I am a lot of things. But one thing I am NOT is an expert on marriage. Well, I’d probably be an expert on what NOT to do. I’ve gotten it wrong so many times I can’t even count. I’m not one to believe in “soul mates.” I think it’s a nice thought, but it’s not part of my theology, and it’s not really been my reality. That said, I believe Pete is absolutely a gift from God. I don’t think there is another human on the planet that is more suited for me than him. He is the most LOVING, PATIENT, KIND, and LONG-SUFFERING human I know. And he’s pretty cute too! #bonus.
We didn’t begin our marriage the right way. I was 4 months pregnant with Haley when we got married. This isn’t me passing judgment on anyone else; this is simply me sharing the facts of my own story. So, to start out feeling like “he had to marry me” is definitely not the best environment for feeling wanted, chosen, confident, pursued, or secure. And growing up in church, you couple all of the aforementioned feelings with the guilt of knowing better and you have a cocktail for a hot mess. Meet Carmen in her 20’s & early 30’s.
I don’t like to speak for Pete (and he’s super private! Y’all pray for him because ‘member, he’s married to me!) But I think it’d be all right with him if I told you what he would tell you today…he too wasn’t in a great place when we got married. The only difference between the two of us was that I was somewhat aware of my dysfunction—but him, not so much. Which doesn’t make one right or wrong. You still have two broken people with a new baby, a new city, and no manual. Seven years in, we welcomed another baby girl, and the cracks in our marriage were beginning to show.
I would love to tell you divorce was never an option for us, but the truth is that calls to attorneys were made. But here’s where it gets fuzzy—or perhaps it’s better to say Providential. We never went through with it. And I can’t even tell you why, except to say “God stopped us.”
There was no dramatic heart restoration or particular moment where we had this “Hollywood reunion” scene. It wasn’t like that at all. However, there are two defining moments that are embedded in my heart and mind forever.
The first one was in the marriage counselor’s office. I didn’t want to be there. Pete insisted we go. The counselor was trying to put me (and my attitude) at ease. Pete went first. He said, “Carmen has loved enough for the two of us for the first seven years of our marriage. I’ll love enough for the two of us until I can win her heart back.” I was so mad! I was mad because he was being sweet, and that didn’t sit well with all of my justifications. And it was the first time—in ever—I felt he wanted me, as opposed to being stuck with me.
The second moment was shortly after the first. A friend stopped by to see me. I was on the floor crying. She knelt down beside me and prayed this simple prayer: “God, whatever is pulling on Carmen’s heartstrings, You pull harder.”
I didn’t know much back then, but I had enough Baptist in me to know that God was on the side of my marriage, and for me to do anything differently would not be good.
You would think it would’ve been sunshine and roses from there on out. Ha! Not a chance. Thus began the hardest years. The silent-treatment sessions with God. The power struggle with His will vs. My will. And for a while, Pete and I even fell into the category of “let’s hang in there for the girls.”
But over time, a crazy thing happened. I would tell you in my own words, but Beth Moore blogged about her husband, Keith & her late last year, and honestly, I can’t say it any better than she did….
“We developed compassion for one another. We were both messed up and we each understood why. And, I really don’t know a better way to say it, we felt sorry for one another and started trying to help each other get better. We were both willing, many times through bitter tears and against our human-hearted natural preferences, to choose to love each other again. Over and over and over and over. After some really harsh things.”
This is Pete and I. Down to a T. Just copy, cut and paste our names. It’s nothing but the absolute GRACE of GOD that we are still standing. He saved us from ourselves. I shudder when I think about what we almost did to each other and to our girls. I know everyone’s story is different, but Praise Jesus we’ll be married 27 years on May 26th. I love how Beth put it in her blog, “Keith & I don’t kiss on our anniversary. We high-five!”
Pete & I often have people ask us for marriage advice or what our secret has been. This is when we glance at each other with that knowing-look and start laughing hysterically, “If they only knew!”
I don’t know where you are in the journey, but this is all I can offer:
1. God. Only He has the power to change a human heart.
2. Laugh. Praise the Lord, Pete & I never lost our sense of humor. Even in the darkest of days. Some of our jokes were just downright sick. But we would laugh our heads off through our tears.
3. Seek to truly try and understand the other person. For a moment, pretend like they’re not your spouse, but a sister, a brother, a friend. How would you treat them?
4. Learn that love is verb, not a feeling. Feelings follow action, though.
5. This book…
Pete is an avoider. I’m a vacillator. Read it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Marriage is hard. But, it’s worth it. And If I’m completely honest at the moment I’m writing this, Pete & I got into a disagreement last night that has carried over to today. But the arguments are so different these days. We really don’t fight that often. But, when we do, we fight more fairly. And we’re no longer fighting against each other. We’re fighting for each other.
