13 Years and 7 Children Later…Thoughts on My Marriage

Last night Joy and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful dinner together with Adoration at Cistercian Abbey afterward.

13th Anniversary

We met on a blind date in December of 1999 – arranged by my friend Nathaniel (Joy’s cousin). We went to a Christmas concerto at Baylor University. We were seniors in college. She was finishing at Baylor. I was at Texas A&M (whoop!). She was off to become a high school English teacher. I was off to Protestant seminary in Philadelphia.

On our second date, we had a conversation about Apostolic Succession – that was a good sign to me!

On my knees, I asked her to marry me in December of 2000.

We were married at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fort Worth on June 9, 2001. We went on honeymoon to England and Scotland. We “lucked” out and went to Stonehenge on the summer solstice (New Age weirdness going on there on that day) and “lucked” out to be in Edinburgh on the city’s gay pride day. I think we had our first marriage fight in Edinburgh (it was over where we sat in church!).

We were just kids. We knew nothing. When we got back, we moved into a one bedroom apartment, we made less than $28,000 a year and life was wonderful! Honeymoon bliss. We were so innocent and happy. Joy worked while I finished seminary and we cooked little meals and ate cheap pizza.

She was pregnant with baby #1 (Gabriel) soon after and we were scared when 9/11/01 happened. “What kind of world are we bringing a baby into?”

When I was an Episcopalian priest, we struggled with converting to the Catholic Church. We entered the Church together in May of 2006 when Joy was pregnant with baby #4 (Jude). The Catholic Church judged our marriage to be sacramental. But 2006-2007 was one of the hardest year of my life. I struggled with not being a pastor/preacher anymore. So Joy encouraged me to pursue my doctorate and start writing blogs and books.

Joy has been the constant rock in my life and I probably be a big loser if I had never married her. She has encouraged me and inspired me to pursue every major success in my life (writing, PhD, teaching, books, podcasts, New Saint Thomas Institute). I love you Joy! (I know she’ll be reading this!)

We have been blessed with seven beautiful children: Gabriel, Mary Claire, Rose, Jude, Becket, Blaise, and Elizabeth. She gave birth to the last three in our home. As you can see in the photo above, she still looks absolutely gorgeous after seven children.

During last night’s anniversary dinner, we talked about the “high water marks” of our marriage and we both agreed that the high points centered on our seven children. Although having a big family is the hardest thing we’ve done, it’s the most rewarding. The greatest happiness has come from these children with which God has graced us.

God has always been good to us and although we have had a few hard years, He has provided for every single thing we ever needed. “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall lack.”

Sometimes people read this blog or listen to the podcast and they [wrongly] think that I have life figured out. That I’m productive. Super happy, healthy, and just batting .1000 all the time. Not true. I struggle like everyone else and I’ve been trying to talk more about persevering through tough times in the podcasts. I really think that most of my constancy and happiness is due to my marriage to Joy. It’s God’s gift.

Thanks be to God for this wonderful gift of Holy Matrimony.

Let me give a “Tip of the Week”: to be happily married, you must be “kind” to each other. Just try to assume the best intentions of the other person.

You must also value sleep. Every fight that we’ve ever had was in the wake of one or both of us being short on sleep and very tired. Fatigue brings out the worst in people.

Well those are my thoughts on being married to an amazing woman. As we discussed last night, we’ll probably be married another 40 years – so this is just the beginning!

Question: How long have you been married? Would you agree that there are good years and bad years? What are your secrets to having happiness in marriage? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Jenny

    Congratulations on 13 years of marriage. My husband and I are celebrating 14 years of marriage today (June 10th) and our 7th child is due in less than two weeks. I absolutely agree about the blessings that children bring to a marriage and about the value of sleep! Lack of sleep is definitely a huge contributor to arguments (even though they occur infrequently) in our marriage. It is amazing the clarity that comes with a good night’s sleep! God bless you and Joy and your beautiful family. Wishing you many more years together!

  • Stephanie

    We have the same anniversary. 13 years and 6 kids for us. We celebrated by taking the kids to a park and grabbing some Chinese for dinner between an emergency ENT appointment for the 4 year old who shoved beads in her ears and a double-header for the 10 year old. I found your blog when reading about limbo (we’ve had 1 miscarriage). I appreciate the honesty in your writing.

