Very Married


Post Author: Katherine Willis Pershey

To celebrate the release of her book Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity, the author will send a free copy to one randomly selected winner. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment, sharing one way that you show love in a covenant relationship. The winner will be selected by the author at random on September 27, 2016.


Book cover for Very MarriedThe other day I had a mortifying experience at the local breakfast cafe. A friend and I had met to go over plans for the party she’s planning to celebrate the release of my forthcoming book, Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity. On our way out, we passed a table of teachers from the elementary school. As we chatted, the purpose of our lunch date came up. Of course one of the women asked about my book. I froze and frantically glanced at my friend for help, but she’s on board to help with party favors, not elevator speeches. She laughed, nervously, “We’re still working on that.”

When I’m not paralyzed by fleeting waves of social anxiety, I could tell you that Very Married is an apologia for marriage, one that is candid about the agony, ecstasy, and tedium of wedlock. I could tell you that it’s a blend of cultural commentary, theological reflection, and personal narrative. I could even mention that I received the invitation to write the book after I wrote an article for the Christian Century that became the magazine’s most-read article online in 2015.

But that confident description of the book is laced with subtext – subtext which is largely responsible for my persistent unease. That tidy phrase, “personal narrative?” It means what you think it means: my book about marriage is largely rooted in stories about my marriage. It’s not quite a memoir, but it is decidedly memoir-ish. I experienced searing vulnerability when I published my first memoir-ish book a few years ago. That one was mostly about motherhood, but it was my few forays into the territory of our marriage that made me feel truly exposed.

Marriage is so freaking complicated. There’s sex and finances and housework and in-laws. There’s fighting, and fighting, and fighting, and fighting. There’s co-parenting, sometimes. We usually only catch the slimmest glimpse of what other people’s marriages are like; the rest of the relationship is profoundly private. Until someone like me comes along and uses her own marriage as material.

The thing about using one’s own marriage as material is, of course, that marriage is not a solitary pursuit. To write about my marriage is to write about our marriage.

Reader, meet Benjamin.

I don’t actually call him that in real life. In real life, I call him Ben. When I wrote my first book, however, it struck me as absolutely critical to find a way to acknowledge that while the man I write about is the man with whom I live and love, there’s a difference between flesh and foil. When I write about my husband, he becomes a character – a character in a narrative I’m controlling. And not to give too many spoilers, but Benjamin is a complicated character. A brief character sketch: my husband is a ruggedly handsome redhead, a recovering alcoholic, a devoted Cleveland Browns fan, and a great dad. He suffers from cluster headaches, which are generally considered to be one of the most painful conditions a person can have; their nickname is “suicide headaches.” He lived for years with undiagnosed depression (did you know that depression frequently manifests differently in men than in women?). A few years he ago started a course of medication and therapy that has been transformative. Even still, he can be irritable and withdrawn.

This is the thing: you can’t write an honest book about being married to a fairly difficult person without throwing that fairly difficult person pretty far under the tires of the proverbial bus. But I think the reason that early readers seem to be responding so positively to my book is that I am willing to fling myself under that bus just as mercilessly.

I’m not qualified to write a marriage book because we’ve had such an easy marriage. I’m qualified to write a marriage book because we haven’t – but we’ve managed to wrest remarkable wisdom from our many fumbles and failures.

It goes without saying that I wouldn’t have been able to write Very Married without the blessing of my ruggedly handsome redhead. That Ben continues to offer me wholesale permission to write our story blows my mind. For all of my struggles with the vulnerability of personal writing, I’d choose narrating my own story over being a character in somebody else’s version of the truth any day. But my husband wants to be of service even when it costs him a portion of his pride.

And the fact of the matter is this: no matter how many misgivings I might have about publishing an intimate portrait of our marriage, no matter how badly I will stammer when I have to actually talk about the book, I believe that these field notes will be of service. I believe that my testimony of covenant, struggle, temptation, fidelity, and redemption gives glory to God. I believe that people who normally can’t stomach marriage books stuffed with advice and agenda will find something altogether new in my “field notes on love and fidelity.”

Maybe that’s my new elevator speech: Very Married is a marriage book for people who usually hate marriage books.


Katherine Willis Pershey is an Associate Pastor at First Congregational Church of Western Springs, Illinois. She is the author of Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family and Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity.


Image by: Herald Press
Used with permission
37 replies
  1. Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
    Kimberly Knowle-Zeller says:

    Excited to read for myself and then to share the book with others! Thank you! Showing love – means showing up each day for my husband and my daughter. Showing up to it all. The messy and tired and busy and cranky and hard and beautiful and joyful.

