Marriage Letters: Once Upon a Time

MarriageLettersDear Seth,

These were the days they warned us about. We are tired, and it’s all starting to blur together. I can’t remember what year what happened, and we’ve only been married for 14 years. Forty years from now, I’ll be making up our story altogether, so I’m just glad we’re writing this stuff down now.

I do remember that we had been married for one year when we moved to Fayetteville to the little house behind grandma and grandpa. They had the Rock House, with the fish pond and huge pots of tomatoes. During the day we would sneak Dr Peppers out of her kitchen. At night we ate her ice-cream and watched Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy with closed captions. You worked at Office Depot before you got into law school, and we were so poor. Do you remember how desperately we need that break after the sick church, that simple time with your grandparents? Between my classes, she would make a huge tupperware bowl of tuna fish salad. It had sweet relish and miracle whip in it. She put frozen wheat bread in the microwave and placed the slices on a beautiful plate with tiny pink and blue flowers around the gold rim. She cut it into triangles and put a straw in my drink.

I would pour out my heart to her in increments because she was of a time that believed women should only wear white panties. She knew nothing of my past. She only wanted to make sure I said my prayers and read my Bible. I was trying so hard.

Do you remember how I decorated with scraps of fabric and too many picture frames? Remember the kitchen? There were approximately four cabinets and four drawers. We shopped the chicken house for old side tables. It was mishmash, and I didn’t care. I just wanted us to be good.

It takes so much more than prayers and bible-study, but I wanted marriage to be just that simple, how grandma said. There were ghosts in every room of our little house, and I thought that when we married they would leave me. I thought being under you would make me free, but it turns out that isn’t how it’s done at all. I believed in the metaphor. I believed the metaphor of marriage would do magic.

Think of us these years later, and I never look back on that time with any sadness until I ask myself to write it out. This is a hard stage, the daily grind of it, but I have never believed you more than now, that you love everything about me.

I didn’t realize then how much you would really come to know me, the me I didn’t know I was hiding and how she struggled with old ghosts. Once upon a time I hoped that you would really love me. I hoped that 14 years later I would love you.

You work a metaphor like Wendell’s farm. I say my prayers and read my Bible every single day. And I do love you. There are no magic tricks. Let’s tell the young people. It’s the day to day that always bleeds, how we run into one another, how we never stop becoming one, and how we still sometimes have to wrestle ghosts.

I am tired, but not of you, and I’ll never stop wrestling for you.


We’re starting these marriage letters again, because we need them. Go ahead and read Seth’s letter here.

When we were writing these a while back, others of you needed them, too. Even couples in church small groups followed some of the prompts. It’s good to know our own condition and to sit and think through where we are and where we’ve been, where you need to turn your attention. We have young friends who will tie the knot this year, and we pray for them with all the hope in the world. That’s how you start out, isn’t it? It’s the only thing we have: so much hope in an unseen thing.

Today we want to start again by remembering back to where we first began, the air of it all. We’re inviting you to join us in processing with a monthly prompt, and this one is “Once Upon a Time.” You can’t really mess this up unless it’s just to tell your husband he’s crappy. Try to do that in private first maybe. Otherwise, write to your spouse and tell her or him how you remember it. What was it you were hoping for when you first began? 

We’ll be writing Marriage Letters the first Monday of every month and will provide you with a prompt a month in advance. You can leave a link here any time you decide to join us. Go ahead and plan to write a letter to your spouse on March 3rd, and go ahead and leave comments with suggestions for Marriage Letters topics, too.

Add your hyperlink and be sure to send your readers here so they can read other letters. Simple as that.

[inlinkz_linkup id=368718]

About me


Marriage Letters: On New Seasons
April 06, 2015
Absence Makes the Heart Grow: A Marriage Letter
March 02, 2015
Marriage Letters: What You Call Holy
February 02, 2015
On Healing and Wholeness: a Resolution and a Marriage Letter
January 26, 2015
A Fifteen Year Anniversary: a story of my body
November 13, 2014
Marriage Letters: How We Co-labor
May 05, 2014
How and Where to Undo the Chains
October 18, 2012
Marriage Letters: On Outside Influences
April 29, 2012
Marriage Letters: I trust you because …
April 15, 2012


Reply February 3, 2014

We wrote today too.

