living room therapy.

This post was published with Brett’s permission and blessing. There are many parts of our marriage that need and deserve privacy, but we have agreed this part of our story is worth sharing. Thank you, as always, for being respectful with your comments.

WMHR“When my dad died, it’s like a part of me died too.”

I could see the sadness in his eyes, all the way from the other side of the living room. My legs were tucked tightly underneath me on the couch and tears began to sting my eyes. It felt like we were in therapy, minus the therapist.

Confession after confession, we laid it all out on the coffee table.

“I feel depressed,” he told me.

“I feel unloved,” I told him.

Round and around we went. Accusations, explanations, apologies—back and forth, back and forth. We were both tired. Tired of fighting, tired of arguing, tired of giving each other the silent treatment.

“This isn’t us,” I said. “We are better than this. We’re Brett and Ashlee!”

The air felt raw and vulnerable, bold and desperate—each of us determined to make the other understand. He wanted me to extend more grace; I wanted him to love me better. We slowly confessed our shortcomings and recent failures. He was withdrawn and distracted; I was irritable and bitter. He was in a hole and needed someone to pull him out; I was invisible and needed someone to see me.

Grief is something I know very little about, yet it has creeped into every inch of my home, my marriage, and my life in the past year and a half. It has been all consuming at times, and barely there at other times. But no matter what day, what hour, what conversation, what fight, it is there, permeating the air like a soft poison, crippling each of us in slow motion.

The loss of Brett’s dad has affected our marriage in ways I never expected, and changed Brett in ways I never saw coming. We will have a good day, a good week, a good month, and then suddenly out of nowhere, grief hits our house like a hurricane. And much like any other Californian couple, we don’t even know how to prepare for those.

As we sat in the living room with broken hearts, struggling to pick up the pieces surrounding us, I was struck with a startling realization.

I couldn’t save Brett.

And he couldn’t save me.

We each wanted so desperately to be healed, to be loved, to be made whole in some way, but we were both looking at the wrong person to do that for us. We were both looking for a Savior, something we were never going to find in each other.

And I guess that’s the most freeing and challenging part of marriage. You want your spouse to be everything to you, but in fact, they are only capable of so much. When you look to your marriage for the type of healing and love that only a Savior brings, your spouse will always, always fall short.

So here we are, two weeks after our living room therapy—still a little broken, but in tact, like a softly cracked windshield. We are leaving each other silly notes on the kitchen chalkboard and sharing candy hearts on the couch. Day by day, word by word, kiss by kiss, we are still figuring out how to love each other through grief and loss. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, the greatest challenge our marriage has ever faced, and all I can do is thank God that we’re not alone. I thank God for being our Savior when it’s obvious that we can’t save ourselves. I thank God for our marriage—for this beautiful, imperfect, indestructible bond that is full of opportunities to forgive and redeem.

Because this marriage, our marriage, is teaching us more about grace and love than any other experience this side of Heaven.


“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12

for gene / one foot in front of the other

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58 Responses to living room therapy.

  1. Becky says:

    “You want your spouse to be everything to you, but in fact, they are only capable of so much.”

    Yes. So much so. Thank you so much for sharing this.
    Becky´s last blog post ..The silent sorority

  2. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so much for this. My husband lost both of his grandparents (they raised him) while we were dating and I wanted so badly to get back to our normal that I drove him away…I didn’t know how to help him. After many years I have learned that I cannot fix it…all I can do is be there for him and encourage him to talk it out. It will ALWAYS be there but time helps. Thank you for posting the reality of marriage and not JUST the pretty shiny part.
    Stephanie´s last blog post ..DIY Maternity Photos

  3. Elise says:

    Thanks for sharing this Ashlee. Beautiful, real and well written. xo

  4. Kimberly Amack says:

    Even after barely a year of marriage, I can say this is one of the most true statements ever… “Because this marriage, our marriage, is teaching us more about grace and love than any other experience this side of Heaven.”

