4 Things That Can Save or Sink A Marriage

I was brushing my teeth when he walked into the bathroom. My husband had a funny look on his face, like he was in pain and I wiped my mouth and said, “What’s wrong?”

“Can I have a little of your time?” he asked quietly. And he reached to grab both my hands.

Something about the way he asked caused a memory to resurface out of nowhere and I got a knot in my stomach. I turned to face him, afraid.

“You’re not going to confess something are you?” I asked quietly, nearly trembling.

The look on his face made me wish I could call back the words. It had been so many, many years ago, and I didn’t mean to ask the haunting question.

“Honey, no. No.” He pulled me into an embrace. “Today, I just feel burdened for the men I meet with on Tuesday mornings. And for our son who really needs a good friend and I just need a hug.” Oh. I let out my breath.

I pushed the dark memory out of my mind and reminded myself of how far we have come.

He wrapped me in his arms and we carried one another’s burdens.

If you’ve read my book, you know we’ve been to hell and back in our marriage. I have stood at ground zero when there was nothing left.

Not even hope.

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I have hated my husband and desperately loved him all at the same time. I have helped him fight his demons and they have become mine. We have fought our way back to love and we will not stop. This journey has been hard and beautiful, but I wouldn’t change any of it. Because I have learned truths along the way: It’s usually not the big confessionals that end a marriage, it’s the little enemies we overlook and ignore. Here are 4 things that can either save or sink a marriage:

1. Things We Say

Since my marriage post earlier this week looked like a giveaway on my blog, but more like a battlefield on my Facebook page, I thought I’d start with this one and make it very clear: Things we say can sink our marriage. If you read the entire post, you know I wasn’t discouraging people from sharing awesome marriage status updates. But I certainly wasn’t encouraging husbands and wives to share bad ones. Irritations and annoyances happen in every union, but we should never post them publicly. Every criticism and harsh word we share online or in front of friends or family about our spouse damages our marriage. And words are like arrows, once they are shot, they are  impossible to retract. We might forget words tossed out in anger and the heat of the moment, but I can promise they are seared on the hearts of our spouses for much longer. Proverbs 18:21, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”

2. Things We Don’t Say

Just as words bring death, they can also bring life. Although some of us are more verbal than others (ahem), we should all tell our spouses what they mean to us. Or say thank you more or will you forgive me? We don’t need moving speeches or long love letters, but we do need to remember that implying our gratitude or love isn’t enough. Something deep and meaningful happens for both of us when we say the words out loud. There’s almost a sigh of relief and a renewal when we hear words like, “I appreciate you working so hard,” or “Thank you for cooking dinner for our family.” Words help and heal and the right ones can be powerful in your marriage.

3. Things We See

Our culture thrives on visual-stimulation. We have so much to look at–to distract us from each other-besides other people and things in print, there’s television, cable, movies, Youtube, limitless online options and books that paint such a vivid, graphic picture that leaves little to the imagination. There are obvious threats to every marriage. We can’t always help the first look, but we can stop the second one. The images we allow into our minds–from pornography on the computer screen to the popular “romance” movies on the big screen, put our marriages in jeopardy for many reasons. (Side note: 50 Shades of Gray has more explicit sex scenes than the 100 “most naked” films of 2014 put together, according to The Drudge Report. Stay away). Just as we can’t call back words, it’s really hard to unsee images and it will affect our marriages in a negative way.

4. Things We Don’t See

We also can’t close our eyes to the things around us begging to be seen. When he fills up your gas tank, that’s your husband taking care of you. When she cooks your favorite meal and makes healthy substitutions you’ll never know about, she’s doing the same. When he offers to pick up the kids from daycare so she can have a girl’s night out and she buys his favorite junk food for Super Bowl Sunday, it’s love. That sweet tea he drops off, the snow he shovels, the , these are the things we must see. When we acknowledge them, we are saying more than I see the nice thing you did that you didn’t have to do. We are really saying I see you. I see you there trying. I see you giving and doing and it matters.

Some Days My Marriage Isn’t Awesome

Congrats to random t-shirt winners: #301 Amy and #151 Jill!