  • Bret Powell

    We are about to have our fifth child and I’m a little worried about the transportation situation. As Catholics, we can certainly anticipate that there will be more children to come! A mini-van might work for now, but when God blesses us with our next we may be out of luck when it comes to road trips. Any tips on how to cart around a large family? Thanks and congratulations!

    • Jamie

      12 or 15 passenger van ! Suburbans are great to ! we had a suburban with five but with six we realized we needed to upgrade, it may seem big but a 12/ 15 passenger van is great for taking out the back seat and having all the storage you need for bikes, extra clothes etc ! Good Luck and God Bless! ( we have a 15 passenger chevy express )

    • Dear Brett,

      You need a 12 passenger van. It’s awesome! Join the club!

    • Terry

      We had 13 so 15 passenger can for us. Loved it.

      • Nadia

        We just decided to go with Toyota 8 passanger for now with prior model that has full size seats as opposed to a tiny bench seat. I guess we are buying time (or gas) for now

  • Kristy

    Congratulations and Happy Anniversary! My husband and I have been married for 11 years with 5 children (1 little saint in heaven, 4 saints in training 😉 ) Our family rosary! Never underestimate the power of the rosary! All for Jesus through Mary! May God bless you and your beautiful family!

  • Tracy

    What a beautiful bride!
    My hubby and I will be celebrating 15 years in a couple of weeks.
    It has for the most part been an easy marriage; we are each other’s best friends. We call upon the saints to help us when we need it, we pray grace at every meal, we bless each other before bedtime, and we seek out small ways to serve one another every day; for example, he will get the laundry started for me or buy me my favorite candy when he is out and about; I will take a glass of ice tea and damp towel out to him when he is mowing or cutting firewood.
    Some advice my mother gave to me when we were newlyweds was this: “Never complain about your husband when you are talking to others; if you are unhappy about little things, griping about them will bring you more unhappiness. When you talk about him, try to build him up, talk up his good qualities!”
    Congratulations on your anniversary!
    Love and Blessings from Tracy J in Montana 🙂

    • So true. Where are you in Montana? I want to love there.

      • Tracy

        I am in Great Falls, but I have family all over this beautiful state!
        Come on up, the camping is fine! 🙂

  • Happy Anniversary! Holy Matrimony is a beautiful blessing, isn’t it?
    My husband and I will be celebrating seven years of marriage come November. Our first year was the hardest. Not three months in, my husband was diagnosed with cancer (we learned the diagnosis on Ash Wednesday, as a matter of fact — talk about a way to start your forty days in the desert). Instead of a carefree “honeymoon” year, we traded in date nights for days in a chemo suite. Thanks be to God, the medical treatments worked and we celebrated six years of remission last month. It retrospect, as harrowing of an experience as it was, I am grateful for how it brought us together, strengthened our marriage, and deepened our Catholic faith. Furthermore, we have since been blessed with two children (and God willing, we’re not done yet!)

    As for our secrets to a happy marriage: we treat each other with kindness, we don’t “keep score” as to who has done what, and we never go to bed without saying “I love you” to one another.

    • Exactly! I agree. Keeping score makes things worse.

    • Barb

      I agree with Julia. “Love is patient, love is kind, love never fails, love doesn’t keep track of wrongs”. I have been married for 37 years, have five children on earth, two angels in heaven. My children range in ages from 14-33, and I recently became a grandmother. My husband isn’t Catholic, and it is important to keep the peace and unity in the home at all costs, as the home is like a mini church. Pope Francis has also said, “don’t be an accuser”, so if your spouse has wronged you, no matter what it is, forgive, forgive, and keep on forgiving. There is a reason for everything, and you need to understand where the other person is coming from. Forgiving is an act of the will, it isn’t based on emotions. It isn’t easy, but nothing is worth breaking up a family, a home, a marriage, not even if your spouse has broken one of the ten commandments. If everyone made a sincere effort to stay married, what a witness for Jesus that would be, and we can turn the spiraling divorce rate around and strengthen society by keeping the family unit intact. (The only exception being given is if there is abuse of any kind).

