It’s the kind of romance you usually find in movies and fairy tales.  In a world crowded with broken relationships, victims of heartache and divorce may look at a marriage like the Chapmans’ and think it must have been easier for them than it is for most.  Were they simply lucky enough to find the right person at exactly the right time?

Steven Curtis Chapman seems relaxed but looks at me intently as he describes a scene that took place 17 years ago.  “That was the first time in my life,” he says slowly, “that I saw what looked like the bottom to me.”

After a little over a year of marriage to Mary Beth, Steven had only just graduated from college, and the couple already had a five-week-old baby (conceived when their dog ate the birth control pills).  Then one day they accidentally left the stove turned on in their apartment, starting a fire that burned the apartment to the ground.  Mary Beth’s parents came to help, Steven’s mom came to visit and tensions between the two families exploded.

“Her parents were saying, ‘We’re just going to take her home to Ohio!’” Steven remembers.  “And my mom is saying, ‘I’m taking my son back to Kentucky!’  And Mary Beth is crying, and I’m standing in the middle, shouting at the top of my lungs, ‘There is a real enemy trying to destroy this marriage!  Satan, you will not have this marriage!’”  He hesitates for a moment.  “It was frightening.”

He leans back and reflects, “Knowing now what I know,” he adds seriously, “knowing how God has used our family, there’s no question in my mind. Satan was trying to destroy us.”

That was the first time Steven felt the foundation threatening to slip out from under his marriage.  And it would not be the last.

“I thought the honeymoon was supposed to last six months,” Steven remarks lightly, smiling faintly.  “Ours lasted six hours.”

The newlyweds had to be back in Nashville for work and classes the Monday after their Saturday wedding, so their only honeymoon was a quick three-hour stroll through the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on the way down from Ohio.  When they walked into their house together for the first time as husband and wife, Mary Beth collapsed on the couch and cried.

“The day after our wedding,” Steven shakes his head, “here sits my bride crying.  And I don’t know why she’s crying.”  He pauses, and then looks directly at me.  “But [really] I do know why she’s crying.  We both just sat there thinking, ‘This is it.’  It’s like the scales fell away from our eyes, and we saw the reality:  This is the person I’m married to for the rest of my life.”

Steven and Mary Beth are undeniably two very different people.  He is short and blond, with an eager, open face and boyish good looks.  She is tall and dark-haired, with lively black eyes and a quick wit.  He turns every conversation into something meaningful and spiritual; she turns every conversation into a joke.

“Communication was an obstacle,” Mary Beth says emphatically.  “When we first got married, I couldn’t talk about anything.  I honestly did not know how to talk and express myself.

“When we were dating,” Steven adds, “we could talk for hours.  But it’s a different dynamic [once you’re married].  [As a husband] I was wanting a different kind of communication.  And when I finally pushed [the conversation] to the place where she did explode, it really was an explosion—the gloves were off, there were no boundaries, there were no rules and all these issues came to the surface.”