    Reply
  2. Susannah
    Susannah says:

    Friends, You want to win a copy of this book! If you don’t win, go buy it!
    This book made me love my husband more. This book made me work harder on my marriage. This book reminded me to be kinder to myself as a partner in my marriage.
    Thank you, Katherine, for your honesty and vulnerability.

    Reply
  3. Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
    Kimberly Knowle-Zeller says:

    Looking forward to reading and then sharing the book with others! Loving my family looks like showing up – to the joy and sadness and mess and beauty. Showing up and loving them all.

    Reply
  4. Katrina
    Katrina says:

    I look forward to reading this!
    One way we should love is through that word – covenant – the agreement to come back over and over, to continually work together. We do this through apologies, and showing our love for the other person in the way that they need to feel loved.

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Kathrine, I am excited to read your book. For one thing, I grew up in a singe parent home, to which, I didn’t experience what marriage looks like on a daily basis. Flash forward as a 30yr old woman who is in a relationship with a partner who also grew up in a single parent home, neither one of us have a model to base what marriage is or looks like. As I begin to imagine what could be with the person whom I love, I worry: every time we bicker about whose turn it is to wash the dishes; what politician we will vote for in the next election; what social events (or work related stuff) I’d like both of us to attend; to the very conversation of what would children look like in our relationship; if this is normal, is what we do healthy, and will we survive and thrive as a couple? To read someone else’s story, struggle and glimpse into real life, is a blessing. Thank you for being willing to share.

    Reply
  6. Elisabeth Stokes
    Elisabeth Stokes says:

    Hey! I’d read this…and I don’t hate marriage books…I don’t think I do anyway… Does Here If You Need Me count as a marraige book? Because I loved that.

    Reply
  7. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I look forward to reading this vulnerable book on a challenging topic! I show love by hiding notes in random places for my husband. It feels like a secret, separate from kids, jobs, etc.

    Reply
  8. Kelly Shire
    Kelly Shire says:

    Love this! I feel “very married” myself as my husband & I will celebrate 20 years next July. We honor each other with lots of listening & respect — even when we disagree. Oh, and a sense of humor is key! 🙂

    Reply
  9. Jenny Call
    Jenny Call says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this and having a new resource for couples I counsel. I show love by learning my husband’s love language and trying to remember to show it, even though it is different from mine.

    Reply
  10. Megan C.
    Megan C. says:

    I show love in my marriage by saying “thank you” and verbally acknowledging the work my husband does around the house/for our household. It’s not glamorous but it builds our relationship.

    Reply
  11. Emily Popek
    Emily Popek says:

    Going to recommend this book to some friends! Showing love for me has meant learning how to actually listen — listen without offering judgment or advice of any kind. Just being there and hearing the other person. Turns out it’s really hard! But also really important 🙂

    Reply
  12. Katya
    Katya says:

    Thanks for your vulnerability and honesty – in this post and in your writing! “I’m not qualified to write a marriage book because we’ve had such an easy marriage. I’m qualified to write a marriage book because we haven’t.” This quote reminds me of something my mom (a public schoolteacher) has always told me about teachers – the best teachers aren’t the straight-A students, they’re the barely-making-a-B-average students, because those are the ones who have had to work harder to learn the content, and so they are also more qualified to teach it.

    One way that I show love in a covenant relationship? It seems easier for me to think of ways that love is shown to me in my marriage! That is something for which to be deeply grateful, I know. But how I show love? Here’s what I’ve got: I do the laundry. He does the dishes. It works out – we each get the chore that we find to be less aggravating.

    Reply
  13. Sara
    Sara says:

    “Very married is a marriage book for people who usually hate marriage books.” !!! I want to read it just for that statement. But this sounds awesome!

    Reply
  14. Annette
    Annette says:

    Looking forward to reading it. I show love by doing the little things I’m inclined to ignore like replacing Kleenex boxes when I use the last tissue and putting my socks in the hamper instead of leaving them on the floor. Going against my natural inclinations because these types of things annoy my husband.

    Reply
  15. Sarah Caldwell
    Sarah Caldwell says:

    I hope I’m not too late for this giveaway – this book has been high on my to-read list for MONTHS! (Since I first heard about it!) Congrats on your book release – SO grateful for a Christian marriage book I actually want to read! Blessings!

    Reply

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