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October 18 2013


I didn’t think I was marrying wrong.

In fact, there was nothing at all wrong about my foray into marriage.

When he got down on his knee with a beautiful platinum ring in hand he’d done so with the approval of his parents, my Ma, all our friends -mutual and individual- and his full-time Ministry supervision to boot.

We’d been good friends for 2.5 yrs.  We’d taken 8 long months to pray and consider our mutual feelings.  When we finally decided to become “official” it was at the strong encouragement of another campus minister my then almost-boyfriend was working with.

We courted like Ninja’s.  We stayed sexually pure.  We prayed together.  We participated in Engaged Encounter.  We dutifully complied with premarital counseling.  We read about marriage preparation, sex, budgeting and love languages.  Ours was the stuff of legend.

Then everything and nothing happened all at once slowly over the years.

We married wrong.  We married outside of compatibility.  We married broken people, each of us.  Something went wrong, it seemed.

The light switch flickered off all at once and slowly.  It broke.

How could we have done this wrong?  What of all of the planning, the books, the gorgeous wedding, the excited happy best friends and counselors?


I can’t do this anymore, I say through gritted teeth and salty tears.  It’s much too much.

He falls prostrate before the Lord and prays for 45 minutes straight.  I do the dishes, tend the children.

I swear at God.  I drop the F bomb. God what the f*ck could you have been thinking?  This is SO your fault.

I want to shake my fist up at Him but it feels cliche’ so I groan a little.  I dig deep into a guttural belly groan more typical sounding of a woman in late stages of natural birth rather than a woman desperate for hope or exit.


All those years go by.  All those years of the heightened stress of a life together in full-time ministry with the Devil on our back like white on rice.  All those years on non-profit salaries.  All those years of conflict communication that more closely resembles catty teen-aged girls than adults.  All those years, 1 more child and not a margin in sight.

us twoWe are tired.  We are worn bone-dry.  We are heartbroken.

Everything and nothing pressing in on us suffocating, punishing in equal measure.

Hope or exit.  Call time of death RIGHT NOW or change.  Threats are strewn wildly about.

We each want something else from and for the other but it’s too little, too late.

There are more children to be had.

There are no more children to be had.

There is more money to be made.

There is no more money to be spent.

There is a blue sky. no it is green, thankyouverymuch.

There is no end.

We married wrong.  We communicate wrong.  We conflict wrong.  We money wrong.  We do it all wrong, it seems.

What if you slip away silently like a thief in the night? Will I be grateful?

What if I slip away as if I were never here?  Would you breath a sigh of relief?


“I believe God uses marriage as His ultimate sign of redemption,” she says.  “You can do this,” she cheers.

“I believe you married wrong,” says another, “you were both too young.  Too inexperienced.”

“This marriage is a nightmare,” says yet another, “ask God if divorce is permissible.”

“Your marriage has made me believe that I too, can be faithfully married,” says yet another.

“Y’all are my example,” says 20 more.  Twenty.


We can do this, we say.

I did marry wrong, I think.  But doesn’t everyone?

This marriage is a nightmare, I muse.

This marriage is an example? I shutter.


I ask God.  It is impossible to drown out 100 million voices for the Lord to get a word in edge-wise.  I look to Scripture.  The Bible transforms from 66 books with multiple authors over a span of 1,500 years to merely one author: me.

Every word, every verse says the same thing, “God hates divorce. Shut up. Grin. Bear it.”

 From the book of Shut-up 1:1-3

“God hates divorce. Shut up. Grin. Bear it.”

“God hates divorce. Shut up. Grin. Bear it.”

“God hates divorce. Shut up. Grin. Bear it.”

Amen & Amen.

I’ve been bearing it, I tell Him.  Does He care that I have, ahem, chosen to stay all these long incompatible and frustrating years?

What, for example, does God suggest for two people with the personality of freight trains heading right for one another with ALL the world’s stubborn pride embodied in these two married souls?

I wish I knew.

Today and every day, I  fight for a small breath to keep this head above water.

Today and every day, I fight to marry well.  I didn’t marry wrong.  I didn’t marry right.  I married well.

I never knew how to hold that in tension before: that a good decision to “marry well,” can become the most heartbreaking enterprise of all.