Why I Don't Want the Fairytale

    Reply February 3, 2014

    I love it so much. Your photo is precious, by the way.

    Thank you for doing this.

      Reply February 3, 2014

      Thanks, Amber. I love this idea. So glad you're doing it again. And the pictures? We were tiny babies.

Reply February 3, 2014

You blessed me today with this: "You work a metaphor like Wendell’s farm." I hope that's true.

All these years later... yup... I still love you, and maybe more importantly, I really really like you.

Kelley J Leigh
Reply February 3, 2014

Love this.
Marked my calendar.
Thanks, Amber.

Reply February 3, 2014

"It’s the day to day that always bleeds, how we run into one another, how we never stop becoming one, and how we still sometimes have to wrestle ghosts"
bleeding out, into each other, into Him

Reply February 3, 2014

I love this, Amber. It's beautiful, and I somehow see my marriage in this.. though it ended last fall...
Those ghosts, and the metaphor of marriage, and the reaching and trying and being under him and hoping and breathing, and in the end, I just had to give up and walk away...

I see things I didn't see before. Hindsight being 20/20 and all... And I wonder if I could somehow weave my broken marriage story in these Marriage Letters...

    Reply February 3, 2014

    Yes, Sidnie you are invited for sure. Please do. Our aim is to encourage those who are just beginning or those who want to hang it up when there's still life there, you know? I would love to hear what you still believe about marriage. 50% of us out there have broken marriages and need to recover and still see God in good men and still know they're worth one of the best metaphors God gave us. We're supposed to lead the younger generation. So many are just out there flopping around with no words of guidance. So many don't know how strong they can be, especially in Christ.

    As for the ghosts, they do seem to listen to Seth, especially as Seth comes along side me to speak the truth. He walks in truth and so the light is shining much brighter into dark corners. Does that make sense?

Jill R
Reply February 3, 2014

I am a newlywed- just shy of 9 months, and already the three letters I have read have inspired me. It actually comforts me to remember that it won't always be this way, be this new, but it's also a comfort to know that the grit you dig up in your newlywed phase will polish how you will deal with deeper hurts later on. We pretend we want a fairy tale, and then when it's not, we panic like it's not turning out the way it's supposed to. But that's the beauty, because it really IS turning out the way that it's supposed to. We've already been through a lot of heart ache in our 9 months, depression, anxiety, unemployment, government furlough, changing churches, and losses of friendships, but I know that when it's been 9 years, or 49, we will remember it differently. We'll remember the sweet moments we used to, the finding the grit in eachother to polish the rough spots, the shiny parts. I'm looking forward to reading more letters. Thank you Amber, I love reading your blog =)

    Reply February 3, 2014

    Oh Jill. Yes yes yes. You are learning. You are becoming wiser. Sometimes it's just so hard to see. THere's always another side to where you are. Never panic. I even handle my bouts of depression this way. I know now that it's almost always a phase, and it'll be over soon. I usually have a few days in a row that are bleak, but then the sun shines again. If I panic that I'll never get better, then see I spiral; I never get better. I think it's learning trust and a spirit of waiting before the Lord, even when you have no answers or have no idea what to do to make it better. Waiting in your spirit opens your ears and your eyes to God. I think I just preached. I hope that's okay.

      Jill R
      Reply February 3, 2014

      Thank you, Amber. You preach! My husband and I are learning so much about ourselves it's scary sometimes, because they truly can see parts of you and your quirks and antics that you don't even realize are there (or realize are visible). My husband's depression manifests like you stated. I have never really known the depths that people that suffer from depression go through- because unless you are there to witness it, you just don't know. Watching my husband claw out of the depths, sometimes grabbing onto faith, others grabbing onto me, is humbling and eye opening and inspiring all at once. I don't know that I've had to rely on the Lord as much as he does, and that makes me lean harder. Thank you for sharing about your own struggles with depression, it truly is a comfort to know that there are so many people that I admire that go through it, also.

