From a bookstore parking lot to publishing books together, Josh and Phylicia share the story of their relationship and how the theology of covenant kept them together through their most difficult marriage years. Josh is the surprise guest in this fifth season of Verity with Phylicia Masonheimer, and he’ll be joining us each week to talk “honest marriage” – what the Bible says about marriage and how that has been fleshed out for Josh and Phy personally over the last almost-eight years.
This is the first of twelve episodes in the fall season of Verity. You can subscribe in iTunes, Spotify or your favorite podcast app, or listen here below! Transcription follows the player.
Don’t forget! Phylicia’s co-authored marriage book, The Flirtation Experiment, is available for preorder! This book shares the real-life experiment Phylicia and Lisa did to bring fun, mystery, and joy back into their everyday marriages. Free chapters here!
Phylicia: Welcome back to Verity with Phylicia Masonheimer. Except this time, it’s not just Phylicia Masonheimer. It’s Phylicia and company, which is actually my husband, Josh, who is here with me today. Say hi, Josh.
Phylicia: [chuckles] We are in our fifth season of Verity. In this season, we’re talking about Christian marriage. Now, this is going to be a more personal series than we’ve ever done before, because obviously, I have a guest with me. This isn’t going to be a marriage series that’s going to spend a ton of time exegeting Scripture or teaching you how to apply all of these biblical truths to your marriage. It’s going to more be a glimpse of how we walk our Christian marriage. Hopefully, you glean something along the way that might encourage you in your marriage. Or, if you’re single and listening, might give you some things to think about as you’re dating, or as you’re looking towards the future. There are going to be 12 episodes in this series. We are so excited to get to share a little bit of our story today.
Phylicia: Yeah, yay, in this first episode here today. I just thought we do a high level, just sharing time [laughs] about-
Phylicia: -an introductory episode sharing a little bit about us and our story before we go into these other episodes that get into more detail and talk more about what Scripture says. So, I don’t know. I guess we should probably start with our dating–
Josh: We met in a bookstore parking lot.
Phylicia: That’s true. It was so romantic. And in fact, when we met, I liked the guy who introduced you to me.
Phylicia: And you were dressed in a very strange outfit when I met you.
Josh: Yeah, I didn’t really have any sort of dressing abilities.
Phylicia: Fashion sense. [laughs]
Phylicia: At least you were wearing clothes, that is a good thing. But, yeah, when we met, we’ve talked about this pretty openly, but you weren’t very attracted to me.
Josh: Yeah. You weren’t really my type.
Phylicia: No. I was wearing ankle-length gray wool dress coat when you met me. I looked like General Lee.
Josh: Definitely not from around here.
Phylicia: [laughs] And you were in a green Abercrombie shirt– or maybe it was Aeropostale. No, Aeropostale definitely, and yellow plaid shorts.
Josh: Yeah, lemon lime.
Phylicia: In February, I might add. All this to say, we were pretty unlikely looking couple, I guess-
Phylicia: -at the time. Well, how would you describe our relationship going forward from there?
Josh: Actually, backing up a little bit, my roommate was the one who introduced us. He told me, he’s like, “Josh, there’s this girl. She’s calling me all the time.”
Phylicia: Oh my gosh, we have to clarify that.
Josh: “She sent me these men’s bath products that she said she won in a raffle at some bridge club.” He’s like, “Man, you should take her off my hands.” And I was like, “Well, do you have a picture of her?” “Oh, yeah, yeah.” Pulls up Facebook, and I saw her profile picture, and I said, “I’m going to marry that woman.”
Phylicia: Which is bizarre because you hadn’t met me at all.
Josh: Yeah, a little bit.
Phylicia: It’s so strange. Now, let me clarify just for the sake of the record, that I was not calling his roommate all the time. He was calling me, and I did send him those bath products, but they were indeed something I won, and I had no one to give them to. So, I gave them to him.
Josh: Let’s hope he doesn’t listen to your podcast.
Phylicia: [laughs] Hello, Brandon, thank you for introducing us.
We really were an unlikely couple. We really didn’t have a whole lot in common on paper. We were pretty different. I was working, Josh was a student at the time, I was working for the university. Between the two of us, we were in little bit of different stages, even though Josh was older than me, is older than me. We didn’t share many common interests at the time, but we still were really drawn to each other. What would you say drew you to me? And then, I’ll share.
Josh: Initially, her spunk and sass. She was just more engaging than previous interests of mine. I was at a point where I wanted a mature woman who had good core values and love for Lord. That’s what I was looking for and valued in someone, and I could see that in her.