You wake up.  You take another breath.  You decide to work at it.  More.  You let ‘marrying well,’ mean more than ‘marrying right,’ or ‘marrying wrong.’

You hold that tension in your hand, you stuff it in there with the hope and confusion and you carry it with you believing God will give you enough strength for today’s tension.

us water

You pray that everything and nothing will happen all at once and slowly over the years to bring the redemption you long for.

Sometimes -not for everyone- but sometimes, you wake up and there it is: hope.


  1. Sorry to hear Grace. Wishing and praying for you all – peace. I would not say I ‘married wrong twice’, I would say I learned and am learning from both men what I needed to learn. And I would say that God hates when you put your needs at the expense of others. My most fervent goal is that my children find spouses who they feel supported, loved and cherished by – people who they feel safe to be themselves with and who love and respect each other. Pretty much come to the conclusion in my life that it is too late for me for this – and so I am learning to let it go and just set boundaries so that I am still able to find peace elsewhere in my life. I am always so envious when I read ‘married to my best friend’ – I hope and pray that my children can say that!

    • Julie Ricci Monson

      I married wrong and I married well at the age of 19. That will be 40 years ago on October 27th! When I didn’t think I could bear it, I looked up to God and asked him to help me be the wife He(God) wanted me to be, so that IF our marriage failed I could stand before Him knowing I had done my best in His grace.

      He poured out His grace on one or the other of us over the years. Some of those years were really rough. But, because I married well, a man who loved God, we have endured and now live a marriage of joy and love and companionship like never before. It is an amazing roller coaster ride with some scary times, some thrills, some monotony…. but ohhhhhh, I’m so glad we hung in their because of HIM!

      Thanks for sharing Grace! I could SO relate!

      • I echo your words, Julie…We are SO glad we hung in there through the days, months and years of wondering if we had married wrong. SO thankful for God’s grace…

        And so thankful for this blog, and the vulnerability and honesty that helps us to break down the lies that if we are truly trusting the Lord and serving Him, we won’t have those days.

  2. I really love this take on marrying well. I am thankful for women , like you, who are willing to be real about marriage and life. Thank you!

  3. Julie Ricci Monson

    I did not mean for my comment to be a reply to Karen Moon. I hope you can move it. It was meant for you, Grace. :-) I’m not tech savvy

  4. Jillie

    Oh Grace, there is probably not one reader out there that can’t relate to at least part of what you’ve written here. Marriage is hard work, that’s the honest truth of it. But…It’s good work. Loving one man for all of your days.
    My husband and I, together 37 years now, have our share of problems. I have never questioned that I married well. I’ve only questioned whether HE’S married well? I am the screw-up. I am the broken one. I am the one who punishes him for all the man-sins committed against me in my past. I am the one who cannot forgive myself. I am the one unworthy…of love and peace and happiness. I am the one who has considered suicide, more than once, to “free” him for a “better life with someone worthy of him”. Because “divorce” is a word we’ve never used. What other option is there, than to “exit”…completely?
    That’s on my bad days. On my good days, I give Thanks. Grateful Thanks.

    • Katie

      Jillie, your story breaks my heart. Please don’t ever “exit … completely.” You are a child of God, whom He loves and sent his son to die for. I am praying for you — because I know the overwhelming feeling of the being the screw up, the broken, the bad decision maker, the unworthy one. Please remember that God looks you squarely in the face and loves you, perhaps even more so, because you are broken and in need of His love and His redemption. Love you, sister, and I don’t even know you.

      • Carla

        Katie says it beautifully. So I echho what she says. Prayers….

  5. Oh, Grace. Hugs to you.

  6. Jillie

    Oh Grace, I am certain there is not one reader who will not relate to at least part of what you’ve written here today. Marriage is hard work–that’s the truth of it. But it’s always good work. Loving one man for all of your days.
    My husband and I, together for 37 years now, have had our share of problems. I do not question whether I’ve married well. I only question whether HE’S married well. I am the screw-up. I am the broken one. I am the one who makes him pay for all the man-sins ever committed against me. I am the one unworthy of peace and love and contentment. I am the one who cannot forgive myself. I am the one who has considered suicide, more than once, in order to “free him to live a better life with someone worthy of him”. Someone who will love him well, in all the ways he deserves.
    That’s on my bad days. On my good days, I give Thanks. Grateful Thanks.