There it is again in my Facebook feed. This time it’s a selfie with her husband and her status reads, “The best date ever! My marriage is awesome. #always”

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Sure, it’s sweet. And I love a good marriage shoutout. But every time I see the “perfectly happy marriage” update, I want to say, please tell me you argue over who is letting the dog out at 2am or confess that sometimes just the way he breathes is hashtag annoying.

We probably all have friends who seem to have the most awesome marriage all the time. Every day is flowers and romance with him remembering every little thing and her sweetly ignoring every little thing he forgets. There is never arguing or irritating. It’s hashtag awesome.

First of all, I’m not so sure this kind of marriages exist.

I have been married 20 years. I have a great marriage. I have the t-shirt to prove it.

But some days my marriage is not awesome.

We don’t always communicate well, live selflessly enough, or remember to just be nice to each other .

We don’t always agree over financial issues, have sex enough, see eye-to-eye on parenting stuff.

Just the other day, there was a kitchen standoff because he heard the trash can lid close and asked me if I put the empty container in the can while he was getting a liner. I had the empty container in my hand and I held it up like a boss. Proof. Ha! He walked over to the trashcan and opened it. He leaned over and retrieved the empty bottle of Ranch Dressing I had just dropped in there. He was disgusted. And strangely enough, I had no recollection of putting it in there. This is a Thing in our house.

We’ve argued over less important things, if you can believe it.

Yeah. So maybe my marriage isn’t awesome everyday.

But that’s okay.

Because perhaps our greatest strength is that we know this and we still try anyway.

Marriage isn’t awesome because it’s perfect. It’s awesome because we keep at it.

It works because we don’t give up. We push through the long, hard days. We forgive selfishness and try to be less selfish. We ignore little annoyances and try to be less annoying.

All marriages have bad days. But every morning is a new chance for an awesome day. And when we have them we should share the happy moments instead of dwelling on the not-so-good ones.

So, the next time we are scrolling down our feeds and we see that friend’s happy marriage status, let’s go ahead and like it. Because maybe that’s what she’s doing.

—FUN MARRIAGE GIVEAWAY—

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What do you love about your spouse today (even if you have to think hard)? Tell me in the comments on this post and two commenters will be randomly chosen to win a $25 gift certificate towards marriage shirts at Union28. Or get 15% any of my favorite “My Husband/Wife Rocks” shirts with code:U28WATF15. Plus, they have a big sale going on right now (shirts under $9!)

Dear Men of the World: You Won’t Regret Giving This To Your Family

I’ll never forget the day my husband handed me a wooden box with a letter in it.

It was the same year he gave one to each of our children.

The book, Letters from Dad, made a profound impact on him many years ago. It begs the answer to this question: “If you were to die today, what would your (wife and) children hold in their hands tomorrow that would let them know they were the treasures of your life?”

My husband has been answering that question by filling up our letterboxes and our hearts ever since.

He’s written dozens of letters-some funny, some serious, all memorable. On our youngest’s 8th birthday last month, she read the letter before she opened her gifts, giggling at his own second-grade memories.

Because we all understand the letters are the gift. Letters are free, they don’t take much time, but they are absolutely priceless.

A few weeks ago as we celebrated our anniversary in NYC,  Terrell pulled me aside and read the following words to me.

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Less than halfway through, as tears dripped from my chin, I thanked God for this imperfect man who leads us and loves us so well.

He is giving us a beautiful legacy and today, I want to share it with the men of the world in hopes that you will give your wife and children the same gift.

Kristen,                                                                                               

I find myself overwhelmed. I can never do justice to the past twenty years in a letter to you. If I wrote a novel over the next twelve months, I would only be scratching the surface. The beautiful part is that I am not really the one writing this story. This is God’s story and our story. You are my coauthor. One day, I can only hope that our kids drag these letters out of a dusty box and they understand that their dad loved their mom.

I do love you. You are beautiful! For more than twenty years you have been my best friend and confidant. We have traveled many miles and many roads together. When I married you, I married well. You are the one thing I have never quit or given up on. And God knows that you have never given up on me. It probably would have been easier for you if you did quit. But you didn’t. Did I mention I love you? You’re tenacious, bold, strong, tender, kind, humble, sexy, vulnerable, gentle, courageous, caring, loving, patient, brilliant, innovative, creative and on and on.