We may not have “entered in” the right way, but with the grace of God, (albeit bloodied and bruised) we will finish the right and only way…together.
Love this Carmen
Thank you, April! And thanks for being a part of my blog community!
I adore you and your honesty… and your humor. Thanks sweet friend 🙂 I think a lot of us can see ourselves in this story.
Thank you, Morgan!! I love you!
Love this Car! I teared up reading this. I already know this story but I just love reading it and how good God is. It’s no mystery that I love you and Pete and that your marriage gives me energy to always put in the work on mine. Love you! Oink Oink
I love you Siebe Deane Heath! I say all the time the best gift BH ever gave me was YOU! You are equal parts sister & friend. And I can’t wait to see you for Easter!
Carmen, love your open and honest heart! It is truly what makes you such a special blessing to so many. No question God is at the center of all you do…… It’s always the first part of you we see! You always inspire me. We love you!
Kaye! You’ve been a long-time friend, and you’ve loved us through it all!! That’s never been lost on me. Thank you!!!
Anne Croteau Lee
I love you Carmen….
Transparency is such ministry at times. So many may need to hear this and grab on to the Hope that holds on tight if they will let Him. Love you so girlfriend!!!!
Thank you, Jilly. Love you so much! Thank you for ALWAYS being there for me! Especially through some really hard times.
Carmen, Our stories are so much alike…had a blessed bun in the oven when we got married and the shame was compounded when my pastor refused to marry us. Our anniversary is 2 days after yours and this year will mark 23 years of wedded “bliss” (haha). It hasn’t been easy but it’s most definitely been all God. Can’t imagine doing life with anyone but him but there have been lots of fights, tears, silent treatments, and a lot of laughs.. Thanks for your honesty! It’s refreshing.
Jo Ann Stapleton
Carmen… We have just had our 45th anniversary. We have had many times of struggle and many days of pure joy. Neither of us are perfect but God is.. his love has covered us… Held us and lifted us. Praise God for his love and mercy… God bless you and Pete.. love your story
So thankful for your transparency CarCar! I needed this today and have hope.
Tania Ortiz - Cole
I am happy for you . My situation may not have been like yours but like yours it was heart wrenching and I really thought it was easier to give up . Everyday I am glad I never let Satan get the best of me . I love my husband and my boys . Thank you , thank you for being you .
Just….beautiful…and REAL!! Marriage is so hard but so worth it! The hard times just make us stronger. God is AWESOME!
Wow! How raw and truthful! Thank you for sharing this! It hits my heart. I wish I could go back and change things, but I can’t.
Thank you for your honestly about your struggles . Marriage is certainly not easy but it is worth it. Keep it up girl 😀 My husband, kids and I all listen to you every day and am so thankful for the Morning Cruise. We even got to meet you when you came to Lakeland and felt so proud to give to the Station every month.
We have been married 34 years and are currently in counseliing as well. We are about to start Part 4 of the book. Are kids are grown and gone and I was embarassed at first that we needed hel. But the best decision we have ever made was getting help. Just an hour ago we were sharing about some summer plans and how we feel about it.. I am the avoider and my husband is the vacillator. We both have hope that we will pull out of this funk. I was just casually reading your post and saw #5.. I called my husband over and said look! I will pray for you and yours. Thanks for sharing. Feeling encouraged.
Thank you for sharing this… at times it seem easier just to give up and walk away, but then God always steps in and saves the day. This was a blessing to me
Thank you for this honesty!
God bless you
This speaks volumes to me. I really understand. Thank you for sharing so we don’t feel alone.
I LOVE THIS IN MORE WAY THAN ONE!!! Thank you for your honesty for the reminder that it is not easy but it isn’t impossible either and to always trust in God! Thank you thank you
I heard you talking about some of this topic this morning in the car on the way to my son’s school and I thought…I should go to her blog and read this (but knew I’d never have time to go find it). Then GOD intervened, I opened Facebook to message a friend and this was the first thing to pop up on my screen–GOD said, “Darcy, I want you to read this.” I ugly-cried as I read. Thank you SO much, I feel so alone in my fight for my marriage (there are plenty who will judge, but not many willing to help). This post made me feel so much less alone, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I really can’t express on words what this post means to me. Other then I will read it often to help me stay encouraged. Thanks so much CarCar. Love you girl!
LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Me and my husband are in year number six. It has been a rough one. Our story starts very similar, but our son was almost a year old before we got married. I’ve been struggling with guilt about the ways thinks have become. This was insightful and empowering!
