Marriage: A Whole Lot of Hard...and Hope!

Today marks 16 years of marriage for JD and me. And while that's only a drop in the bucket compared to the years we hope to be married {the rest of our lives!}, here's what I know for sure after 16 years: marriage is HARD. But it's some of the worthiest hard work you'll ever do. And if you feel stuck in the hard right now, there's HOPE.

Let me see if I can unpack that a little bit.

First, marriage is HARD. Who knew? Did you know that going into marriage? I sure didn't! You're talking to a girl who thought she was going to snuggle with her husband all through the night for the rest of her life...just like I did with my teddy bear growing up. Little did I know that we'd get too hot, too uncomfortable, too agitated, and {gasp!} too offended to even say goodnight at times.

Why on earth is marriage so hard? Well, we all have our different reasons. One is that we're all hard to live with, no matter how great we think we are. My husband? He's an amazing man. {If you knew his story, you'd agree that he's a walking miracle!} But he has his ways. I've cussed him out in my head a thousand times. Hard Ass! {My secret is out. Good thing he knows it already.} And me? I'd like to think I'm all sweet, supportive and easy, but who am I kidding? A long-time perfectionist who doesn't admit fault easily and struggles to ask for forgiveness? My poor husband.

But there's a much bigger story than husband vs. wife...your ways vs. his.

There's a story as old as creation itself. The story of a God who creates something good...and an enemy who opposes and attempts to destroy whatever God creates. So if you have even the smallest belief that God intended marriage to be good, you can bet there's been some kind of opposition to your marriage from day one.

I didn't know that when I got married, but boy do I sense it now. Big time. And knowing this makes a huge difference in the way we fight this battle. Instead of seeing each other as the enemy, we're learning to fight the real enemy together. We're learning to fight for our marriage instead of fight against each other.

And there's more. As if that larger story weren't enough!

You see, we each bring our own stories to the table. I won't even be able to scratch the surface in a single post, but the short story is this: no matter how seemingly perfect or how obviously broken your childhood was, you bring baggage from your past into your present. When you show up on your wedding day, it's not just as a brand new bride, but as a little girl with all kinds of hurts and hopes and dreams.

The truth is, most of us don't really know what we're bringing into a marriage. We want to bring our best...to start all fresh and new. But we bring all that we are...the good and the broken. And the broken isn't bad. It just needs healing.

It's rare that two people enter into marriage whole and healed. Because most of us don't even know what needs healing until we see our brokenness laid out all raw and messy in front of another...which rarely happens outside of the most intimate of relationships. Who else but our spouse sees us in every single state...from beautiful to broken and back again?

Most of us enter in quite broken, messy and unaware. And we look to the other, often unconsciously, to mend or at least soothe the broken places.

There's nothing wrong with starting a marriage this way. It's really quite normal. But staying in that place of brokenness and looking to the other to fix or soothe won't strengthen a marriage. It will quietly erode the strong tower you tried to build together. Until one day...

...you have no idea how you got here. Or how to get out. You just feel stuck in a hard place.

But there's HOPE. Because whatever God starts, He will finish well. {Philippians 1:6} When I don't know where this story is going, I trust that He does. When things don't look so good, I remember His commitment to work everything out for good. {Romans 8:28}

On the hard days, I go back to how we met and fell and love. It's a story only God could write. There's no other way I could meet him over Thanksgiving, know he's "the one" by Christmas, and be engaged by Valentine's. Talk about a whirlwind love story way outside of my perfectionistic, planned, predictable comfort zone! {More on that story here.}

Without a doubt, the last 18 months have been the hardest ones in our marriage. A major life change has a way of exposing what we tend to ignore, shove down or hide in a more predictable, controlled, fast-moving environment. Part of what makes the transition so hard is that we learned a way of relating to one another out of our broken places, and now that we're on the path to healing and growth, we have to learn new ways.

When we started the counseling process {mostly my husband, a brave-hearted man}, it was if someone changed the music in our marriage. But we were still trying to do the old dance. And because I'm not the best at adapting to change, I'm probably the one trying to use old dance moves while his quick-learning, change-loving self has picked up the new ones in record time. No wonder we're stepping all over each other's toes!

Surely there will be a day when I'll have a wiser perspective on how to struggle well in marriage, but for now, just know I can absolutely relate to those of you who feel stuck in a hard place. We won't always be in this place. I promise. Even better, God promises. He won't leave us where we are...or how we are. He's in the transformation business!

