You were single well into your 30s before you got married. What surprised you about marriage?
I was surprised by how much my attitude influenced things—there are so many choices to make when you combine two lives, and they take on such weight when love and vows are involved. It sounds hokey, but when I chose to see things that could frustrate me—all the extra laundry, differing expectations of what constituted “dinner,” the giant bag of hockey equipment in the living room (because there was nowhere else to keep it in our 600 square foot condo)—as reminders that “Wow, God answered my prayers and gave me a husband,” life was so much more enjoyable.
Your second book, A Maze of Grace, talks about the complexities of life after Prince Charming arrives. How has your marriage changed and grown since your last memoir?
We’ve been through more together. I think the passage of life has a way of either drawing you closer or driving you apart…and if you don’t pay attention, it’s more likely to be the latter. In our best moments, Steve and I actively draw together: praying, connecting intimately, listening to wise speakers on how to keep our focus on God’s plan for our lives. It seems like the longer you’re married, the more attention this requires—there are more things vying for your time and focus. So my advice to newlyweds is to REALLY develop your “drawing together with God” skills in the first couple years of marriage (even if you have to put off other things, like professional goals or social opportunities, to do so). Having that strong foundation is so helpful when the world begins to shake.
Infertility is a problem faced by so many couples who long for a child of their own. How have you coped since your last memoir and what advice would you offer women in a similar situation?
My advice would be to guard your heart. We’re told to do this in Proverbs, and while it’s usually quoted in terms of romance, it applies to any dream or prayer: we shouldn’t trust just anyone with the things that are important to us.
This is such a fine line to walk as a memoirist. I love sharing my story in the hopes that it might help other people. But with infertility, I wish I’d been more discrete. I’m not sure reading my experience helped many other women, perhaps because I wrote about it too soon, while I was still in the middle of all the wondering and hurt. I’ve learned from this experience that it’s best to wait until God has given me some perspective.
And the second thing would be to trust God to make your life GOOD (really good, not just the fake Christian culture thing of pretending to be okay when you’re not). I’m not sure how He does this…but I can say for sure that it happens.
How can women, especially wives, ward off depression when their lives begin to feel unmanageable?
Stay busy with things that matter to you, fast from things that bring you down (I recently did this with the Real Housewives shows when I realized that all the characters do anymore is fight) and remember that every season passes—your life today is not what it will be like next month. Also, get away from people who bring you down. If someone is “spiritual” but you find yourself feeling horrible about yourself each time you’re near them, it’s a good idea to spend some time with God and ask for His perspective and guidance about that relationship.
Of course, when I say this, I’m referring to the vague kind of depression I describe in my book, when there’s no real reason for how pointless life seems. There are other times when life just hits you hard: you lose someone, or get clobbered with disappointment. A friend betrays you or a dream dies. In those times, I think a bit of depression is evidence that you’re healthy: you understand that something of value has been lost. In those moments, cling to God, even if it feels hopeless. Pray even if it feels like the words are bouncing back at you. Read the Bible even when you couldn’t care less who begat whom. Listen to music and sermons that build you up. In these moments when you’re crushed, you can’t rebuild yourself. Get yourself in position to let God to do the work.
What is one simple thing wives can do every day to improve their relationships?
Respect your husband. Build him up, pray about the things that frustrate you rather than nagging him about them (I’ve been slipping on this lately, and answering this question is such a good reminder!), speak positively about your husband to others, and refuse to jump into negative conversations about things “all men” do or don’t do. This is the attitude thing I mentioned above—I am amazed by how when I respect my husband in every area of life, the tenor of my whole life improves. It’s well worth the effort!
Photo Credit: DEM Photography
Read more about Trish Ryan on her blog: Trish's Dishes.