The rules of engagement. Learning to fight with your spouse or partner isn’t easy. Read this post to learn how my husband and I have grown over the years, and what we hold very highly in regards to fighting fair.Read More
The story behind the story. We all have one, but you know that. You know that the families you see in picture perfect Christmas cards aren’t actually perfect. You know that everyone, everywhere, has struggled somehow in their lives, even if they haven’t shared with you how. That beautiful woman you may envy, there is a piece of her that she wishes she could share. The funny guy you work with, who seems genuinely happy ALL the time? He does too. We all do. And that’s why I’ve decided that after five years, I am finally ready to share with you one of MY behind the scene stories.
Why? You may ask. Why now? Because, sweet friend, it suddenly dawned on me that there is a phrase you need to hear—and if it’s not you who needs to hear this, I am betting you have a friend who does.
SIN DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE, BUT NEITHER DOES GRACE.
My story starts with a four word sentence:
“You look cute today.”
I was lining my students up for lunch and had grabbed my phone to put in my pocket to take with me. I stared down at that text and my heart immediately began to pound outside of my chest. It was so loud I was sure someone would be able to hear it. I’m sure I turned red. I was flustered, taken back, but more than those things, the truth is is that I was flattered. But guess what, y’all. That text didn’t come from my husband; who it would have made sense coming from. And even more truth, I wouldn’t have felt as school girlish as I did, had it been from him.
Let’s take a step back for a moment, can we? I didn’t wake up one morning, dress myself in a any particular way for work, with the mindset that a man who wasn’t my husband would compliment my appearance. That day was just like any other normal day. Except the Ashley who received that four word text wasn’t the same Ashley as before.
I got married when I was 20 (no, I wouldn’t recommend it, however YES I am thankful that I did.) In 2011 I got pregnant, in 2012 had my first baby, and then I was nursing. I started to lose drastic amounts of weight (got down to 97 pounds!), my hair started falling out in clumps, my heart rate was through the roof ALWAYS, and I was diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis (aka hyperthyroidism and my hormones were crazy bonkers.) Well, in 2012 after having my first baby, I got pregnant with our SECOND baby! Enter the pregnancy hormones again, add on having that baby in 2013, and then going through hyperthyroidism AGAIN. Throughout that time span, I was also overstaffed to a brand new school, where I didn’t know a soul, and relationships were pretty difficult to build because of my circumstances + tired mom stage. Who was I?? I was a woman with very unbalanced hormones, a very unstable mental status, and someone who was no longer secure in the woman that she was.
And just like that, my blinders came OFF.
Growing up I knew that marriage was hard. My parents fought like most other parents, and there were plenty of times that I wondered if mine would stay married. They always worked through their issues though and it was very evident to me from a young age, that love was a choice and mine were constantly choosing it. When I was a Junior in college I discovered some pretty life-shattering information about some choices my dad had been making; and that those decisions had been pretty ongoing throughout much of their marriage. All of a sudden some light bulbs fired in my brain: one, that a bunch of stuff made sense about their fights when I was younger, and also why my mom may have been so emotionally tired. And from that day, I embedded it into my heart and brain that when or if I ever got married, it would be the man who messed up. I thought that there was NO way I would do any wrong—that if my marriage was ever challenged or when things got hard, it was going to be my husband’s fault. He would be the one who would have a wandering heart or lustful thoughts…women didn’t do those things.
And then. “You look cute today,” turned into hiding text messages, changing my stories, and becoming completely distant to everything and everyone around me. He had been a really good friend, and then somehow, he became more. He turned in to the person I was venting to, the one I was looking for compliments FROM, who I wanted to ‘look cute’ for.
And then—shit really hit the fan when I started dragging Asa right through the mud I was stirring. I felt as though I didn’t have anyone to talk to, so every single night for a few weeks, I talked with him. Out loud I actually pondered what it would look like if I left. What would life be like if I left HIM for another man? I could visibly see his hurt, and knew what I couldn’t see was even worse. But every SINGLE night, my husband said, “Ashley, I choose YOU. I will be here when you wake in the morning.” I wasn’t myself though. Each night I went to bed pretty angry…I was confused, torn, and though I couldn’t see it yet, I was playing with fire and allowing such darkness to consume my thoughts.
Life began to go thousands of miles per hour. I was blinking and sinking faster, and faster, and faster. Recently my pastor at church said, “What are you going to do when the Sea comes and the tide doesn’t stop? You can either drown…? Or you can learn how to breathe.” Oh how I remember feeling as though I was drowning…My emotional affair lasted ‘only’ a few weeks. He and I had two episodes where we were hanging out outside of work with some other co-workers, and I knew it was over when he picked me up inside of the club and asked me to make out with him. “Put me down,” I said. I then told the girls I needed to go HOME. I knew, that the ‘harmless’ flirtatious text messages were no longer really enough…that was boring. He wanted more. I soon gave him a hand-written letter, explaining that I had to stop. I couldn’t do this anymore, Asa didn’t deserve it, my babies at home didn’t deserve it. We had to stop texting, we had to just be co-workers; normal co-workers. And guess what happened? He stopped. Just like that.