This is the visual that God has given me as I wait on Him to move us through this hard place: we're mining for gold. It may look like a coal mine at times, all black and sooty. {Gold looks a lot like coal until the dross is burned away.} But what looks like coal right now will be our treasure in the end. I'm convinced that when we come out of this place, we'll be more deeply connected and rooted than ever before. {We're already experiencing moments like that, and they are sweet!} And on the hardest of days, I remind myself that I'm not leaving this coal mine until I come out with my treasure!

On this day of our 16th wedding anniversary, I know two things: marriage is HARD. But there is HOPE. Look for the little glimmers of gold beneath the outer layer of struggle. In the end, we're coming out of these hard places with treasure!

Wherever you find yourself in your story today, stuck in the hard or basking in hope, you are not alone. If you're stuck in the hard and can't see your way out, ask someone to pray for you today. I'll do it if you don't have another. Truly. Send me an email. And if you're basking in hope, surely you remember the days when you weren't. Look for those who are stuck. Love on them. Pray with them. Listen to them. Let them cry, let them hurt, let them struggle. Don't try to fix them or take away their pain. But remind them there is hope. Get down in the dark place with them and be a light.

As we enter a new year, I'm hopeful. Instead of dreading newness as I have in the past, I'm actually looking forward to it. I'm daring to believe that this is the year that God will make all things new...and that I will actually perceive it instead of being blind to it.

Happy New Year to you, sweet friends.
Here's to the new thing God is doing!

With a heart wide open,
There's no one else in the world I'd rather do this life with than you.
You are brave. You are strong. You are MINE!


  1. And when I set this ball rolling 17 years ago, who knew where it would end? Certainly not me, but you all have done 16 years well, and I admire your continuing efforts to make your relationship stronger. Yes, there are always bumps in the road which is why many people quit on marriage, but more often than not the relationship is well worth the effort you are putting into yours. Carry on.....xoxox

  2. Love you sweet friend!!! God brought you into my life for a reason...you always speak so open and wholeheartedly....and I recently learned how truly powerful it is when I am unable to pray for myself to ask someone I trust to pray for me....I will always be here to pray for you Linsey. May 2014 be a year of blessings, peace and joy for you and your family.

  3. Sweet Linsey, you just spoke to so many. You just spoke to me. Thank you and I love you and your open, honest, wonderful self.

    Happy Anniversary to you and your precious husband.

  4. Lovely Linsey! I wish you many happy, healthy ones ahead!

  5. Hi Linsey! I have loosely followed along your journey through your move as we moved here from Houston just a few, months before you did. This is by far my favorite post I've ever read of yours....real, raw, full of hope and passion for your man and our God! Houston was my hard time in life (we lived there 5 years before moving here 2 1/2 years ago). I came as a shadow of myself and God has healed and breathed new life back into my heart. Now He is taking us back to Houston and while I can't honestly say that I like it there, I'm excited to see how He will use our family with a reignited passion for Him.
    If you have a few minutes, I would love to hear what you loved about Houston...farmer's markets, restaurants, favorite things to do as a family.
    Thanks for sharing your heart!

    1. This was my husband's all-time favorite post of mine, too. Didn't expect that! :) Here's what helped me love Houston: find the things that make it feel small. For me, that was helped but the fact that I lived in a neighborhood that literally was its own small town. But wherever it is, find the quaint little restaurant, the farmer's market, the coffee shop...and return often. Make a point to learn the names of those who work there...and introduce yourself until they know your name. It makes things feel small town-ish. Some of our spots were: Picnic, Tiny's in West U, Haven, the Rice or Eastside Farmer's Market, Whole Foods, antiquing in the Heights, Urban Market (several times a year). I stayed pretty close to home. No matter where you live, I think it's possible to create a smaller world for yourself within a very big city. And church. Don't give up visiting until you find the one that feels like home...even if it's not in your neighborhood. We ended up driving across town for church. Hope that helps!

  6. It does. We are in the Clear Lake area where there are no Farmer's markets, but I think you are right...make the drive and make a day of it...one of my favorites is The Black Labrador but I am familiar with the restaurant area you are referring to. Thank you for that list. Since we are close to the coast I think I need to visit more spots over that way, I appreciate your thoughts!