      • “If everyone made a sincere effort to stay married, what a witness for Jesus that would be,” — Beautifully stated, Barb, I absolutely agree. As a matter of fact, one of the things I prayed most for when my husband was battling illness was that he be healed so that we could be given the chance to serve as witness for Christ through our marriage. In that vein, adding to the secrets to happiness is my (and my husband’s) understanding of our marriage and parenthood as our Christ-centered vocation and, ultimately, our path toward salvation. We’re not just in it (marriage) because we fell in love once upon a time. We’re in it because we are called to serve something beyond ourselves (God) through it. When I hear about relationships falling apart, the reasons given are often along the lines of “we weren’t in love anymore” or “it just wasn’t good for me anymore.” While I also once defined healthy marriages according to those ideas alone (being in love, having a mutually beneficial commitment), I have learned through times of difficulty, motherhood, etc., that marriage is about so much more than “what’s in it for me.”

        • jparagone


  • Guia

    Married for 41 years – June 10, 1973. Have five children and eight grandkids going on nine. Yes, I’d say we are happily married, not just stayed married. And your “Tip of the Week: to be happily married, you must be “kind” to each other….. try to assume the best intentions of the other person.” hits the nail right on the head. Congratulations and happy anniversary to you, too. Am sure your happy marriage will last.

  • Gary Staton

    Congratulation on 13 years and 7 children. You two seem to have figured out the how to be happy together thing. I have been married 53 years and feel a important thought is to never go to bed mad and remember it always takes two to have an argument. Keep loving one another as the outside world comes and goes and your bond is sacred and a testimony to your love. Your conversion to teh Catholic Faith as a team was a very important step in togetherness. Happy Anniversary.

  • Jack Gulino

    Congratulations on your 13 years of marriage and 7 beautiful children. My wife and I will be married for 43 years in October and have two adult girls – 36 and 31. There is no secret to a happy marriage. It takes hard work and a daily commitment to love your spouse and honor that person by your actions. One piece of advice I often give those who are getting married: Being right is not at all important. Having a loving and caring relationship with your wife always trumps being right.

  • lawrencemosher

    Janice and I have celebrated 44 years of the vocation of Marriage on April 4th! We have two grown daughters. The attached picture includes our youngest daughter, she is single and an R N in the I. C. U. in Denver, CO. hospital. Our oldest daughter is married to an United States Air Force Officer and has four children.

    After living 34 years in Kennesaw, Ga we sold our home and ‘downsized’ to move closer to the grandchildren last July.

    As with anyone’s life there have been good times and tough times during our married life. But isn’t that what life is all about, “Change”? Not just with each day but with how we respond with change. The ultimate goal through change is to ‘The Greater Glory of God!”‘

    That realization is after a lot of years being selfish, self-centered without God as my priority.

    • Great photo! Thanks for sharing. Great thoughts on change and God’s glory.

  • Rosie

    We did not have our family’s

  • Cyndi

    Congratulations, Taylor and Joy! Yes, Joy looks great and you both shine with the love of God. My husband and I will be married 32 years next month and we have 4 children, two grown, and 2 still at home. We are both very thankful for our marriage. I used to look at people celebrating 50 years and think they must have been very lucky to have made it. Now I know they were/are blessed. It was no cakewalk. They dealt with everything, good and bad, better and worse. They persevered. They weren’t lucky, they chose to tough it out. Sometimes we’ve been happy, sometimes not so happy. It’s not so much about good and bad years; it kind of goes in waves. But now we know, really know, our commitment to each other and our children is rock-solid. God has used all of it to bring us closer to Him and to each other and we are grateful. God bless you and Joy, and your family, and all couples and families!

  • Lil

    Congratulations on many happy years of marriage. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. Many ups and downs. Four children, one adopted. Knowing the grace of the sacrament of marriage has helped tremendously. Sometimes it was the only thing I could count on to get me through the tough times. Enjoying the empty nest big-time. Love my husband more than I ever have; what a great guy he is. Hang in there to all young couples , it only gets better