Reply February 3, 2014

joining in with ya...

Tara Owens
Reply February 3, 2014

Oh, yes, and please.

Are we to wait until March 3 to link up? Or just do so progressively, as the words come out?

    Reply February 3, 2014

    Do it as you can! Link up today or in a week - any time this month for this topic.

    I hope you will!

the Blah Blah Blahger
Reply February 3, 2014

This made me smile so big!

Sarah Bessey
Reply February 3, 2014

Too much goodness to single anything out here but yes, indeed.

Reply February 3, 2014

I wrote today. I can tell that I am going to need this exercise for what it does inside me, and what it will do for Eric and I. Can't wait to stay in on this!

Reply February 3, 2014

So beautiful and inspirational, Amber. Thanks for sharing this peek inside your heart and marriage with all of us gawkers on the outside. We so need to learn from one another. :)

Reply February 3, 2014

I super love this. Refreshingly honest and beautiful. Hope to join in next month!

Kaitlin Curtice
Reply February 3, 2014

Well, I'd love to see some writing on "The Songs We Sing" because music speaks in marriage, whether you're a musician or not. Love this, all of it.

Reply February 3, 2014

Thanks Amber! I'm excited to do this with you guys.

Rachel Franklin
Reply February 3, 2014

I wasn't around the first time you and Seth did the Marriage Letters, but I sure am glad I'm here now. Thank you for sharing your beautiful letter to Seth.

Melissa Feddersen
Reply February 3, 2014

Yay! Love this precious to me that I kept them up now and again! Excited to be in a community with it though.

Amanda MacB
Reply February 3, 2014

"There were ghosts in every room of our little house, and I thought that when we married they would leave me." - oh this - The first several years I thought this, fought this, hoped this.
I really wish I had known that marriage wasn't going to magically poof all my stuff away.

(Also, your description of Seth's grandma makes me think so much of my own grandma.)

Diana Trautwein
Reply February 3, 2014

This bit: "Let’s tell the young people. It’s the day to day that always bleeds, how we run into one another, how we never stop becoming one, and how we still sometimes have to wrestle ghosts." Yeah, that. Thanks for resurrecting this wonderful series, Haines people. Can one person write for the link-up or does it need to be a pair of letters? And is this prompt for now until March 3rd - so we'll basically be writing on the topic after you do? Sorry to be so slow. :>(

    Amber C Haines
    Reply February 4, 2014

    I think most who do it are the lady folks, so please do. We need you.

    Also, I wasn't feeling super confident we could keep it up from week to week, so yeah, we're just doing once a month, so people can link up at any time. We'll get a new topic before March 3rd, so we can all come in on the same day then.

Reply February 4, 2014

Dear Amber,

This letter is beautiful, and heart-wrenching. And from a totally different angle, across a big ocean, I needed to hear something like this today. It's funny how others getting up from where they've fallen and choosing to keep on marching can inspire us to do the same. Does inspire us.

Your writing is always poetic, often raw. And how interesting that "raw" speaks the most powerfully of all (though it probably makes you cry the most tears as you write).

Thank you.
Ali in the Alps

Reply February 4, 2014

Thank you so much. I will try.

Rachel Franklin
Reply February 7, 2014

I love these SO much. Thankful to read along, and that you are encouraging us to write them, too.

Ashley Larkin @ Draw Near
Reply February 12, 2014

Always love yours and Seth's words to each other. Soul-drenched, gritty poetry. Thank you for sharing this and for doing the link-up again. I just added mine. xoxo

Reply February 18, 2014

Love the beautiful honesty in this letter and this link-up. Such a great practice of love!

Reply February 26, 2014

Hey Amber, do we have a prompt for March's Marriage Letters yet?

    Reply February 27, 2014

    Yes, girl! I'm going to post it today! Also, hi. :)

Somerset Wedding Gal
Reply August 12, 2015

This letter is so raw and emotional, and I love how you recount the seemingly small elements such as the chest of drawers as memories of your love affair and dedication to each other.

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