Phylicia: Aww. And I had repeatedly dated guys that I was attracted to, I had a very strong type, and it kept not working out, which you think would be a clue, but I had never dated someone who I was friends with first. I always dated people to get to know them, and then after I got to know them, I found out, “Oh, no, this is actually not what I thought it was going to be.” And then, I would break up with them, because I realized we weren’t a good fit, or whatever else was going on. I recognize now, looking back, that I was a pretty unhealthy person in those relationships in the way I was treating people, in the way I was dating was not a healthy way to date. But I also think a part of it was that I had never been friends first with somebody that I dated.
So, Josh was the first person that I was friends with first. What I appreciated was that he really wanted to know me as a person, and he was funny. He really seemed to want to get to know me, not because of what I could offer to him, but just because he liked me. We were friends first because we were dating other people when we met. That’s what actually laid the foundation for us– The friendship part is what laid the foundation for us later on. Would you say that’s accurate?
Josh: Yeah, I’d say so. It laid a good framework for just getting to know each other, and just how we get to interact in a situation where we aren’t influenced by infatuation or chemistry.
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Phylicia: I will say the interesting thing that’s been a theme throughout a relationship, correct me if you think I’m wrong, but I think is, we’ve often been in crisis, and that’s what has brought us together. We’ve been in more stressful situations and our time being married than perhaps the average young married couple. I don’t know, I don’t have anything to measure it against, but just stressful situation after another. It started when we were dating in some relational drama that we were both in, and that brought us together. And then, after we were married, I think we continue to see that pattern of crisis that brings us together, would you say that’s true?
Josh: Yeah. We definitely bond and grow through challenges because maybe it’s just because of the way we interact with each other. I’m a 9 on the enneagram and she’s a 3 and we just lean toward problem solving in situations like that, and we work well together.
Phylicia: Yeah, we do, which I think, as we’ll reveal over the course of this series, has been a blessing but also a curse because we work really well together when we have a crisis or a stress or a task. But then, when those things go away, our biggest struggle is in peaceful times, because we’re like, “Well, what do we do with each other? What do we have in common?” Not that we don’t have a problem in common anymore, so what do we have in common?
Josh: We’re like the empty nesters when it comes to problems.
Phylicia: Yes. [laughs] We always need to have a problem. Yeah, exactly. That’s something that we’ve been working on over the course of our marriage, is to develop common interests. In fact, what was it when we went to our marriage counselor, when we did premarital counseling when we were dating, and she asked us about leisure activities? I don’t remember what happened there.
Josh: Because there was none.
Phylicia: [laughs] There were none. Isn’t that what we told her we don’t really have any–
Phylicia: Leisure activities.
Josh: We listed the things that each of us enjoyed individually, but it was difficult for us to come up with anything we enjoyed together other than skiing and stuff that we didn’t really do too often.
Phylicia: Yeah. And that, I would say, was consistently a problem for a good part of our marriage.
Phylicia: Probably five years.
Josh: Yeah. We listed fitness as one if we were able to work out, but that wasn’t really possible once we had kids together, at least.
Phylicia: Yeah, at a gym anyway, not at home. One of the things I think that we really grew through was realizing that we might not have anything specific in common, but that we could take an interest in one another’s interests. I know that for a long time, I was very stubborn about that, where I was just like, “Nope, I’m not interested in the things you do. So, you can go do that with the guys. And I’ll just read a book.” But we have found some things like fishing, Josh enjoyed fishing, I started fishing with him. And now, I actually enjoy fishing with him. You’ve taken an interest in some historical things. He wasn’t into history, but he’s taking more of an interest in that since we were together. I think there had to be a selflessness cultivated because you definitely took more of an interest in things I liked, but I struggled doing that in return.
Josh: It was during the dating period.
Phylicia: Yeah, I would say early marriage too, it was not great. What would you say is something that you learned through those early years of marriage and dating?
Josh: I think that I set the bar a little high initially, but I think that I should have shown more endurance with it rather than it just being a sprint and it petering out.
Phylicia: With your pursuit?
Josh: Yeah, pursuit and planning things, because I got to the point where I was just like, “Well, it’s her turn now.”
Phylicia: Yeah, you did have a period where you got very bitter because you were setting up dates and planning all this stuff and I wasn’t doing anything in return, because when we got married, I had this, ah, super unhealthy view, very extreme view, actually, that basically, because I had been taught that the man was the pursuer and the man was the head of the household that it was up to him to do all the pursuing, all the planning. I didn’t do anything. And that was just what he was supposed to do.
