There were many situations that could have kicked Tracy and Mark Russell in the ass, but in the face of adversity, they’ve been able to work through a lot of things and come out stronger.
“I feel like a kickass couple is a couple who are able to see adversity and kick back to come out stronger and better and have a more solid marriage on the other side,” Tracy shared with us during her time with us on the Kickass Couples podcast, “and so for that reason, it’s not that we’re the perfect couple. It’s not that we have it all together. It’s just that we’ve kicked through together and we’re committed.”
Mark and Tracy had very similar families growing up. They had loving homes, no divorce, and wholesome, supportive families. This may have caused them to go into marriage thinking it would be easy because they really hadn’t seen hard days. They also both grew up in Miami, Florida, and had happy childhoods with very steady mother and father relationships.
“Our parents made it look easy, although it probably wasn’t. But we weren’t brought in on the full level of commitment, I think until our wedding day,” said Tracy, “and that’s when everything changed for us.”
On their wedding day right as they were leaving the reception to go on their honeymoon, Tracy looked over at Mark and saw a clouded look on his face. She knew at that moment that something was really wrong. Later as they went into their romantic night together, she knew something was still wrong. Finally on the honeymoon cruise, she looked at him and asked what was wrong. And he said, “I don’t know if we should have been married.”
The commitment was not there. The vows were said, there were 250 guests present, Tracy felt she’d pledged her whole life, her whole security, and her whole love to a person without the foundation of commitment being present. That was the scariest moment of her entire life, because it exposed that invisible foundation that was always there for her and the relationships around her, but she didn’t have that with the man that she wanted to love.
That was a hard beginning. That was a hard fall. That was a real kick in the ass.
Mark explained that at that point he was very committed to himself and that led to the destruction of their marriage right out of the gate.
Three months into marriage, Tracy found out that they were pregnant. With a crumbling commitment and now a child on the way, Mark was now saying, “I don’t know if I can be a husband. I don’t know if I can be a dad either.”
Tracy realized she was going to have to let Mark go if that commitment was not there. If he didn’t want to be married to her, she realized that she had to open the door and let him go. And that’s what happened. It was the toughest thing she ever did. She had idolized marriage. She thought it was going to be the white picket fence, and her prince on a horse. She didn’t want to give up that dream. She realized she had to let her husband go, but that she could hold on to her faith. She knew that God was going to be there every step of the way. That’s really when the change started happening.
Tracy and Mark ended up getting a divorce, though that’s not where their story ends. They both realized that they had inner work to do and as they individually worked on themselves, life brought them back together.
“When our marriage was restored,” Mark shared, “it wasn’t commitment to me, it was commitment to Christ. It was commitment to my wife, to my son, and to our future. But really, my whole mindset changed from myself to others.”
This couple has now been “re-married” for over 20 years.
“When we were remarried, I felt like God gave us such an amazing second chance. I don’t feel like I’m married to the same person. I truly believe that what I saw with my own two eyes, was almost like a dead man coming to life,” explained Tracy.
She not only saw the life coming back into Mark’s eyes, but she also saw him begin owning everything and geuinely apologizing. He began to want to be the best husband and father he could be, and just selflessly give all he could.
The first thing they did when they got remarried was to go to church together. It was their first Sunday as husband and wife remarried for the second time. That day they could feel that the foundation had started. They felt a huge difference between that day and the day it all crumbled. They felt the rest of the world could have been looking at them and judging their choice to remarry, but as they saw it God had loved them so much that he started their new foundation in the middle of a complete mess. A foundation that has held for 23 years.
It’s definitely true that happily ever after does not just happen, and as the Russell’s have shown us – it’s on purpose.