  7. Gary

    Welllll…Your account is similar to my first marriage.

    For the sake of space and my point, I will condense 35 years to a few sentences.
    We met – not in church – prayed, got married, loved and had wicked fights, suggested and rejected divorce – faithful to vows, had a child, loved her, got into church, loved and had wicked fights, stayed faithful to each other and commitment to God. She was diagnosed with cancer, lived 3 threes and passed. Our 35th anniversary was 1 week b4 she died.

    My current wife had a troubled marriage for 22 years. Both our children are in good marriages with wonderful children. Their struggles are often intense. I understand there are great marriages and I am happy for those folks but unfortunately, life is generally a bitch and then we die.

    I am thankful for a faithful wife, then and now and a faithful God that helped us through every miserable dark time we had. My first wife died in her home, with her family, peacefully.

    Suggestion: love life, fight hard, be thankful, love your children, like or tolerate your husband, stay faithful to God.

  8. Ellen

    You hit the nail on the head, Grace. Thank you for putting it into words. I have been forced to grow deeper into God by all of the incompatibilities that surfaced after marrying my perfect mate. I too am determined to be married well through it all…going on 30 years with 3 great kids. I’m becoming much more grace-full.

  9. Artee

    Thanks for the share… I commend your courage in sharing these intimate details with the world. I guess us writers always leave it hanging out.

    I particularly found resonance in all of your conflict and dilemma. I’m also in an interracial marriage. Except I don’t have kids yet so I have a less guilt-laden out that I am sure your boys must play in your perseverance.
    For 6 years, I’ve been seemingly compromising and believing in the prospect of change or renewal or just plain peace without having to repair freight train collisions almost every day. Sometimes when you love too hard by nature, its hard to determine if you not in love with the one person you should be. knee deep. neck wrapped. butterflies. catching bullets and grenades. isn;t that what its supposed to be like? isn;t that what lasts 50 years.

    is enough ever enough? or am i lacking in your strength?

  10. Addie

    Love you Grace. Beautifully written.

  11. Lori

    Sometimes you need a good marriage counselor and a miracle! Third parties can really help demolish what the enemy is trying to do in our lives.

  12. Catherine

    Totally relate and every day ask God to help me get through the day. Feel guilty for how I feel and I do my best to show my husband love although I don’t feel love. It’s been almost 3 years for us and I have to stop looking ahead because when I focus on the next 50 years being like the past 2-3 I want to run. Thank you for being honest and encouraging. Been living like a single mom since right after our marriage. It’s difficult but I am learning more about myself than I ever imagined. Also having to rely on God more than ever before. Trying to find my joy in every day. The only true source of joy is our heavenly father. Unfortunately I let the things of the world get in my way.

  13. Sharon

    Thanks for your vulnerability here, Grace!!! I’m so thankful you are both sticking with it and working and praying through it. Proud of you both!

  14. You’re writing my story! Only, internet was still a dream away. Christians didn’t talk openly about struggles. Ministry couples portrayed perfect lives. Homicide and suicide felt like viable options. Oh to have these words whispered to my aching soul years ago. Keep writing!

    Thirty years later we’ve learned to laugh! Even in the midst of one of our tirades! I’m a slow learner. I put way too much hope in thinking I can somehow learn to do life and marriage right. For one who says she trusts in Christ’s righteousness, giving up being ‘right’ has been the hardest thing to release!

  15. Angela

    Thank you for your honesty – for being real in a world that glorifies “finding your soul mate” rather than working hard with the one you chose. Loved this article!!

  16. Liz

    I am grateful for this post and for all the comments. Thank you.

  17. Thank you for your honesty and fresh approach. Bookmarking this!

  18. Marrying well… a message I needed. As I contemplate marrying again, your piece gives me another perspective. I think I married well the 1st time. I truly do. He was exactly the husband I needed then. He is not the husband I need now. It is amazing how clear it all is now… several years post divorce and a few years into the pre-marriage.

    I like be called to hold the tension… that speaks to commitment. Doing love when you would rather be doing something else… anything else.

    Sister Grace, you have birthed a new perspective. A new perspective indeed. How fitting a name… Grace :)

  19. Three cheers for a woman brave enough to quote from the Book of Shut-Up and do what it says!!!
    I am single, and cannot identify with the tears and hard work of marriage, but I pray for the gift of marriage, and this post encourages me to remember that marrying well is the key issue.

