Kay Warren, the wife of pastor Rick Warren, with whom she co-founded the megachurch Saddleback Church in California, has opened up about the pain and struggle of her marriage, describing in depth the crisis of 'marital hell'.
Rick and Kay got engaged at age 19 in 1973. Kay described their wedding: 'As I walked down the aisle and stared into the shining eyes of the earnest, kind young man who had asked me to marry him, I knew I was loved. The way he looked at me on our wedding day became an anchor I would hold on to during the darker times when I wasn't sure we were going to survive the mess our marriage had become.'
She added: 'Our brand-new marriage took an instant nosedive. We didn't even make it to the end of our two-week honeymoon to British Columbia before we knew our relationship was in serious trouble. We had been warned about five areas of potential conflict all couples have to deal with, and we immediately jumped into all five of them: sex, communication, money, children, and in-laws.
'We were so young—barely 21—and inexperienced, and when sex didn't work and we argued about sex, and then argued about our arguments and began to layer resentment on top of resentment, it was a perfect setup for misery and disenchantment.'
She notes that the pain they experienced was exacerbated by the fact that the high-profile pair were seen as 'the perfect couple', and so sharing their struggle was difficult. Warren also describes how her childhood experiences of molestation and a fascination with pornography stunted her sexuality and intimacy with her husband.
Warren said that divorce wasn't considered as an option, and so the problem remained: 'We just didn't know what to do or how to create a healthy marriage out of the shattered pieces of conflict, disappointment, dysfunction, and resentment.'
However, she adds, in time the couple experience 'healing' in their marriage, as they sought counselling and experienced the work of God in their lives. She said that God has 'used our marriage struggles and failures to draw us closer to him and to each other.'
The Warrens experienced a highly publicised tragedy in 2013 when their youngest son Matthew took his own life after years of struggling with mental illness.
Kay wrote: 'I know what it's like to have vastly opposing opinions on how to handle and cope with a mentally ill child; to have fear and anxiety and panic threaten to swallow up normal life; to become consumed with the needs of one member of the family.
'I know what it's like to be cracked open by catastrophic grief and to share it with your spouse when you're so different; to figure out how to grieve and mourn together when your mentally ill child takes his life in a violent way and your grief is public because you're in ministry and your glass-house, fishbowl existence is fodder for scrolling headlines on CNN.'
As well as sharing about her deep marriage struggles, Kay's new book offers counsel to those experiencing the complex dynamics of being a pastor's wife.
She writes of her enduring marriage: 'We've beaten the odds that divorce would be the outcome of our ill-advised union. We've weathered my breast cancer and melanoma. We've survived the mental illness and suicide of our son Matthew. And now we know. We know we are the best thing that has ever happened to each other.
'I am in love with the man God brought into my life so many years ago. Each of us is not who the other was looking for, but each of us is who the other desperately needed to become the person we each are today.'