  7. What a beautiful post. I wish I had your insight 20+ years ago. Needed it for sure. I started following you a few months ago, mostly because you are in the area where my daughter lives. I'm in Houston so you know how far that is. I have really enjoyed your blog & now your amazing insight. Happy Anniversary! Never, never give up!

    P.S. I would love to know what church you called home while in Houston & if you have found one in Tennessee yet? Blessings to you!

  8. Congratulations! Marriage IS tough -- we've seen it ,been through it, and I'm sure will go through it again. We just celebrated 24 yrs on Dec. 30th....and my blog post speaks about it. I'm attaching the link: http://www.backtoedenwithliz.com/2013/12/celebrating-24-years.html

    Love you!

  9. This is an absolutely beautiful post, Linsey! Many don't recognize that marriage is difficult until they've made a few blunders. I hope someone reads your post and knows that nothing is easy, yet love is the most important thing we can work with!

    Happy Anniversary!


  10. Blessings to both of you on your 16th wedding anniversary~ Speaking as someone who has been married 38 yrs: Marriage is never boring -if it is, something is wrong. It is full of shifts and changes and, hopefully, lots of love.

  11. beautifully raw .. real
    oh how i so know these places..the learning new dance moves..trying to still use old ones. i know this from counseling
    so much here. that last verse? one of my life verses. one i STILL believe in today..that God will honor. it is going in our deeper still collection. we have a few more to add that i had on my prayer list. this verse is one of my lifeline's that keeps me going.
    love you friend. i can't wait to sit with you. the best is yet to come for you two. my greatest hope is that God receives the glory in the end. that all the messy crazy God can and will use to draw others...especially my/your children. that they see God is still right in the midst of us. wanting our hearts...able to work miracles...fighting for us

  12. maybe my favorite post of yours ever.
    i feel like i've said that before, though. :)

    love the analogy….playing new music but dancing the same old way…
    it's hard to learn new ways…new dynamics.

    andy and i are coming up on 18 years…and it's been hard becoming one…
    it's a choice to live in oneness every single day..it's hard.

    so appreciate your heart..
    love the realness you share with us.

    it's a beautiful thing to see God take two people, so broken, and create beauty and wholeness.
    it's the most rewarding hard work ever.

    what I wouldn't give to sit with you over coffee and share life.

  13. we would be real life friends if we were closer :)

  14. Bless you both. We celebrated our 26th in August and you speak such truth. We bring expectations to our marriage and not having those met was the hardest to accept. He didn't even know them? I didn't even know I had them? Crazy youth! We had so much to learn.

    My husband and I were talking the other day about the commitment we made to each other and knowing that our commitment is truly for life makes all the difference. That is one battle already won against satan! So I guess he will do what he can to make us unhappy but he can't have that victory.

    Congratulations! May this year in Tennessee best the best! Katey

  15. just went to our first Marriage tune-up class at church tonight, and I came home feeling lighter and inspired. Your post was almost like a transcript from what the leaders said :) They talked exactly about how there is an enemy fighting against your marriage--fighting the good things God is doing in you personally and trying to drive a wedge between you and your husband. I'm with you. We've been through some hard times so I know we are strong, but there's something about change that brings out all kinds of stuff (and probably I have felt the most insecure about myself as a wife/mother right now which probably makes me more sensitive). they reassured us that if you are working on your marriage, you are actually better off than most people, because you are moving in the right direction. they also talked about how intimacy really is letting the person know what's going on at the roots--deep down and knowing you and seeing you. they talked about how we have fears deep down that we may not even be aware of (from how we were raised or our own) that make us respond and do certain things (that might not make sense to the other person). (and apparently there is a test you can take to actually put it into words???) once we understand the root of it, both can make sense of the feeling/what's being communicated. With all that you have been through with the move and adjusting to a completely new life, I had been surprised and almost jealous of how well things seemed to be going for you two! thank you for being honest and vulnerable! your testimony models true discipleship which will bring people closer to Jesus!

  16. You are wise beyond your years, you speak of your faults, yet that is what makes you so willing to seek and find the answers. Sixteen years of marriage is when troubles almost destroyed my marriage, and yet this year we celebrate 28 years. We both feel so lucky that we fought to make it work, even though it wasn't always at the same time lol. Today I can honestly say I have the husband, and the marriage that I always yearned for.....with hard work comes a love that is so much more amazing than you can imagine:)


"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one." ~ C.S. Lewis

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