  20. This is really beautiful, Grace. Thank you.

  21. Tyra

    This article is very timely. I’m struggling with this right now. Hubby is struggling with depression from the death of his mother – just prior to her death, I was talking about separation…. I liked the line by “Gary” **love your children, like or tolerate your husband** I like him… gotta learn to tolerate I suppose…. Love him lots, but, well…. you know… thanks for the article.

  22. Your honesty in this post took my breath away. Thank you for trusting us with your beautiful, gritty, heartwrenching, REAL even here in the thick of it, even without a glossy ending to tie on. Just so you know, I understand. And I’m rooting for your redemption story with alk my heart.

  23. You know, it’s never what we think it’s going to be, is it? And ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ has very little to do with it. Choosing to do the work, to talk and fight and sit with the stony silences, and wrestle with the incompatibilities – that’s what marrying well means, I think. You’re doing it, Grace. Yes, you are. And it will never be perfect. But it will be good. Not every day, but overall? Yes, good. (#48 for us in December)

  24. Susan Young

    We all of us to a person marry wrong but doing it over and over won’t make it right.

  25. anon

    I married wrong. I was part of the ex-gay movement and I married so that god could redeem my sexuality. I married heterosexually, so that I could keep sliding under the radar for the sake of my parents, my siblings, my church, my friends. I never thought, “Will I be happy?” I barely thought about whether I could be a part of my husband’s joy. I just assumed that if I followed “god’s plan” lock-step, the results would appear.

    They didn’t. My sexuality didn’t disappear either. Now we are in counseling. Envisioning non-traditional marriage models that might work. But on the way I’ve lost my faith, my joy, my sense of self. I’ve lost nearly everything. Rebuilding with no bricks in the pile seems impossible.

    Thank you for the glimpse into possible.

  26. Dan McDonald

    From a lifelong bachelor. I appreciate your account so very much. I was the son of a marriage where love seemed to have long departed from the transaction. But what you speak of is I think the necessary grinding of iron sharpening iron, so that marriage becomes one of the truly redemptive relationships. Your words reflect how grace really works among people twisted inside by sin, yet called and gifted to grow in grace towards the perfection of that day when we shall see him and be like him. Thank-you so very much for this honest expression of your life with the man whom you joined with for the rest of your earthly journey together.

  27. Searching

    Is that all marriage is? A constant fight to make do and hope for the best? Isn’t there supposed to be joy and laughter and freedom to be yourself somewhere in there? I’m 12 years and 3 children into this marriage and praying it won’t always be this way.

  28. Marriage is lots and lots of hard work – the excitement of the build-up, the thrill of the wedding all passes into memory very quickly. I believe Christian couples are under even greater attack – the evil one will do his utmost to destroy the bond that God “hath joined together”. Couples involved in full-time Christian service have more to contend with than do ordinary folks – the witness of a successful marriage is supposed to encourage and uplift others and bring glory to God. I believe the real problem comes into being when one tries to work the marriage in one’s own strength.

    and as for God hating divorce – so many Believers live under a needless guilt. God would prefer that one did not get divorced, but if it is the only way forward, then I believe He sanctions it.

  29. Yvonne

    Thank you for sharing, your life and your heart. I love the verses of ‘shut up’. :-) Your transparency is so needed in a world where we always think someone has it easier than we do.

    I don’t think there are any people in life who are not broken in some area. I haven’t met one yet and I’m 57 and have travelled all over the world. :-)

    I hope you continue to trust God for your marriage. In all the difficult things in my life, I get the best results when I stop fighting the battle. I always thought it was my job to fight. I’ve found the only job I have is to surrender. It has taken me a long time to get there and I sometimes ‘forget’ but surrender has been the fastest road to success for me. I lay the battle down and truly walk away from it trusting God to make the difference.

    I remember something I read recently – a simple truth – the people are never your enemy although satan would like you to think they are and so take up the fight with them. But the real fight needs to be again satan – your and my enemy are the spiritual forces of darkness. I realize I have no strength or power within myself to fight those forces and so I surrender that too. I acknowledge who my enemy is, I pray and give it to God, I declare I’m the victor and then I act like I’m the victor.

