marriage: all i thought i knew & more of what i’ve learned

Disclaimer: This is a raw, real, and personal portrait of my marriage and how God is saving it.

Here’s the deal: I read all the books. I was blessed with good relationships to yearn to have and saw a few bad relationships to learn what not to do. I experienced a very, terribly broken heart and came back from it stronger than ever. I maybe even broke a heart or two. I’ve experienced both sides of that kind of pain. I prayed. I asked myself all the right questions. I waited until I found exactly the right man. Someone very imperfect, but simply perfect for me. I really, honestly was completely convinced I had it all figured out and would be the best wife in the history of ever, and that that would in turn give me the best marriage imaginable.

HA.

Truth is, no one tells you the whole truth about marriage. Or, maybe they do – I obviously just didn’t listen. When you’re standing there in front of everyone you love, vowing yourself to another until death parts you, you don’t think of the bad. Why would you? You don’t want to believe it when people tell you that you’ll fight. That you’ll be broke. That you’ll hurt each other. That you’ll still want a hug from mom after a really awful day. That you’ll mess up – over and over again. That if you’re not careful, the devil can sneak his way into your marriage and do everything he can to ruin it. You tell yourself that your marriage will defy all the odds. That you’ll finally, after 26 years, feel like a real adult. That you’ll be so stinkin’ happy you can’t stop smiling. You think it’ll be easy and fun, and that even when it’s not, you’ll have no problem navigating through it.

Dave and I learned all to quickly that marriage is hard. It is SO. FREAKIN. HARD. I’m not even sorry for my language because it’s true. We learned that, for us, marriage wouldn’t be hard in the normal ‘marriage-is-hard’ ways, but hard in the ‘this-might-actually-be-too-broken-to-fix’ way. We’ve been thrown a pretty big curve ball and just 6 months into our marriage, found ourselves at rock bottom. You don’t need the details – they aren’t really even important. What is important is that we are fighting. We are fighting for each other, for the commitment we made, and for the future that we promised each other. In the darkest time of both of our lives, we’re changing. And we’re finally learning how to grow together. In the last three weeks, we have learned more than any book, any past relationship, and any experienced soul could’ve ever prepared us for. We were drowning, quickly. We were in real danger of breaking irreparably. But, by the grace of God and a lot of hard work, our marriage is being saved. I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but here’s how we’re saving us.

  1. Open your heart. Emotional pain sucks, there’s no way around it, but God doesn’t want us to close our hearts. He wants us to live fruitfully, glorifying His name. You can’t do that with a hardened heart. It is made clear that we are to love like He loves, and He loves us at our darkest. It’s hard and it’s scary, but we are called to LOVE with a joyful heart.
  2. Pray about it more than you talk about it. I messed this one up and it almost cost me my marriage. Once I started praying – I mean REALLY praying – God told me exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve never had that moment before. So clearly He both whispered and screamed two simple words – “Stay. Fight.” That was all I needed. Listen – He’ll tell you what to do.
  3. Eat dinner together at your table, no distractions. We got caught up  in ‘sitting at the coffee table in front of the TV’ dinners. We didn’t really talk. We definitely didn’t talk about anything substantial. Cook dinner together, set the table, and sit down to eat. Slow down, look at each other, talk. It’s so simple and so life-changing.
  4. There is no shame in seeking help – wise, Godly counsel is certainly the best kind of help. We’ve been so encouraged and blessed by the pastors who are helping us. While its so much more acceptable to seek professional help now than in decades before, there is still a certain stigma in our society that we are weak or failing or crazy if we can’t handle things on our own. That’s a load of crap. Ask for help. It’s saving us.
  5. God calls us to forgive, forgive, forgive. And just when we think we’ve forgiven enough, He calls us to continue doing so. Forgiveness has also saved us. I choose not to live with a bitter heart and I choose to believe in the good in people. We all make mistakes. ALL of us. Even if you aren’t ready to forgive for the sake of your betrayer, forgive for yourself. It’ll both soften and save your heart. That’s when the real healing begins.
  6. Be truly sorry. Seek repentance. Our God is mighty and there is incredible beauty in the miracle He is working in our marriage. He is ready and able to cleanse us of any sin, renewing our spirits. Ask Him, and let Him.
  7. Take the TV out of the bedroom. Be intentional about the time your spend together. Mindless TV before bed is not intentional. Read, write, pray, talk, laugh, make love – those are intentional and so much better for your marriage than Netflix.
  8. Give it time, but understand that the amount of time it needs may surprise you – in either way. This has been both the longest and shortest 3 weeks of our marriage. Everything has been laid on the table, there are no more secrets. I fully believed that it would take months, if not YEARS, to move past this. I’ve quickly learned that the amount of time it takes to start healing is directly correlated to both forgiveness and repentance. So.. if you want it to take less time, see numbers 5 & 6.
  9. Ask trusted friends and family to pray for you. There is no need to get into the details, a simple “We need help. Please pray for us.” will suffice. It helps, I promise.
  10. Trust Him. His love never fails. That was our wedding motto – “love never fails.” This means so much more than your love for one another. You both need to be able to love yourselves, living freely of shame, guilt, or embarrassment, before you are correctly able to love another. And, even before all that, we are only able to love because He first loved us. That’s it. That’s everything.

