You don't have to be married long to discover that relationships are difficult and problems inevitable. You'll experience disagreements that will at times force you to acknowledge the person you married seems to have disappeared—and been replaced by someone who's either cranky and demanding or someone who disappears whenever there's conflict.
Our marriage started like many marriages. We experienced a romantic courtship and thoroughly enjoyed being together. We laughed, played, and prayed together. During our nine-month engagement we felt a clear sense of God's blessing on our relationship. We wanted to lay a strong foundation, so we sought pre-marital counseling.
But after the wedding, the surprises started coming. We'd been married less than a year when Carrie became pregnant with our first child. Nineteen months after our son was born, another son was born. Carrie was now a full-time mother of two and Gary a full-time doctoral student working part time as a marriage and family counselor. We'd wanted a family but the pressures were more than we'd bargained for. Finances were tight. The normal childhood ills combined with school, work, and church meant less sleep and little couple time. Most nights we dropped into bed tired and drained.
Like most couples, we expected parenthood to be a time of great joy. We didn't understand that it's also quite challenging. While the birth of our children didn't throw our marriage into a crisis, it dramatically changed the dynamics. We were slowly becoming married singles.1