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Sarabell says:

    Thank you so, so much for your honesty and bravery in sharing this. Sometimes things hurt a marriage! It’s like it’s taboo to talk about, but it’s true. We’ve been lucky to have very few of those instances so far in our marriage but I know they’re coming. Things like death, divorce among people we care about, job changes/loss… these things can be so damaging and they’re completely unavoidable in life.

    I’ll say a quick prayer for you and Brett. =]

  6. Natalie says:

    Thanks for sharing. I know everyone can relate to this. Shine on : )
    Natalie´s last blog post ..Garlicky Green Beans

  7. This is so beautiful, and I can really identify with this so much. My husband lost his dad 6 months ago. It’s been hard. Hugs.
    Katie @´s last blog post ..cur·rent·ly – 1. at the present time.

  8. Amy says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and just had to say thank you for sharing this. Your honesty is beautiful. I’ve been married a year and a half now, but last spring my dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer. He passed away only four months later. My dad & I were very close and although I know he is with the Lord, it doesn’t help the crippling grief and sadness. I’m only 23 and my dad had been perfectly healthy, it couldn’t have been more of a shock. My husband has been an incredible support, but he is navigating uncharted waters, never having walked through grief like this before and it has been hard. Just wanted you to know I will be thinking of you and your husband and praying for you both! Praying the Lord helps bring peace and healing and gives you both the right words and wisdom on how to best be there for each other and be united. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Ashlee says:

      Thank you, Amy. I am so, so sorry for your loss. You are incredibly young to have already lost a parent and I can’t even imagine how devastating that would be. Saying a prayer for you and your husband today as you continue to love each other in the midst of grieving.

  9. Hannah M says:

    You are brilliant with words, and I can only imagine the countless couples who needed to hear this. Loved every word.

  10. Anne says:

    This is beautiful, thanks for sharing Ashlee. I always think that’s why Marriage is a triangle between you, your husband, and God. Strongest and best that way!
    Anne´s last blog post ..3/52

  11. Amanda says:

    “Day by day, word by word, kiss by kiss, we are still figuring out how to love each other through grief and loss. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, the greatest challenge our marriage has ever faced, and all I can do is thank God that we’re not alone.”

    Loved this post, thank you for your raw honesty!! Marriage is the hardest and most amazing thing I’ve ever committed to! When I lose sight of the team mentality and “Two become one,” I quickly try to remind myself of the countless blessings I have received in the form of my husband. Our marriage can identify with a different aspect of grief & loss – infertility after 2.5 years. While these struggles have been very trying on our marriage and each other, I thank God for throwing us this curve ball and allowing us to strengthen our marriage and cling to each other even more. I will be thinking of you & your husband and praying for clarity, consideration, and communication. 🙂

  12. Garrett says:

    Well done. Some couples simply jump ship. It takes real strength to have those conversations.
    Garrett´s last blog post ..Back to Basics. Making crepes.

  13. Kate Wallace says:

    So sorry for the hurt you both are feeling.

    I think I told you this before but my dad died one month before Cody and I got married. I wasn’t able to see it at the time but I was depressed for months afterward, even on my honeymoon. My poor husband…. I am so very thankful for how the Lord protected our marriage and has brought some healing to me over the last five and a half years. You are so wise to understand that you can’t heal each other. I probably would have saved myself some heartache if I had realized it sooner than I did. Something that was HUGE for me in processing my grief over my dad’s death was counseling, on my own without Cody. I don’t know if Brett is open to it, but I really recommend it. I have a counselor in Sacramento that I absolutely LOVE. It’s a woman so if he’s not comfortable with that, I’m sure she could recommend a man. No pressure but if you want her contact info, text or Facebook message me,

    I wish you both the best.

  14. Sara says:

    Had a similar conversation on Saturday afternoon. Tears. So hard. Thanks for writing. It helps us who don’t.
    It’s all worth it.

  15. Sophie says:

    I loved this. Your honest support for one another is a wonderful example.

