Mad About Us seeks to offer hope. If we had to put into one word what has brought us through a marriage that has lasted twenty-six years it is hope. We have never lost hope for a better tomorrow and a better marriage. The hope comes from a belief system that says God can change my heart and my perspective and I can learn new ways of understanding God's Word, myself, and my spouse. The good news is that we can always learn something new, or even better, recommit to that which we already know.

We have never lost hope, even as we've both walked through cancer, and even after we lost our son Matt. We have both had tremendous pain, confronted fear, and wondered about tomorrow, but we have never given up hope. I received an article on hope early on in my diagnosis, and I have clung to the words of that article. Hope is what sustains us to live on this earth whether we are struggling through difficulty or things are going well. I have come to love my God deeply as He has walked this road of cancer and grief with me. Writing this book is a blessing and privilege for me and one that I treasure as I share with you the hope God has for you in any area of struggle in your life, even in your marriage. Won't you cling to hope as well?

Reading this book you will contemplate what God had in mind when He created us in His image. He designed us to experience intimacy. Have you been afraid of anger? Are you easily frustrated? Do emotions seem to be a foreign concept? Or are you a person who can't seem to round up all the emotions you feel, overwhelming yourself and those around you? Does the word conflict make you run in the opposite direction? You can learn new ways of understanding anger and expressing emotions that can be helpful both to your spouse and to you.

Would you like a deeper experience of intimacy in your marriage? We would like to show you how to move through conflict and anger to that intimacy, a safe place to be both real and vulnerable, a place to discover more about yourself and your spouse.

We pray that from a renewed hope you will be changed and that your intimacy with your spouse will be greater and deeper than you have ever experienced. As you begin to read this book, and better yet apply what you read, our hope is that you will be inspired, challenged, and even changed with time.

—Carrie Oliver

CHAPTER 1

And They Lived Happily Ever After

On a beautiful December day in Nebraska, in a gorgeous church setting, Gary and I stood before a crowd of people and said our marriage vows to one another. Lovely things like, "I will love you unconditionally. I will honor and respect you and be with you in sickness and in health." We had beautiful praise and worship music, took Communion, and lit our unity candle, symbolizing becoming one. It was a magical, dreamy, one-in-a-million day. I don't think Ken and Barbie could have done it better!

Like many couples, by the second day of marriage we began to discover that we were very different from each other. During our engagement we saw each other only on the weekends, giving a glimpse of the best of who we were. On the second day of our marriage we began to feel emotions that we had not felt yet with each other. I noticed that Gary could get distracted, it seemed, very easily. I felt rejected because he was not paying attention like I thought he did when we were dating and engaged. He noticed that I had more opinions than before, and the opinions seemed to be the opposite of his own, leaving him feeling disrespected and unheard. The result? We felt insecure and misunderstood. The "mad about each other" became just "mad."

We have dreams when we commit to marriage. We have expectations that we have found our soul mate, our prince or princess. We dream of making a safe haven where we can be vulnerable, accepted, understood, and loved. We desire friendship, companionship, and sometimes partnership. But real-life marriage doesn't always measure up to our dreams, and we often become disappointed and angry.