A military couple, known as the marriage encouragers, have created a platform to help others celebrate the good and bad of their relationships.
Sgt. First Class Rob Wallis and his wife Ashley host “Making Marriage Matter,” a podcast focused on a topic dear to the couple. They said their passion for helping marriages succeed came from lessons learned while theirs slowly deteriorated. Now, happily married, they want to bring hope to other couples.
Marriage isn’t easy, and with added challenges common to military life, like marrying young, being separated due to deployments, and constantly moving, issues can quickly pile up, morphing the union into something neither partner intended. The couple knows firsthand just how bad it can get, but they’ve also learned how to get through it and have developed a focus on helping others.
While the Wallises were affected by each of these common challenges, other unique issues affected them, too.
“We were kids when we married and neither of us had standup marriages to look up to,” Ashley said of their decision to marry young.
Almost half of military couples marry before the age of 25. Without having tools or a reliable community to draw from, marriage became something the Wallises were only surviving rather than thriving at.
“We lacked the right kind of love and respect for each other, nor did we even know how to support each other on a daily basis,” she said.
As their family grew, so did their issues. Rob deployed, and Ashley’s resentment increased.
“Ashley took on all responsibilities of our household while I was gone, and our willingness to have hard conversations was nonexistent,” Rob said.
On top of handling a PCS move alone, and having their house catch fire in a storm, Ashley was also left alone to deal with something that would be difficult for any parent — rushing their child to the hospital several times.
It was sitting in the hospital room, without the support and comfort of her husband, where she realized something had to give.
Once they reached their new duty station, the lack of communication and bitterness boiled over. Rob watched his wife crumble as she told him of her resentment for carrying everything by herself and divorce was brought up.
“The thought of losing her and the kids made me feel numb. I slept in my truck that night at the hunting club I was a part of,” he said.
Improving their relationship became even harder as they both hit rock bottom, so they decided to ask for help.
Listening to their happy, playful voices on their podcast, one wouldn’t know just how broken they once were. But they have zero reservations about being transparent about the dirt they crawled through, including the difficult truths they had to confront to salvage their marriage.
HERE’S THE TIPS THAT SAVED THEIR MARRIAGE:
Don’t stop fighting for your marriage
As a child of divorced parents, Ashley didn’t want that for her family.
“I knew he loved me without a shadow of a doubt. We were just hitting bumps in the road,” she said.
Rob credits her tenacity for keeping their marriage alive.
“If it wasn’t for her constantly fighting for us, even if it drove me crazy, we wouldn’t be here.”
Swallow your pride
Pride can keep one from apologizing when “I’m sorry” is necessary. It can also prevent a person from seeing how their actions, deliberate or unintentional, may have hurt their spouse.
Often, pride deters couples from getting the help they need. Some won’t attend counseling because they don’t want outsiders to know they are struggling.
“We know how to work through the hard after seeking counsel from marriage mentors through our church. We healed from past traumas that were causing damage in our marriage,” Rob explained.
Also, couples counseling is free for military families through Military OneSource.
Don’t do life alone
Community is key to not feeling isolated and consumed by marital issues. Knowing other couples successfully work through struggles can provide hope – something the Wallises seek to do through their podcast.
Now 10 years married with four daughters, their relationship is stronger than ever. With improved communication, supporting each other, and centering their faith in Christ, they live as a team.
“We grew up from two little kids who were just madly in love to grown adults who want nothing more in the world than each other.”