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julie portrait3BW[From Julie] Today is the last of our guest posts on conversations that change.  I asked one of my favorite sisters-in-law if she would consider writing something and Kelly graciously agreed.  Then I promptly stole what she was going to write about when I wrote about the conversation that Noel and I had with Steve during our pre-marriage counseling.  Kelly had remembered us talking about how formative that conversation was for our marriage and I guess it stayed with her.  So she had to go back to the drawing board for something new.  Sorry about that Kelly.

Kelly came into our lives about 10 years ago.  She had known Matthew, Noel’s brother for some time through mutual friends but the family had never gotten to know her until they started dating.  Matthew made a good choice.  Kelly is wonderful.  She laughs easily.  She values her relationships and works hard to maintain them.  She has a desire for a Christ centered life and she is a wonderful encourager for Matthew.  We’re keeping her.  I hope you enjoy her post.  She lives every word of it as she works through the good and the difficult in her marriage.  Thanks for writing for us Kelly.  Love ya.

kellyI had a conversation several months ago with a friend of mine about marriage.  It allowed me to put together some thoughts that had previously been floating around in my mind.  Now that I’m putting pen to paper it actually sounds rather grotesque! I was comparing marital issues to a wound on the skin that, if not properly attended to, could take a long time to heal and may even leave a visible scar.  My point was that issues need to be dealt with and attended to in a timely fashion, or they could take a long time to resolve—or even leave a scar on the marriage.

Matthew and I have a great marriage, I think.  But like all marriages, we have our ups and downs.  The last two years have been particularly stressful. We went into our marriage extremely confident that things would always go well between us.  Indeed, we did have a very healthy, loving, and communicative relationship (and still do).  We saw a few other marriages around us in rough shape and we thought, “that will never happen to us!”  However, when stressful times come (as they always do eventually) it’s amazing to discover that there are still some things you don’t know about your spouse or how they will react to the stress.  That is why it is so important to start with a solid relationship with God as the foundation.

We believe that communication is one of the most important things in marriage.  It is so important to always communicate your feelings, thoughts and emotions to your spouse.  If you leave negative feelings to fester, they can amplify and build up and cause much bigger problems, eventually erupting into a huge fight.  Early in our relationship, Matthew had a little more trouble keeping communication open.  I was the one who encouraged constant communication.  Sometimes, I know, it’s easier to let things go.  But what’s easy now can make things harder in the future (we’re discovering this also applies to raising kids!) I guess I trained myself to openly communicate over the years because of my family background.  I come from a broken home.  My parents lived together unhappily for years through my Dad’s alcoholism and other issues.  Nothing was ever talked about but I knew what was going on.  It was difficult to pretend that everything was normal when my family was falling apart.  Even now it’s like pulling teeth to get my Dad to talk with me about difficult issues.  He would much rather sweep things under the rug, leaving them unresolved, which builds resentment in the long run.

That’s the thing—resentment! Resentment happens when you don’t talk about problems in the marriage.  Resentment is dangerous to a marriage.  It can definitely leave scars!  Don’t hoard resentment.  Have you ever watched that TV show Hoarders?  The longer and the more you hoard, the longer and harder it is to clean up and get back to normal.

Matthew and I started having more stress after he was laid off and had trouble finding a new job; while at the same time I gave birth to our second child.  Matthew changed careers to become a truck driver which took him away from the home for long periods, which added stress to my life—working, looking after two kids, and keeping the house in order.  We went through some tough times and resentment definitely popped up its ugly head.  But we made it through because we never let issues go unresolved.  We always communicate our feelings and thoughts, even if they are feelings/thoughts we are ashamed of!

Another thing that helped us through was prayer, both individual and together. Sometimes, after we have had a particularly stressful discussion, we pray together. It can feel awkward but it always makes us feel better and brings us closer together afterward.  We should do it more often.  Matthew usually has difficulty stopping to pray when he is all wound up with negative feelings.  It is difficult for him to switch gears.  However, he does agree that prayer at those times does allow peace to move in and subdue the anger/frustration/etc.  We both feel that our personal relationships with God have grown through the stressful times in our marriage.

God can heal. God can comfort. God can take on our worries, cares and problems. Try not to let marital stresses/issues/problems build up.  Talk to each other.  Talk to God.  Talk to God together.  God can heal your wounds.  Let Him help you prevent scars on your marriage.