Oh, Ashley. If you had JUST put a stop to it as SOON as it began…it would have NEVER turned into anything, except maybe a moment of being flattered and blushing as you walked your students to lunch.
The flirting stopped, but the emotional distress didn’t. I started running. I would run through sketchy parts of downtown Louisville thinking that I was invincible; but at the same time, wondering if anything would happen to me. Or maybe I was hoping it would. I began struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, and even more, wanting to run completely away. I called my mom quite a bit, which was normal. I told her that I wanted to be done; that sometimes I envisioned myself just driving away and never coming back. I even wondered what would happen if I got into a car accident. I felt like I needed to be punished. I wasn’t suicidal, but at the same time, I wanted everything to just be over. I couldn’t see past the tide; the waves were so deep, and so strong. You probably know what those waves actually were:
How could my husband love me through this? The turning point for me was a Sunday at church. I heard the Pastor quote the scripture, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” The words Asa had been saying every single night were now the words I heard literally from the pulpit, and it felt as though God himself was saying, “Ashley, you did not choose me, BUT I CHOOSE YOU.” You can probably imagine the tears that flooded from that point. It was the pivotal moment, my break through; the reprieve I needed to feel whole again. Once at home, Asa and I got the kids [then babies!] down for their long nap. We sat on the couch together, me in his lap curled into the smallest ball, and we wept. Long and hard, we sobbed together. ALL of it came out. The 100% truth, no cover-ups, no sugar-coating…I felt so bare and incredibly raw. Never in my life have I felt so much remorse, and never before had Asa’s arms felt so healing.
Friends. If there is something that I hope and pray you take away from this story; this heart breaking, difficult, vulnerable story—is that while sin does not discriminate, NEITHER DOES GRACE.
That Ashley back in 2014 had to go through something I really don’t wish upon anyone, but she was restored. Through the hardships that Asa and I endured, we went through a refinement process, and through it was grace, redemption, and complete restoration. Twenty-year old Ashley believed she could do no wrong in her marriage; that it would never be ME who caused heartache for my husband. And she was so very wrong. But thirty-one year old Ashley now knows, knows that it is SO important to cling to my Maker. If the blinders start to come off for anything, it doesn’t have to be lust or a wandering heart, it can be ANYthing, I beg you to cling to Him too.
Asa and I had the privilege of sharing our story at Church and if you’d like to LISTEN to the live version we told together, here is the link! I do not believe that I in my heart wanted to be with someone else relationally. I believe that suddenly I felt trapped within the label of wife + mom. I didn’t feel attractive, I didn’t feel happy, and I didn’t feel like ME. Years of unbalanced hormones and even the physical toll that my body went through, my heart began to wander. I thank God SO immensely, for helping my husband stay with me. For being patient, loving, and so forgiving. I also thank Him for my mom, who had ultimately been in Asa’s position for a very long time, and that she also showed me what grace and mercy looks like in HER marriage. She and my dad are very different people today, in amazing and humbling ways. And it’s all because when the tide came and refused to back down, they learned to breathe with it. (That’s their own story though, so I really only want to stress how proud I am of THEM, and how much I deeply love their marriage.) To those of you reading this, if you have been there, you CAN rise again. If you are currently battling the feelings of shame and wondering how you can ever find normalcy again, pray. Talk to God, tell Him every single thing that you are feeling, and then find help. You can always email me, always! You do not have to be alone. And if you’re on the OTHER side? Where your husband or spouse has walked through unfaithfulness, you can still email me and if you would like to talk with my husband, I can put you in touch with him.
I love you all. Thank you for reading, for YOUR grace, and your friendship here.
Lately I have seen a mixture of blog posts from different authors, thanking their husband’s for being the men that they are. (Way to go, Ladies. I really believe our men deserve SO much more credit than they are often given!) I actually sent one to my husband, but in that woman’s list, I kept thinking, “That doesn’t REALLY sound like me.” Because it wasn’t, obviously. Also because she thanked hers for not complaining when she’s the first to shower and uses all the hot water, and that didn’t align to our marriage ;) He makes it well known that he prefers me to shower the night before, as to NOT use up his morning hot water—haha! Love you, Babe. But really, I think there are a lot of posts on motherhood and how ‘moms do so much,’ and that is why I want to share a blurb here, with you, and for my husband. Because my husband does a LOT, and he deserves a TON of credit for helping our house be a happy home. A little side note, have you met my husband? Maybe you have seen him on my Instagram account through stories and when we have shared ‘live’ before. And many of you do probably know him personally. But if you don’t…
He is tall, dark, and handsome. No, really. He is six foot four, has Italian genetics, and he’s INCREDIBLY good looking. Some may think I married up, and I will happily admit that.