We have been to hell and heaven together. Actually we’ve probably made the round trip a couple of times.   I am humbled that you love me. Could a man ever ask for anything more than a good woman? Could a man dare hope to have a great woman? Well, I declare with my whole heart that you are an amazing woman and so much more.

In 1994, you said, “I do.”

In 1995, you said, “I will,” and we moved to Arkansas

In 1997, you said, “Let’s take a risk,” and we headed to Albuquerque

In 1999, you said, “I want to be a mother,” and God gave us a daughter in 2000

In 2001, you said, “I believe in you,” and we left the ministry

In 2002, you said, “Florida has got to be better than this,” and we moved and it was worse, but God redeemed our time and gave us a son

In 2003, you said, “You’re not a failure,” and we moved to Texas

In 2004, you said, “God will provide,” and I got a job in the Pharmaceutical industry

In 2005, you said, “I forgive you,” and I saw the face of the Jesus

In 2006, you said, “God has given us grace,” and our miracle was born

In 2008, you said, “I want to write,” and the world met “THAT” family

In 2010, you said, “Yes,” and God wrecked us both and we started Mercy House

In 2012, you said, “Now is the right time,” and we moved and started over

In 2013, you said, “We have to tell our story,” and the “Rhinestone Jesus” manuscript was turned in to Tyndale

In 2014, you said, “I believe in you,” (Or maybe you said, “Help!”) and I quit my job to run Mercy House

TWENTY YEARS.

It sounds unbelievable to even say it. Sometimes I wish I could smith words the way you do. I would smith until I couldn’t smith anymore telling you how I love you. I would tell you in a thousand ways that you are a gift from God. I would write a hundred poems declaring your beauty. I would pen a million songs so that the world would know that I need you.

I still need you! I still want you. No one knows me the way you do. No one loves me when I’m not that loveable…but you do! For that and so much more, I love you.

Kristen Welch, I love you. I want you. I need you.

T.

What I Want My Little Girls To Know About My Wedding

Dear Daughters,

A few months ago you were both in a wedding and between that and all the popular TLC bridal shows on Netflix and the breathtaking wedding boards on Pinterest, it’s got you asking questions about my wedding.

So, I want to tell you about it.

First of all, it was ugly.

No, really, it was. It was 1994, so that didn’t help.

Neither did my temporary romantic love for the Victorian era. My accent colors were mauve and forest green. Yeah. They were interesting colors against the burnt orange pews of the church and twinkling Christmas trees on the stage. (It was a December wedding).

The bridesmaids wore handmade mauve tent-like dresses that could accommodate an array of sizes, including a very pregnant bridesmaid. I’m pretty sure they were burned while I was on my honeymoon.

I had always planned on wearing a long-sleeved ivory Victorian gown. But instead I fell in love with a white off-the-shoulder sequined contemporary one. I had multiple themes going on.

Remember when you found my dress in a box in the attic a couple of years ago and asked if you could try it on? That kind of stuff is hard on moms.

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The reception was in the small, dimly-lit fellowship hall. There wasn’t dinner or dancing or enough satin to cover the drabness of the room. There was some sort of Sprite punch, a delicious wedding cake, groom’s cake (with a plastic fisherman on top) and some mixed nuts.

There weren’t party favors or sparklers. The guests threw birdseed as we ran to my blue Isuzu compact car, awash with ridiculous writing and a condom on the muffler (your Uncle’s contribution). I can still remember the look on the pastor’s face as we waved goodbye.

We immediately stopped at a fast food restaurant where I dumped a pint of birdseed from my underwear on the floor of the bathroom. That was wrong. But it was itchy.

I can’t think of a single pin-worthy picture from the day.

It wasn’t trendy or lavish.

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There wasn’t a dance floor or fresh orchids and chandeliers hanging from trees.

But I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

Somehow even with our less than glamorous wedding photo album and honeymoon on an extreme budget to exotic Arkansas, your dad and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this Christmas.

Because we understood that a marriage isn’t about a wedding.

