The Very Best Marriage Advice

Less than three years into our marriage and so late one night it was more early morning, my husband and I found ourselves with a new baby and casually discussing our divorce. To my sleepless, hormone-warped brain, someone describing heat to a person who’s never touched a hot skillet was about as effective as hearing that ‘marriage can be hard’ inside our growing family. The beauty had been as indescribable, but also welcome, and not a shock to my system. We had believed happily ever after and I was not prepared for this actual real honeymoon’s-over, shoestring-budget, baby yack-stained life.
I had grown up accepting that divorce was not necessarily good or bad: it just was. But I knew that when things got bad for awhile (read hard), it was time to go. If I hadn’t been born a runner, I sure learned fast over the years and my mind was already exploring practical escape routes. I remember where I was standing in our tiny room, the invisible speck on the bookshelf my eyes were glued to, the way my voice wavered when I whispered:
’I guess this is it for us.’
I was just as cool about the assumption as he was laid-back about taking it off the table.
‘Divorce is not an option, baby.’
My pride-puffed heart wadded right up at the soft and firm way he said it and I believed him. I had learned in our newlywed class at church not to let the sun go down on your anger, and that night I didn’t care and I went to sleep still madder than a wet hen. But something shifted and divorce became not an option.
And we started over again the next day.

***

My friend Molly is collecting letters on marriage as a wedding gift for her newly engaged friend. Her text last week:

Will you kick it off for me??? :))))

She knows I am writing a book on marriage. I am writing the book I needed to read the night I tried to make my husband leave. I consider the weight and honor it is explaining to someone the best way to come down a road you have travelled before them. Knowing some of the good parts they should slow down and not miss and also the holes they’ll find themselves stuck in on occasion. Heavy on either side has never been the truth of the whole matter and a marriage hangs in the good tension: not too Cinderella and not too Nightmare on Elm Street. What is the very best advice?
Should I tell her the lifelong importance of pursuit? Friendship? How sometimes serving each other will feel like a little death and it’s fine?
Should I try my hand at eloquence? Or stay cheeky? Maybe reverent?
Should I quote Jesus, Johnny Swim or Johnny Cash?
I think maybe yes to all and spend the morning folding clothes and writing half-drafts in my head in hopes of pinning some of these words to paper later for her friend.

***

It’s later that same day and I am mad at my husband. Why? Neither of us knows for sure. Could be a deadline, holiday-tight jeans, the sting of a recent loss, or a teenager. A skillet can get hot for a hundred reasons and it still burns the same way. The temperature is below freezing outside and still warmer than I was to him this morning. I hear St. Benedict whisper in my ear as he always does whenever I am in a posture to listen, ‘Always we begin again.’
I smile and know that this is it, pick up my phone to call to begin to make things right. And we started over for the millionth time in all these years together.
As we will always do.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Shelly | 17th Jan 18

    Oh how thankful I am that must husband isn’t a runner! I remind myself every time it feels way too hard how proud i will be in a few years looking back at how far we’ve come!

    • Melissa Blair | 17th Jan 18

      So. Thankful. There’s something beautiful and deeply intimate about a hard-fought marriage–we’re all in the same sweet boat. Love hearing from you, mama! <3

  2. Leigh Talley | 17th Jan 18

    I love this so much. Starting over each day. When I got divorced, I felt forced into it with no other option. My husband had left me for another woman. With a broken heart and ego, 2 small children, a full time demanding job, an empty bank account & bills to pay I didn’t think I would ever get out of that miserable hole I was left in. And I was positive I would never be able to look at him with anything but disgust for the rest of our lives. Forgiveness wasn’t even an option in my heart for a long time. But, one night talking to the littles I realized how important it was for them for us to “get along”. they are often my voice of reason & I’ve learned to listen to those sweet words of wisdom when we are reading books before bed. So I didn’t say a word to him & I started to make an effort, but I’ll admit, I started small. Just being around each other. Sitting together at sporting events & helping each out a little more and more. Fast forward 6 months and we went on our first date. It’s been 9 months and I can honestly say our entire relationship has shifted. We too, agreed to start over every day. In fact, I remember quoting Scarlet O’Hara in the conversation that night. Days will be fabulous. Days will be ho hum normal boring adult days. Some days will suck. But if we love each other and treat Ither with kindness, even when we fuck up, tomorrow is a new day. It’s working for us. If only you had told me this 10 years ago!! Love you sweet friend!!

    • Melissa Blair | 17th Jan 18

      Leigh T. Talley. I love every bit of this. I have several friends who have been in the same position and would have (and did say) ‘I never will…’ And I see the way their marriages have been restored and stronger. And. it. is. so. sweet to watch. And I’ve also seen the other side of that story and I am here to tell you: you is brave, sister. You is kind. And you are wildly important… AND you have the biggest heart and joy for life of just about anyone I know. Thank you for showing us how to do hard and good things and to celebrate the heck out of them. Love you so much.

  3. Jennifer | 17th Jan 18

    So true!

    Randy & I went in with the understanding that divorce was “not an option”. But I do remember times (at about the same time as you) thinking that it just might be an option, what was I thinking “not an option”, was I insane! After all, we did get married at 19!

    I’m so thankful & blessed that God got ahold of us! God has given me such a Godly husband & Godly Father, that adores me and I him!! God gets all the glory for putting up with us, loving us and teaching us how to love each other! (We are still learning!). At this stage in our life, it exciting and fun to see/watch God continue to teach us to love! This June will be 27 years for us!💕

    So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13💕

    • Melissa Blair | 17th Jan 18

      27!!! THAT is something to celebrate, sweet friend. I love watching the years tick by and each anniversary and looking back: we’ve come a million miles in lessons and, boy, I hope am hoping for a million more. The picture of sacrifice and love and joy and serving together inside a marriage and all the ways it reflects Christ and the church–it’s a sweet privilege, isn’t it? Thank you for these words, friend. And 19! Extra crowns for you young whippersnappers!

  4. Keasha | 17th Jan 18

    Your blogs always seem to written about my life, with names changed to protect the not so innoscent! 😘😘😘

    • Melissa Blair | 17th Jan 18

      I’ll start renaming us Thelma and Louise 😉 I’m always quick to tell on myself before anybody else gets a chance! I HOPE you are well–I miss being in your town. <3 I'm so glad to hear from you today!

  5. Stephanie Ingram | 18th Jan 18

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours. One of those that I will reread over and over. Maybe because I needed the reminder to not be too proud to begin again everyday. 🙂 Can’t wait to read your book! So glad you keep writing. What a gift you have!

  6. Kitty Dulgar | 19th Feb 18

    I remember asking my husband (right after we got engaged) if divorce was an option for him. After he picked himself off of the floor he said, “What…we just got engaged! What are you asking me?” I remember so clearly, saying, “Well babe, if it’s not an option for me and it’s not an option for you–let’s take it out of our equation and our marriage and our vocabulary right now!” We have been married almost 31 years, and while sometimes it’s been rough; sometimes we didn’t like each other; sometimes we had to remember to choose to love each other–we chose us. God has blessed me with a “staying” man and I am ever thankful. Your words ring so true! Keep on running–but back to each other and to Jesus! I heard you at IF 2018 and cried as you shared–having and being a safe place to those who are hurting and feeling shame is so important. Thank you!

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