I wasn’t sure I’d share any of this. Even as I write and still, whenever I decide to click ‘Publish’, I am a little nervous. It’s easy to write about all the good things or to share photos of the latest crafty project. This, though, is as real as it gets. Dave and I met an incredible couple through our church. They’ve experienced their own struggles, and with God, found their way through them. They were among the first to encourage us to remain faithful and to trust that God can do amazing things. Through sharing their own story, they helped us keep ours going. I like to believe that most people have a little desire to change the world – albeit on a grand scale or just in some small way, in their own corner. I’ll never regret what has happened, because it’s bringing us closer to each other and to God. Maybe sharing our story of redemption and love will encourage someone else not give up. Maybe somewhere, in someone’s small corner, our story can change their world. That’s why I have to share it – because somewhere, there might be someone who needs encouraging and a little nudge to STAY. FIGHT.

Photo Love: Tasha Herrgott, Red Bird Hills

Leave a Reply

  1. Yes! This is one of the most beautiful and most vulnerable posts on marriage I’ve ever read! I know you have many cheerleaders but I’m cheering for you and praying for you and giving you a huge godly “atta girl” for fighting. In a world that so easily walks Way from things, staying to fight is so brave and so amazing!!!! Sending you and Dave many hugs!!!!!!!

    • Emily, thank you. I am brought to happy tears by your kind words. 🙂 Thanks for cheering for us and being so wonderful!!

  2. Praise Jesus our Lord! Shanna, thank you so much for sharing the raw, emotional material with us. We are so proud you and Dave are fighting for the vows you made in front of God. We will continue to pray for your battle and victory! Love you lady!

    • Thank you, sweet friend. 🙂 I’ve been so nervous to share, but knew that I just needed to. Miss and love you like crazy!

  3. Very relatable/raw post, Shanna. I can definitely relate that it is definitely not always easy… but is worth it. Hope the best for your relationship in the future.

  4. All of it… so true! Thank you for having the guts to say something! I think that nearly every marriage (if not every single marriage) experiences the lowest of low times and fighting for each other is all you can do to get out of the ugly! I’ve experienced my fair share of hardships in marriage, but what I really started learning when I really started praying was that (despite me thinking it was all my husband’s fault – if we’re honest, its always the other person, right?!),that God taught me that I should be praying for myself… to pray that He would show me and teach me how to be a righteous wife! It’s a word that has so much meaning, but its my prayer every day… to grow as a righteous wife and mother. God bless you, Shanna! Thank you for this messsage!

    • Tasha! Wow, thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s been so encouraging hearing all the honest & gracious responses – I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you!

  5. You are amazing! Stay strong girl! You write some powerful stuff-so inspirational! Sending nothing but prayers and good vibes to you both!

  6. I am learning this very lesson as well…it is refreshing to see someone so young having the courage to write about things like these and the courage to fight, marriage is a lot of really HARD work, savor the commitment you both made and don’t give up until you absolutely have no fight left in you. Prayers to you <3

  7. Sooo proud of you to have written this…It took a lot of courage… you continue to amaze me with your unfailing love for me and us! Let’s keep fighting!! Let’s keep praying, let’s keep seeking Him…and let’s keep loving! I love you, Shanna McCann.

    -your {way} less than perfect husband. 🙂