a blinking cursor and a blank screen.
At the end of the day, we’ve all been wrong. We’ve all been thieves and sinners and liars.
So just give up on being right and let God be true.
Editor’s Note: Feminism has constantly changed and evolved over the last 60 years, making it difficult to tackle appropriately. Because of the hundreds of variations of its definition, discussions get messy and the heart of the matter is frequently missed. In my opinion, it has always been a double edged sword. It has both saved and destroyed. I have avoided discussing it at all costs because of this, but as facilitating a never-ending discussion on womanhood has recently become my career, I cannot ignore it. I touched on it in a post about Gender Roles a couple weeks ago over on my own blog; feel free to read if you wish.
Megan Riggs, wife, mother & business woman, volunteered to share a bit of the role feminism has played in her life and relationships. She is an Exhibitor and the Sponsorship Manager for Washington State PTA, the Development Chair for a girls camp, & the Benefit Coordinator for a 501(c)3 that presents the world’s largest Comedy/Variete festival. Oh, and she blogs & tweets, all while still being supermom. I love what she has to say, and am slowly learning the same things in my own life. Realizing that it’s not quite exactly about a political statement. It’s about being a strong woman, finding a strong man, and becoming better together. – Lauren
Can I be a wife and a mother and still be my feminist self?
Growing up, I wasn’t sure that I could retain my sense of self, my autonomy and independence, and pursue my own interests if I was married. I was convinced that being a mother would further strip me of my sense of self and my ability to pursue my interests. My concept of feminism – and of myself – was wrapped up in independence, self-preservation, proving myself, succeeding and being indispensable in my work.
My idea of feminism probably isn’t “typical”, and I came about it in an odd way. A balding, professional man in his 50’s inspired me to call myself a feminist. Let me explain. I was raised by parents who expected me to go to college, get a good job, support myself and work hard. They told me that if I worked hard enough I could accomplish close to anything. I didn’t think that a girl or a woman’s value was any different than a boy’s or man’s, but I didn’t like to call myself a feminist. Then in college I had a history professor who called himself a staunch feminist. It surprised me to hear it from a man – my idea of feminism was unruly women burning their bras and fighting against men for what they believe in. But here was a man, identifying himself to a class of college students as a feminist. What? I realized that feminist, while the easiest term to use, is really not quite the right word for my version of feminism – my version being that women are equal. It’s really more of being a “personist” than a “feminist”, but as a woman I’m also happy to call myself a feminist, even while wearing a bra – a nursing bra, nonetheless. (more…)
Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Blair, who also wrote “We Don’t Fight” for us last month. It was phenomenal. She and her husband have a marriage I look up to, and I love this short & sweet submission on keeping romance alive. She blogs at TheHeirToBlair.com and tweets at @heirtoblair. – Lauren
The sun shone through the windows of his pick-up truck, music blaring as he reached over to hold my hand, eyes smiling. My heart thumped.
Before I left for spring break, he slipped me a new pink iPod and a long kiss. A sweet gesture to keep my mind on him while I was away.
I smiled as he walked through the door of my apartment, greeted with candlelight, soft music, and dinner. Our first Valentine’s together.
He brought long-stemmed yellow roses on a Thursday. He knows they’re my favorite.
Our first Christmas together in our home, with champagne & a bed of blankets by the fire, twisting fingers & sighs. Making magic of our own. (more…)
Joy Eggerichs of LoveAndRespectNOW.com has graciously agreed to do a Question & Answer post with the Good Women Project. Instead of giving her a list of my own questions, I wanted to let you women (and men) ask the questions yourselves.
So, if you could ask Joy one thing, what would it be?
Please leave your question in the comments below.
And, if you aren’t familiar with Joy, go stalk her now.
She also gave me permission to share her videos* on emotional pornography with you. The first (she does Q&A on her blog) is her answer to a woman’s question on having an emotional connection with her first boyfriend arise years later into her healthy marriage. The second is her breakdown of emotional pornography; what it is, what it does, & how it can affect our relationships just as much as sex addiction and traditional pornography.
I’ll be honest with you: It was a slap in my face. It’s definitely worth 10 minutes of your time.
>> Joy’s original post on this here.
>> And Joy’s original post on this one here.