  • jparagone

    My wife and I are on our 4th child and have been married for 9 years civilly. We had our first out of wedlock and lived the typical modern relationship model of which our culture so ardently supports and encourages. My wife was a gift from God to see the truth of His Love for me. While I loved my wife I still kept a separation between us because I never fully surrendered to Her to God or anyone else. I was always evaluating gain and loss in terms of benefit to myself in the back of my head. This is the evil of the inward search for fullfillment, self absorption. we pit ourselves against each other. I felt I was a good person I had my own philosophies and theology that I picked and chose from various christian and secular sources because that way I was always right. I was never accountable for my actions against God just so long as I dont hurt or kill someone unjustly. I would always evaluate my position in life in terms of career and wealth. So divorce abortion even infidelity were possibilities I felt were rational decisions to promote my well being even though I aspired to think more virtuously of myself. All the while I was very much committed to my wife and family. By all outward appearances I was a great husband and father and I did aspire to be what I knew God has in mind for a rigjteous man but as I said in the back of my head the “options” were there. My wife always felt that spiritual separation even though we spent practically every minute together and raised our growing family with fidelity. I loved her as well as my culture expected me to but I didnt surrender to her. Mind you I am a cradle catholic I should know better but the lack of catechesis and relentless distortion of the church by our culture led me on the wide path to spiritual destruction. Until 3 years ago. I went to an emmaus retreat and surrendered my heart to CHRIST and from that point the journey of reconciliation and the strengthening of the filial bond between my God and myself began. I dropped before my wife and begged for forgiveness for I knew I never surrendered myself to her as she deserved and I didnt serve her as God wished for me to do so as a reflection of his love for the world.
    From that point I have been persuing the cross with a zeal I never had before. I was in the desert for 39 years and finally found the promise land. The catholic church, the bible the tradition, the saints and the eucharist all embracing me and filling me with Gods Grace.I love my wife with everything I am because we are one flesh in loving communion with The Holy Trinity. We are catechising our children and arranging our convalidation into the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I am so blessed that I wish to bear the weight of the world for Him because my freedom subsists in my obedience to His authority and His Church. God bless you all. Sorry for the long post.

    • Andrea

      What a beautiful testimony.

      • jparagone

        Thank you. I put it all out there. Wedding is June 28th Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the blessed Virgin Mary. say a prayer for me and my family.

  • Ron

    My wife and I have been married for forty-three years. All of life, married or not, has its good and bad years. I don’t believe there is any secret to it, just remember that there will be things which I do which may annoy her and vice versa.
    When I think back on the so called “bad” years, which really seemed bad at the time, in retrospect I always seemed to find God’s Providence at work. I admit, I didn’t see it at the time, but when I reflect on it it gets much clearer as to the “why”.
    Trust in God always and He will see you through any ruff patches.
    God Bless You Both in your marriage and may He forever hold you in the palm of His hands.
    Ad Multos Annos!

  • Greg and Sara Beatty

    Congratulations on 13 wonderful years! May God grant you many, many more!

  • richard ruesch

    my wife, Margaret, and I try our doggonest to do as much as we can together. we do not have strict rules for who does what…..kitchen, gardening, house cleaning, etc . we do the work that needs doing together. my being retired makes that easier to follow now, but it was our way from the beginning. we both are children people, and love em for sure, particularly ours. we have two splendid boys, now grown men, we home schooled for many reasons. we are both qualified teachers, so we home schooled to be with them for those many hours they would have been away at school. we are both practicing R.C.Catholics and have daily conversations about our Faith issues, and most other issues. I am a born story teller and my wife enjoys my stories if i wasn’t in the process of writing a book: Fun with Math and Science, I might think about writing a fun book, filled with children’s stories, that teach as well as make them smile and even laugh out loud. I think that God gave me my very best friend when he made it happen that I met and married Margaret. in the morning, I say my morning prayers, one of which is to say thanks, God, for my Margaret; I keep that on my mind, and sometimes it keeps me from thinking otherwise and that may not be the best for me/us. .

  • Leigh

    21 years- 14 military moves- 1 best friend!

  • Gonzalo Palacios

    Dear Dr. and Mrs. Marshall: My sincerest congratulations. You write that “you must be “kind” to each other:” I’d like to add to your word “kind”. In Spanish, “amable” is commonly used for the English “kind.” Amigo, amistad, amable; obviously derived from amar (to love) and from “amor” (love). To succeed in marriage, BE AMABLE. Again, felicitaciones from a 48-year-married amigo, Gonzalo T. Palacios, Ph.D.

  • Phyllis Cory

    Last May my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We raised six daughters and one son, all of whom are independent, happy, though not all faithful. We prayed through life’s difficulties with Our Lady’s rosary as our lifeline. Congratulations on 13 years and prayers that you make the landmark 50.

  • Lostinthecosmos

    On our way to 39 years next January. Four children and waiting for our 14th grandchild. You and I met briefly at CIC in 2006–perhaps introduced by Fr. C. John, but I can’t recall. My wife and I had just entered the Church. You were working at CIC and I was leaving the deanship of a Protestant law school. By the way, although born in Texas, we lived and raised our family in Montana (Helena & Billings). It’s the last best place. Now in exile in Texas.