    I am praying and rooting for you and your family.
    Warm regards, Yvonne

  30. Amy

    and I like to look back at our family history. The perspective of building generationally is helpful to us, and may be for others who are slogging through daily life, wondering if it will ever get better. We have great grandparents who were unsaved and divorced…one a possible suicide. We have grandparents, all four sets, who became saved and stuck with their spouses, married well or not. Some of them had a hard time of it for many years. Our parents built on their example. Not perfect marriages, but committed ones. Not free of conflict, but better than their parents at getting along, and more times of actually enjoying each other. Now my husband and I have embarked on our journey… just six years ago now, so yes, we are meer babes. We have many years to go and challenges to face, but we marvel at how much easier it has been for us. We haven’t had a hard life, but we have had the normal challenges-tight finances, health challenges, a miscarriage, three kids, two moves, a job change. By God’s grace we still like each other. We have been able to work through things and come out closer on the other side. We really believe that the faithfulness of our parents and grandparents is, under God, the major thing that has allowed us to have a good marriage. We aren’t perfect any more than anybody else. We are blessed. Our parents and grandparents gave us a gift. They fought and bled for the ‘ground’ we now live on. Their commitment and obedience taught us how to live less brokenly. You can’t buy a heritage like that. You CAN choose to leave it for your kids. They see the daily-ness of life. They know when it isn’t perfect or easy. But commitment to vows and obedience to God are things they see too. You may not get to have that dreamy marriage that you contemplated before the wedding… a marriage that is fun and easy and doesn’t have to involve daily conflict, but your faithfulness may be the means of giving something better to future generations. I can think of no gift, short of salvation, that I appreciate more.

  31. This is the best, most honest thing I’ve read about marriage for a long time. Thank you so much.

  32. Eric


    Found some marriage advice that I found helpful. Hopefully, you will, too! Please pass on to your husband, as it’s from a husband’s perspective.

    Grace and peace,


    #7 spoke to me, especially:
    “You were attracted to this woman because she was the person best suited to trigger all of your childhood wounds in the most painful way so that you could heal them… when you heal yourself, you will no longer be triggered by her, and you will wonder why you ever were.”

  33. Brian Reinholz

    WOW that was tough but such an important message to hear…it’s already been said, but so many can relate to this. My heart truly breaks for the long and difficult road you and your husband have walked.

    Life may not be about comfort, or fleeting happiness, but that does NOTHING to diminish how hard every day can be depending on circumstances. You are an inspiration for continuing to fight.

    Praying for peace, patience, wisdom, and joy for your family.

  34. Tracey

    You are so correct, Grace. Marriage can be very hard. We’ve been married 34 years and have been through depths of grief and mountain-top rejoicing. We are very glad we stuck it out through it all, by God’s grace and His alone! The secret of the Lord seems to be that it gets better if we hang in there. So many give up before the blessing. Now we can enjoy our grown children and our grandchildren together! And like another writer said, we can leave a legacy of faithfulness and commitment like one set of our parents and all of our grandparents left to us. Their example helped me to seek God and His Word and apply it when I just wanted to shrivel up and die instead. I learned that love is like a roller coaster, but it always cycles back to joy if we wait patiently for it. God is always faithful. We can ask for His wisdom and grace every step of the way. God bless your marriage and children with His faithful love, peace and joy, Dear One.

  35. Karen

    Many thanks, Grace for your honesty. Yes, faithful Christians do struggle!

    A little light went on for me when I discovered that Eastern Orthodox Christianity views Christian marriage and family not as a source of self-fulfillment, but rather as an arena (just like the monastic life is an arena) for engaging the spiritual battle for holiness. A monk or nun struggles to renounce the world and their own ego in order to make room for God in their heart in the context of monastic asceticism and obedience to their abbot/abbess or elder monk. A Christian husband or wife does the same in the context of their marriage. Thanks to principalities and powers and the sin into which we are born, life in this world for a true Christian is a constant struggle to make room for others, and hence for Christ, in our hearts by getting our own ego and self-will out of the way. Grace has so captured the pain of this struggle. Jesus warned us about the tribulation we would face in this world, but it seems fitting to end with His last word on this matter, “. . . take heart, for I have overcome the world.”


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