  16. This is beautiful. Thank you.
    jill (mrs chaos)´s last blog post ..Friday Round-Up

  17. kelsey says:

    Marriage is so, so hard. We had a cry session not too long ago on the couch. Things have been great since, but I felt silly and like no one else was having these discussions. Thanks for sharing.
    kelsey´s last blog post ..Where Have All the Pacifiers Gone? And Other Parenting Mysteries

  18. Kallie Williams says:

    Thank you so so much for writing this! it shows me that thru my grief right now I cant expect my husband to be everything or fix everything.

  19. Wow thank you for sharing! I hope you can find comfort in knowing that EVERY marriage goes through this.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures´s last blog post ..Germany With AirBerlin: Day 2 (Part 1)

  20. Natasha says:

    Beautifully written and so true. I’m so glad that you are coming to these understandings so early in your marriage. My husband and I are still learning after 25 years together!

  21. Heather B. says:

    Thank you for your honestly, I know this post must have been difficult but sharing feelings like this makes the rest of us feel like we’re not the only people dealing with tough times like these

  22. Tiana says:

    This is so beautiful. The nitty gritty times, the times when we are at our most vulnerable. Those are the most beautiful. I pray that God uses these times to grow you and Bret in your marriage. To make it even more beautiful than it already is.

  23. Christy says:

    Thanks for this honest, beautifully written post. So helpful. God bless.

  24. Jasmine says:

    I loved this. Thank you for being so open and raw.

  25. Raw and beautiful. Thanks, Ashlee, for sharing this truth!
    Katie Blackburn´s last blog post ..7 days in: anti-social

  26. Ckah says:

    Thanking you for always being so forthcoming with your posts. It shows me that sometimes the feelings I’m trying hard to repress should be embraced and not hidden away. The dry winter is definatly hindering my state of mind, and my emotions, my feelings, and everything that needs the tears/rain. Sometimes you just have to find a way to water (tears) the plants(whatever need to growth). I loved reading this just because it shows me that I haven’t been the only one In need of some rain
    Ckah´s last blog post ..Thrifting Treasures Tuesday!

  27. Sarah says:

    I’ve been reading your blog since we met at Allume. This post definitely resonated within my own heart. We talked about how grief affects marriage so deeply. It’s been 11 months since I lost my mom so tragically. I’m still experiencing waves of grief–hurricane force at times! But God is growing me in ways I never imagined. My marriage is growing stronger and deeper as we wade through this loss and grief together. My relationships with others are more meaningful than ever. But it still hurts… and still affects me in raw ways. Thanks for being real and honest. Keep loving Brett and reaching out to him as he grieves his dad. He will forever love you for being there for him.

    • Ashlee says:

      Thank you Sarah. I remember that conversation with you like it was yesterday. Thank you for listening to me at the dinner table and sharing your experiences with me. I pray God continues to heal your heart with time.

  28. Kaylan says:

    Prayers for you both. Our marriage hasn’t had to go through something like that at this point, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be. It’s so hard to be vulnerable and share your grief with one another when you’re so broken.
    Kaylan´s last blog post ..Dining room re-do

  29. Crystal Thomas says:

    Ashley, Thank you for your words. I am not married and I actually stumbled across your blog b/c of the “Clear Me Up” Face Serum Recipe you posted previously, but this was an awesome reminder and a redirection in my focus that even in singleness I should not fall into the trap of looking for a mate to be my Savior. I thank you for your openness and transparency it’s nice to know the world has some real Christians in it that struggle too and that have wisdom that they can pass to others. Romans 15:14 (NASB) “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.”

    • Ashlee says:

      Thank you for reading and for this comment, Crystal! I love when someone in a different life stage than me can still relate to my writing. I feel like this lesson is one I have been learning over and over and over again since the day I got married. I don’t know if you are a big reader, but a book I highly recommend reading BEFORE getting married is “The meaning of marriage” by Timothy Keller. I wish I would have read that before my wedding; my first year of marriage would have been better for it.