    • I hope we did meet.

      My favorite 2 states: Montana and Texas. Montana is the “cold version of Texas.”

  • Jim

    We celebrated our 42nd anniversary yesterday at Maria’s cafe in Colton California. I have a greeting card my daughter and I made welcoming back My wife Maria Luisa back home after a visit to her native Guadalajara, attached to it we put coupons for my wife to redeem. My 5 year old wrote on hers things like “I will brush my teeth”. I wrote on mine ” jimmy will do anything Mama wants”. The card is still on our wall and there are 3 of the 4 original coupons still there.

  • Andrea

    Happy Anniversary! I think I enjoyed reading the comments as much as the post. Look at all those large catholic families, and so many of them are young couples. It’s so refreshing to see such a beautiful counter revolution happening. Just as Mary’s yes changed the world, so do our yes’s to large families change the world. My husband and I will be married 15 yrs this fall. We have 7 little “saints in training”(love that phrase, I’m stealing it) and 1 saint in heaven. My husband and i agreed at the very beginning, that divorce was never an option. There is a much greater incentive to work through your arguments when there isn’t an escape clause. Our secret is laughter. With 7 kids in a small 3 bedroom ranch, the opportunities are endless.
    P.s I love my 12 passenger Ford Econoline and so do my kids.

  • Terry

    Congratulations on 13 years.

  • Dave

    We have been married 34 years…9/22/79. I was stationed at NAS Kingsville and brought my new bride from Brockton, MA via Orlando (WDW Honeymoon) to Clayberg County (sp?), TX. That was a bad year for my wife. We were apart more than together for the first three years by virtue of duty. I had to make a major course correction in my life at about 7 years into our vows. We had mostly difficult times in the first 15 years. Some broken dishes as Pope Francis would say. I could not have found my way without the signal graces I received from the BVM.

    I don’t know when it started to happen, but at some point we started laughing together more than we argued. Now it seems, we laugh about everything we used to argue about. It’s become a joyful journey together with our children and grandchildren.

  • Henry Liguori

    Congratulations. Thanks for sharing your insights regarding matrimony and family life. You are both a blessing to us and a shining example and reflection of Christ’s love for the Church. Continue to be kind to us with your insights. Ad multos annos!

    • Thanks Henry. God is good to us and gives us new graces daily!

      • Henry Liguori


  • Kath

    Congrats! My husband and I will be married 28 years in Sept. Three kids, many challenges and lots of love! You are right. It’s the kindness. We were married again in the church 4 years ago. I was blessed to have met him when I was 16 and he was 21. All these years later, he’s still the nicest, kindest person I’ve ever known. Our three kids are also a blessing. Here’s to another 40! 🙂

  • Taylor and Joy, Happy Anniversary, bless you and your children. Sharon and I will be married 50 years in a few weeks. God gave us 2 children, 4 grandchildren and 1 great granddaughter so far. All marriages have rough times. Our rough times came from me being self-centered. Like others, we had our financial struggles, but we both agree those were happy times because we worked together. Every year that passes we agree this is the happiest time of our life. God has given us great happiness and love that grows deeper each year that passes.

  • Frederick

    Congradulations on 13 years. To make a marriage work both must pray, and treat each other with respect and tender love. My wife and I had 28 years together before she died of a massive heart attack. She was only 59 years old. One minute we were talking and laughing and the next second she was gone. People say that you have memories, but it is very hard to put your arms around those memories. When you love your wife, always treat her with respect. As Venerable Fulton J. Sheen said, “When a man loves a women,he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her.” Marriage is constant work, but the reward is

  • Shannon Smith

    I am Shannon by name. Greetings to every one that is reading this testimony. I have been rejected by my husband after three(3) years of marriage just because another woman had a spell on him and he left me and the kid to suffer. one day when i was reading through the web, i saw a post on how this spell caster on this address aisabulovespell@gmail.com, have help a woman to get back her husband and i gave him a reply to his address and he told me that a woman had a spell on my husband and he told me that he will help me and after 3 days that i will have my husband back. i believed him and today i am glad to let you all know that this spell caster have the power to bring lovers back. because i am now happy with my husband. Thanks for Dr.Aisabu. His email: aisabulovespell@gmail.com .