*Videos: Joy Eggerichs references some biblical concepts & verses in her discussion on emotional pornography. Regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs, I firmly believe that our hearts, minds and lives are still affected by emotional pornography, so it is my hope that you will consider it appropriately.
Much love! – Lauren
Editor’s Note: This needs no intro. Other than for me to tell you that it just called me out. I am a woman who prefers to keep my problems to myself, my fears silent, my bills and paperwork handled on my own, and be fully responsible for everything. I always want to shoulder my own burdens, and fix everything in my daily life before it spills into someone else’s; particularly into the life of the man I care about. Maybe it’s because I don’t ever want to admit I can’t do everything on my own, or maybe it’s because I feel guilty asking for help. Either way, marriage isn’t very conducive to living life on your own in this way. After reading Emily’s submission today, I promised myself I would give up the reigns and let someone in. To everything. It’s not going to be fun – and quite honestly, fairly terrifying – but it’s going to be GOOD. So, thank you Emily for encouraging me to do this, and reminding me that it is worth it. – Lauren
About a month ago, my husband and I found ourselves at our dining room table celebrating the long-awaited engagement of our two best friends. At some point between hearing the re-telling of the engagement story, squealing (that was me, not my husband) over the perfect ring, and dreaming about the beautiful wedding to come, the couple mentioned that they wanted to know how we made the transition from dating to marriage, and what was the secret to our happiness.
(okaaaay… so that *may* not quite be how it went down. In my memory, it went something like this: “You guys are soooooooo wise and happy and pretty much awesome at marriage, teach us your ways!” In reality, it was probably like “So, you guys are married…” and I started talking. But, you know what? It’s my story and I’ll write what I want to!)
At first, I was kind of stumped. My husband and I dated for five years before getting married, so we knew each other really well by the time we walked down the aisle. We never lived together – in fact, we lived in different cities for the last 1.5 years of our courtship – but somehow we seemed to dodge the first-year-of-marriage-is-really-really-tough bullet. (more…)
Editor’s Note: The relationship we witness between our mother and father define our expectations of marriage from a very early age. Normalcy ranges from the strongest, most loving and affectionate of marriages to homes filled with abuse of all kinds, neglect, anger, violence, tension & abandonment. Unfortunately, we are built to mold ourselves around our definition of normalcy, putting our hearts, bodies and future marriage at risk. Sit down and face your parents’ marriage. Write down what you want of it and what you don’t want. Don’t be afraid to want the best of the best. The good women wait and fight for that. Rachel shares her story of an unhealthy relationship; one that she accepted as normal and acceptable, as defined by watching her parents’ marriage. Thankfully, she escaped. She chose to wait, and she fought for better. And now, (I can personally attest to this), she has a man who loves, respects and protects. A marriage & life that she LOVES and thrives in. – Lauren
“I can tell you haven’t been to the gym in a few days.”
I was setting up our church for a youth event when heard those words and felt two hands pinch both sides of my size 4 waist. Tim, my semi-serious/on again-off again boyfriend, was a real stickler for fitness, style, and pretty much everything about who I was. (more…)
Editor’s Note: Finances are one of the primary sources of conflict (and divorce) in marriages. It affects trust, faithfulness, stress, sex, family members – everything. When you decide to commit the rest of your life to someone, that means fighting for it, together – and not against one another. Because we put so much physical and emotional energy and time into our bank accounts, financial strain can get at our hearts and put us on the defense at the blink of an eye. Jennifer and her husband have been together for 11 years total, this being their sixth year of marriage. She wanted to share what their finances looked like from the inside, and what it meant for their marriage. And how she and her husband buckled down and fought to stay together. She blogs at ThortonFamilyMoments. – Lauren
Like most married couples out there, we have debt. A lot of it. How we managed to keep our heads above water through the recession and still manage to end each day loving one another can be thought of as nothing short of a miracle.
Blain and I were married five and a half years ago when we were fresh out of college, and at that time, holding on to more debt than we knew what to do with. Money was tight for the first few months, (eating ramen every night and selling our DVDs for cash tight) but we were making it work.
We had been dating for six years before we were married and there weren’t many secrets between us. But I will never forget the night that I opened a piece of his mail and I felt my world fall apart around me. (more…)