The Down and Dirty Truth about Marriage: Spain, Peru, and a Hot Springs Wedding Chapel

Josh and I fell right back into our relationship, but in a new and better way – at first. I started sending him a “Question of the week.” There were things, I realized, that we still didn’t know about each other. Real and important things that we needed to learn and know. So, I started thinking of questions. I wrote them on the blank side of an index card and wrote my answer on the back. Then, I’d drop it in the campus mail and wait for his reply.

I need to stop and say that God really is generous and kind. He led me to do something that is a pretty important part of pre-marital counseling without me even realizing what was happening. He also began to reveal an important part of my and Josh’s communication styles. To this day – if there is something important I want to know from Josh or need to discuss with him, I email him about it first. This gives him time to process it before we have a verbal conversation about whatever it may be. This, 9 times out of 10, helps us avoid frustrating arguments with one another. Now, some people think this is weird – that we have to write one another and communicate through lists and such – but I say, “You do you.” Marriage is no joke, and you do what you need to do to make it work. We write one another – that works for us.

We also very quickly fell back into our struggle with sexual sin. Now, first I want to tell you that Josh and I were virgins when we married. That wasn’t necessarily because of our desire to obey God as much as it was our genuine fear of getting caught. We were in love. We had been in love for a lot of years but this get-back-together was the final one and we both knew it. This was the person we were going to marry, but graduation – and therefore marriage – was still a long way off. And, quite frankly, we just wanted to sleep together already.

But, we kept living our separate college lives – going on dates and enjoying each other’s company, laughing and studying and talking – of course – but also absolutely incapable of not stumbling for the two and a half – almost three – years we dated after that final reunion.

Sexual temptation and sin is hard to talk about because I want to be clear that the things that we did, the sex that we wanted so desperately to have – they were absolutely God-given desires. They are ordained, blessed, and applauded by Him after we say – “Yep. Me and you. Forever. Promise,” spiritually and legally. So, when I say “sin” I’m not talking about sex or any of the stuff that goes with it within the confines of marriage. I’m also not talking about the desires. I’m talking about our failure and inability to control our physical bodies from doing all the things that God says to reserve for marriage. We were at fault here. We did not make good choices about being alone and about accountability, etc. We weren’t helpless. We were wrong. BUT the Bible also speaks to this – and not being tempted beyond what we can bear is a thing.

That being said, the struggle led to nothing surprising for anyone who has ever dealt with sexual entanglement: over-attachment on my part, tension between the two of us, constant frustration, and just a general and overall focus on sex – doing the things, talking about how we needed to stop doing the things, talking about how great marriage was going to be when we could do all the things we wanted to. It became exhausting.

Nearly once a week we would drive the winding road to Hot Springs, AR, to eat at Chile’s or On the Border, and on the way back, with our bellies full and every piece of us wishing that he didn’t have to drop me off at my dorm room, we would pass this little side of the road wedding chapel. And sometime during our junior year, I began saying – every single time, “Let’s just stop. I will absolutely marry you tonight. We can still have a big wedding later, but let’s just get married tonight.” Josh being the ever-responsible, ever-sensible one would always chuckle and say, “No, you would be so sad if your family wasn’t at our wedding.” And he was right, but I also still remember that ache – the desire just to be with the one my soul loved.

Josh and I aren’t in full agreement about this to this day, but parents, coming from a girl who lived it, if you see that your children are in love with one another and also committed to honoring God through their marriage and their life together, would you at least consider praying about helping them marry before they graduate? I firmly believe this is a case by case situation, and I understand the practical wisdom of making sure they can support themselves. However, the consequences of three years of sexual struggle contributed to our first year(s) of marriage being enormously disheartening. Marriage had become our idol – and it’s no secret that idols always disappoint.

During those years, I moved to Spain for three months to study abroad. What I can tell you is that my over-attachment to Josh because of our sexual struggles led to a very miserable trip overseas for me. That is the bottom line. I wanted to be with my other half because, aside from a technicality, he pretty much already was. This makes me so sad for a number of reasons but mostly because I missed out on so much due to my desire to be with him. He never demanded those things of me, but I couldn’t sort it all out. I needed him and had no idea why I needed him so desperately.

At some point during those two years, Josh headed to Peru for a mission trip. I remember seeing something come alive in him through the stories and pictures he had to share. I also remember feeling something very much like envy at the time – because he was able to live so full in those moments that were separate from me, and I was not. To this day, Josh lives each moment as it comes. Also, he’s a man – a highly independent, self-reliant man that isn’t much for all the feelings. I always knew he loved me when we were together, but I never was sure he thought about me much when we were not. This isn’t to say he didn’t think about me, but he couldn’t quite communicate it in a way that I could understand well.

I know it probably sounds like I was this weak little co-dependent girl who had no life of her own. That wasn’t the case. I did. After that last break-up, I woke up to myself again. I had friends, held positions, went on trips, and generally enjoyed life – even if Josh wasn’t part of it all. There was something inside me, though, that was warring, and I didn’t know quite how to cope with it.

Today, we still struggle with the very same things. I have learned to extend Josh some grace in the “think about me during the day” department. He just doesn’t do that a lot, and when he does, he doesn’t think to tell me about it. He lives full and complete where he is, which is away from me most of the day. This isn’t a testament of his love (or lack thereof) for me. It’s just who he is. And to be fair, when he’s home with his family, he is fully and completely home with us.

Josh has learned to extend me some grace in the “make sure she knows you’re still into her when she’s covered in spit-up and rocking the mommy pooch” department. About a year and a half ago, after a pretty significant confidence blow from outside sources, Josh scattered sticky notes all over our house for the span of a month citing specific things that he loves about me. I can guarantee you he set an alarm on his phone to remind him to do it, but I don’t care. He made the effort, and that is blissfully romantic.

Please also notice that the last thing I can remember him doing was a year and a half ago. Please also hear me say that I got pouty about him not calling me during the day – like, two days ago. This is life, y’all. Marriage is work, true, but also it’s grace and staying whether you’re getting the good end of the deal or not.

Come back next week for the engagement and wedding – and how even among all that brokenness, God was still helping us make space for one another through it all.

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