God’s grace, God’s grace…. Marriage is hard… Without Him…We can do nothing.
We have four wonderful children, when our 19 year old daughter moved out unexpectedly and dramatically, my husband and I sought counseling so that when our twins leave (16 now), we won’t be looking at each other saying “Who are You?”. Thank you for your honesty about how hard marriage is and that it’s not a competition, but man that compassion can kick in anytime now. We will celebrate 23 years this July and there are still so many times that I think, I can’t do this. That’s right, I can’t but God can!!! One day at a time, one milestone at a time, one heart beat at a time. I can tell you this, I cannot go based upon my feelings that is for sure. I am inadequate in every way, BUT GOD, gave me this wonderful man to be mine forever.
Love the Carmen & Pete story! My husband and I’s relationship started the exact same way and I truly wish and had prayed for the end that you got, but God has a different plan. I wanted two broken hearts to fight for each other and our love! When I caught him cheating on me a few years ago, I was upset but the weird thing was within a couple months I was happy that it had happened, weird I know but let me explain. I truly thought this was God putting into place the relationship that our marriage should truly be. I felt that with such a tragedy we would work and grow TOWARDS each other, closer and stronger over time- even if it took a A VERY LONG time, being we have struggled for 10+ years. I figured it would take many years of work to get there but had thought he would come around and fight for me and our 4 kids truly as I have always wanted, waited, & fought for. In my opinion, the only thing wrong with our marriage is he was too focused on his work and his priorities were mixed u (never having time for the kids and I). He kept his work life separate from the kids and I, barely found time to go to sporting games, birthday parties and never (in 17 years) went on a vacation with the kids and I. Anyway, I am soooo soooo happy that God was able to help you and Pete to grow TOGETHER, even thorough the brokeness of your pasts, so you may grow in your faith & relationship with eachother. This is YOUR time- You & Pete deserve the best!! There will ALWAYS be challenges but enjoy the little moments and laughs and never loose sight of the bigger picture- the Marriage God intended! I listen to you on the radio almost every morning and can’t tell you how you ALL (along with a few close friends and my faith) have helped me get though the last few years & given me hope. My relationship with God has only grown to levels I couldn’t imagine a few years ago. I guess THAT was God’s plan! I can say from many conversations with Pete and Haley through the years at the YMCA, that you have an Amazing family! We all have struggles but looking to each day with gratitude for all that is right & good, is the ONLY way to live life. Much love & blessing!!
Carmen- This post hits so close to home. We have walked very similar paths to start our marriages. My husband and I had been discussing getting married when we found out I was pregnant. I grew up in the church and dealt with the shame and guilt of being in this situation. I too felt like we got married out of necessity because we were having a baby. We got married when our first son was 4 months old. For the first few years I felt like he was in it because we had a child together. We were so close to calling it quits many times between our second and third anniversary. Here are some of the things I picked up while doing study after study on marriage and temptations: 1. With God at the center of our marriage we could go through anything and come out stronger, 2. The best things in life are worth fighting for, 3. It’s not about what I get out of the relationship but what I can give to him. We will be celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary this year, have 3 amazing boys and continue to keep our marriage strong. Its something worth fighting for and I thank God we didn’t give into the devils constant prompting! Thank you for being open and real about your situation and providing hope for those of us in similar situations!
Thank you so much for your transparency & honesty. Marriage is hard, but it’s definitely worth the fight. As I’m typing this my heart is aching because of how stressful my marriage has been over the last couple of months. I know our God is faithful & I will continue to trust him regardless of what I see in the natural. May God continue to bless you & your beautiful family.
I am new hear to your blog though have listened to you for many years on WJIS. This story just blessed me today. We also didnt start out quite right though not pregnant. (that was my first marriage) We have now been married 33 years and have also made the attorney calls etc.. but somehow never made it to sign papers. I had one attorney talk me out of it!! Bizarro! My hubby fought for me one time and I fought for us another time. It was so messy. The first time( 7 years married) he sent me to my bff home in Indiana. I stayed a week and she talked me down and held me to the vows I made. Told me that I absolutely could not end it because she was a witness to that day we married. Bless her heart she saved our marriage that week. I always tell everyone that is getting married that its easy to get married but harder to stay married!
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Thank you for being so truthful and honest especially in a world where so many people only share the highlights of their life on social media! I know God will continue to bless your marriage.
Thank you for sharing this. We have a lot in common. Our girls were born on the same day, same year and my husband and I will be married 27 years May 11th. It hasnt been easy and sometimes I have felt the same way you did. But I know that our God is faithful.