But more than those things, my husband works his butt off in every single thing that he does. And one of the things that he does the VERY best, is being Dad to our two children. He is THE most patient person I am convinced, in the whole world. While my temper is prone to show its’ ugly face in the heat of our children’s whining and bickering, he is tried and true, and CALMLY handles the situation. Another thing that he does incredibly well, is loving ME. When I met him as a nineteen year old, I know I told him about my love for horses…but did he ever really expect me to OWN not one but TWO giant Thoroughbreds, and for me to be gone OFTEN caring for them…? No, probably not. Yet here he is, supportive, encouraging, and uplifting—loving me through ALL my neurotic horse crazed moments.
So, Dear, Sweet, Handsome Hunk of a Husband…
1 . Thank you first, for choosing me. For choosing me when I have a nasty attitude, when I am moody and hormonal, when I am insecure and doubt, and when I am simply in a funk. Thank you for choosing me when I get mad and upset, when I mess up and make poor choices, and when I can’t process well what I am feeling. Thank you for choosing me in my better, my worse, and everything in between.
2.I see in you so much determination and so much strength. You have this way about you that calms me, and that boosts our families spirits. Thank you for making us laugh, for helping us shake our stinky attitudes, and for being such a light to us and others.
3. If I didn’t have you, I would either a.) starve, because I’d eat incredibly small meals and/or skip food entirely or 2.) I would be incredibly unhealthy because my main meals would be Doritos, Mac n’ Cheese, and Cookie Crisp. Thank you for cooking for our family. For coming up with weekly menus, and doing the planning, grocery shopping, and meal prepping. Now that I type that out, I do believe all the women reading this will officially hate me for how great you are, but haters are gonna hate. Thanks for loving me even though I do NOT do those things.
4. Often I am irrational, neurotic, and don’t think the highest of myself. How many times have I pointed out my face wrinkles (or pimples) with dislike, and how many have you reassured me that you think that I am beautiful. Thank you for loving me through my insecurities. For wanting to be intimate with me, and for reminding me that you want ME. No one else. I feel comfortable and at ease with you. Maybe with other people I would feel like hiding my stomach wrinkles or be super aware of that loose skin; but not with you. Thank you for loving my mom body :)
5. You are patient and kind. Our children ADORE YOU, and you are such a hero in their (and my) eyes. The way our son looks up to you, wanting to be just like dad…there is a reason. It is because you embody the best qualities. You are showing them what it MEANS to be a father and a husband. You are showing our boy how he will someday need to care for his future wife, and how HE can be an amazing father to his own children. You show our daughter what it looks like to be loved, respected, and empowered. You verbally believe in me, and within that she sees how her future husband should believe and celebrate HER. I don’t think she will ever question if she is loved, and that quality is going to largely be because of you. Thank you. For being their role model and my dearest friend.
6. You make sure EVERYONE is taken care of, always. You plate the kids food and mine, before getting your own. You draw me bubble baths and provide space for me when I need it. You play basketball with our son even when you may be too tired. You wrestle our daughter because she LIVES for that, and you take her on dates, which mean the world to her. (“Can we go to El Nopal though?” ;)]
7. I tend to panic. You stay calm. I worry and wonder. You stay grounded and trust. I am worst case scenario when anxiety strikes. You are, ‘how can we fix this?’ I am insecure and question love. You are my favorite arms and safest hug. Thank you, for being all of this and more.
8. You fold our fitted sheets just like my mom. Which basically means you fold them perfectly. This will never cease to amaze me, and I am convinced if I didn’t have you, I would either not own fitted sheets, or they would just be wadded up when put away. Bless you for being the manly homemaker that you are. (Seriously though.)
9. You not only listen to my dreams, you ask how we can make them a reality. Because of you, the future is never scary, it is thrilling. I cannot wait to do life with you—forever.
10. Husband, you are such a help. In so many ways. And you always have been. When I needed you in the middle of the night as I nursed our babies, you were there. You were my rock during pregnancy, birth, and still to this day while they are now five and six. You help me do dishes, fold laundry, clean, sort, organize, de-clutter, take pictures, style for social media, come up with words when I seem to lose mine. Your heart is big, you love SO deeply, and I am just completely, absolutely, without a doubt in love with you.
aka the girl who would be lost (and very unhealthy) without you