  30. Shelly says:

    My Dad just passed away three months ago and my heart was torn to pieces. I am still grieving and probably always will. I think death is a heartache that never really goes away. It’s crazy all the little things that bring back memories of a loved one. For me, the sunrise. I found out my Dad passed away at 3:30 a.m. and I jumped in my car and drove 8 hours straight to my parent’s house. Tears streaming down my face almost the whole way, until the sunrise came. There was something about that sunrise that morning that was so beautiful. My tears stopped. Now often, as I driving to work in the morning and I see a beautiful sunrise, I immediately think of my Dad and start crying. The best thing you can do is just be there for your spouse. Sometimes they don’t want to talk. Sometimes all that is needed is a smile, a hug, or even just to be alone. I know that may be difficult having a child, I have a two year old myself, but there are times my husband just looks at me and tells me to go. He tells me to go because he knows I need a break; I need to have some alone time to just clear my head. Prayers to you and your family. Things will get better, just try and keep your head up and stay positive.
    Shelly´s last blog post ..Red Corduroy Pants

    • Ashlee says:

      Shelly I am so, so incredibly sorry for your loss. I have tears in my eyes just reading this comment. I remember those first three months after our loss and everything was still so…..raw. Thinking of you today and saying a prayer for you tonight, that God will continue to heal your heart and bring the kind of peace that only He can bring. Much love to you.

  31. Jenn says:

    Thanks for sharing this Ashlee. It’s rare we hear about the struggles of marriage and it’s comforting to know we are not alone.


  32. Kait says:


    I’ve been reading your blog for a good while now. I so appreciate your openness– I know it will reassure so many of us struggling to keep our marriage whole. It is hard work, but it is holy work. I am praying for you, not because I have it figured out but because I am crying out in the trenches too!

    Love to you.

  33. suheiry says:

    Beautifully written and honest. Heartbreaking, but also hopeful.
    suheiry´s last blog post ..Wednesday Wisdom(from Martin Luther King, Jr.)

  34. jean says:

    thanks for sharing! love how open you are it is inspiring!
    jean´s last blog post ..mornings around here

  35. Suz says:

    Thank You so much for sharing this part of your story, of yourself. Your doing this will absolutely affect numerous hearts, and marriages. This is SO GOOD, friend.

  36. Lindsey says:

    My husband’s mom died 8 months before our wedding. To say I know exactly how this feels would be the understatement of the century. I can tell you, though, that it gets easier. Time really does heal. I promise.
    Lindsey´s last blog post ..2013 House Project Recaps: The Deck

  37. Bethany says:

    This post really hit home. In the sleep-deprived, new mom phase I’m in, I’ve found myself placing too much responsibility on my husband to help me, not realizing he needs help with things, too. I’ve said almost those same words–that we both need someone to save us. That is definitely where God comes in, and I think that’s the whole idea. Thanks so much for sharing this post.
    Bethany´s last blog post this: unplug

  38. Dear Ashlee,

    Let me say that I am in awe at your honesty and humility in sharing this story. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. I recently had a similar conversation with my boyfriend, and the third strand of a relationship is often forgotten. We need constant reminders; a relationship is always a work in progress, a journey. Thank you for your honesty and compassion. It’s massively inspiring.

    God bless,
    Sarah Elizabeth
    Sarah Elizabeth´s last blog post ..Why Pursue a Degree in Ireland

  39. Pingback: friday five | gathering moss

  40. Portia says:

    Hi Ashlee. Thank you and Brett for allowing such honesty to be displayed. As I am newly married, there are times where I find myself asking, “How do other couples have it so easy? or “Does anyone have struggles like this?” In my case, I am Brett. I suffered a loss and ended up in a downward spiral that turned into a deep depression… and Brent, my hubby bubby, had no idea how to emotionally support me. And in turn, he felt neglected and unloved. We have had many of those living room therapy sessions (maybe once a week), and I often talk to God. It helps. It gives you hope. It gives you strength. Although I know this post of yours was weeks ago, I just wanted to say that everyday gets better and every smile can work miracles. Stay strong, sista!

    Philippians 4:13
    13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

  41. this post. so raw. thank you for being brave and publishing it.

    my husband and i are going through some similar things. i can echo a lot of your words. your post was such an encouragement. thank you ashlee!
    Andrea Worley´s last blog post ..Handmade Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

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