We discovered that a lifetime of love and commitment trumps an event any day. We learned that starting our new life together debt and doubt-free was a gift to each other.

Yesterday, I read that 70% of girls creating wedding boards on Pinterest, aren’t even engaged yet. With every other marriage ending, do we have time for all this planning and pining for one perfect day?

It makes me sad that the world you’re growing up in concentrates more on the wedding than the marriage. It’s over in a sunset and it’s easy compared to the long marathon of becoming and staying one with your one and only.

I want you to know marriage is more than a venue or a menu. It’s far more than The Perfect Day or saying yes to the dress.

And I know you will probably want all of the above some day. And that’s okay.

I just want you to spend more time praying than planning. I want you to sacrifice more than you spend. I want you to understand your commitment to the man of your dreams is more than a certificate—it’s a covenant to God.

Most of all, I want you to know love. The kind of love your dad and I have that lasts through heartache and headaches. I want you to know that you are loved. You don’t have to earn or achieve it. It’s not dependent on a good hair day or bad. It’s not something you can lose. Whether you’re swept off your feet or remain a confidant single woman, you are enough.

I have seen how fast time flies. I know the days are long and the years are short. I put away the toys and clothes you outgrow regularly. I know while I write this, one of you is practicing eye shadow upstairs and the other is practicing cartwheels in the yard, and I will blink and it will be time to give you away.

You are just beginning to dream. Don’t stop.

And on this regular Monday, I want you to know that my wedding wasn’t much.

But my marriage is more.

Love,

Mom

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

A Letter to My Children on My 20th Wedding Anniversary

Hi Kids,

This week your dad and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage and I need to tell you a few important things.

First of all, twenty years.

Your dad married me two days before my 22nd birthday. It was the best birthday of my life.

He surprised me on our wedding day and sang to me and we’ve been making music together since.

(Yeah, this officially makes us old. And gross. Keep reading.)

You know how as musicians you play a piece over and over again, until you get it right? And sometimes even with all the practice and perseverance, you don’t play it perfectly, but you still make music? And then sometimes, you play it and the sound fills the room and you know you’ve nailed it?

That’s what marriage is like.

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It’s a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of practice, a lot of redoing and fine tuning. There are missed notes and off days mixed with magical moments and beautiful melodies. And if you ask an accomplished musician if they’ve ever played a piece perfectly, they answer no. But they keep playing.

A good marriage isn’t about one bad day or one good one. It’s about not quitting on either.

Your dad and I have had both. You’ve seen some good and bad and there are stories of freedom and forgiveness we will tell you when you’re ready.

A good marriage is about looking for the small gifts that we don’t always see.

Like when your dad got home in the middle of the night recently from his out-of-state trip. It wasn’t because of a delayed flight, it was because he stopped to help a man in the parking lot jump his car. I used to get angry about things like this–arriving home late, making dinner wait, but when I really look past the small inconveniences, I see the big heart of a good man, always looking for ways to help other people.

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Daughters, this is the kind of man I married.

And it’s the kind I pray for in your future.

I pray you’re the kind of wife who counts the good your husband does more than you count the bad.

I pray you’re the kind of wife that says I’m sorry first.

I pray you’re the kind of wife who asks Jesus for help.

Because that’s the kind of wife I want to be.

Son, since you were a little boy, you’ve been trying on your dad’s shoes. Keep following his steps.

I pray you’re the kind of husband who makes your wife laugh until her sides ache.

I pray you’re the kind of husband who whispers over your wife in prayer when she’s asleep.

I pray you’re the kind of husband who will love God more than anything else.

I pray you’re the kind of husband who will bring sweet tea on sour days.

Because that’s the kind of dad you have.

I pray you know deep, abiding love. I pray you are each other’s favorite people. I pray you are good forgivers when you drive each other crazy and believe in each other when you can’t believe in yourself.

I pray you have half of what we have.

Most of all, I pray you keep God in the middle to draw you closer to each other. I pray you keep Him above you to remind you that life is a breath and to look for the gift in every day. Because He can take the bad days and hard moments and turn them into beautiful years.

And one day when you look back, it will sound a lot like music.

Love,

Mom