The first year or two of our marriage, that’s what it was, until Josh just got tired. I had not yet studied Scripture on the topic to know that Scripture fully supports and encourages a woman pursuing, which we’ll talk about throughout this series. But I didn’t think that, and so I left it all up to Josh and he burned out on pursuit, and then just got apathetic, which made for some very difficult years in a different way.
Josh: Yeah. The pursuit was the only thing nourishing the emotional relationship between us. So, when that went away, it was just a famine, a drought in our emotional side of our relationships. So, we were both starting to become very deprived emotionally.
Phylicia: That’s when we had Adeline.
Phylicia: We got pregnant with Adeline. We found out we were pregnant on our one-year anniversary. We had her about– what, would that be one and a half years after we were married? That was a huge, huge transition. She was born and we moved to a new state where we only knew one family and Josh–
Josh: A week before she was born.
Phylicia: A week before she was born, we moved and it was just so stressful. Josh was working super long hours with a really negative job environment. What was it like?
Josh: A good day was eight hours with a one-hour commute each way. A bad day was 22 hours.
Phylicia: With a one-hour commute each way. [laughs] You were gone overnight a lot too.
Josh: Yeah. I did a lot of 16-hour days.
Phylicia: Couldn’t plan anything because we never knew.
Josh: No, the one day I planned to go dancing with Phy, I was on a service check and was just like, “Are we going to be done in time?” My boss was just all over the place, so I ended up just canceling and didn’t make it. It was so frustrating.
Phylicia: It was a really sad time because I can even remember that night that I was sitting in our duplex alone, and the babysitter had to be cancelled and holding the baby. Josh was still gone. The only thing that sustained me and us in that season was our church, because we immediately found a church right down the street from us and–
Josh: They were our family.
Phylicia: They were our family. They surrounded us and supported us in that time. We didn’t know anybody really. The family that we knew was 30 minutes away. So, we were just like, “Well, we’ll try some churches,” and this church just surrounded us where we lived in. We were in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It was just a gift in that season. I just mention that because I think it’s amazing how a healthy church with godly people actually supports a marriage. They saved our marriage in many ways, even though we were still having a hard time.
Josh: That’s our good church story.
Phylicia: Yeah, that’s our good church story. That was the beginning of the really hard years, was that year in Pennsylvania, which would have been year two and three. And then, into four and five, I would call those the hardest years for us, because I think that’s when we felt the most distant, would you say?
Josh: Once we had moved up to Michigan, that would be four and five.
Phylicia: Yeah, I think both. We still were struggling when we moved to Michigan.
Phylicia: Yeah, would you say?
Josh: I think so, yeah. Between four and five, I lost my job that we had moved up here to Michigan for. I stayed busy applying for jobs and stuff, and didn’t want to take too much of a backward step occupationally, but apathy always sets in at some point or other when you’re unemployed. It was tough, and that’s when Phy released Christian Cosmo.
Phylicia: That’s when I really started to begin selling some of my work to help make ends meet because he lost his job and I was pregnant with Eva. So, I was seven months pregnant with Eva. It was the day after we signed the mortgage on our house, so another crisis. Yay, another crisis. Moving to Pennsylvania at 37 weeks and having Adeline a week later early, and then not knowing anyone and Josh’s long hours and then our marriage struggling in that season, moving to Michigan and losing the job he got after signing on the house, being pregnant again, it was just hit after hit while our marriage was already struggling so much with communication and we’re having the same fights over and over and over again. We’d go on dates and I feel we didn’t have anything to talk about. It was like we don’t have anything in common outside of this job– [crosstalk]
Josh: You always seemed bored when we go out to eat. We eat so quickly that five minutes in we’re just like, “Okay, now what?” [laughs]
Phylicia: It’s true, that’s still a problem. Now, we don’t go out to just eat. Now, we usually do an activity if we can. We have more to talk about now but back then, we didn’t have anything to talk about because we were in such– I think it wasn’t just not having things in common. It was just not wanting to try because we were both not in a good place. Do you think that’s fair?
Josh: Yeah, I think just as far as what we were expecting out of the marriage, and just not even prioritizing one another.
Phylicia: Right. Not prioritizing one another and then wanting this good marriage to come out of thin air. Why aren’t we having fun on this date?
Josh: It’s like wanting a flower to bloom without watering it.
Phylicia: Yes, that’s a fantastic analogy. It was very rough. I have friends now who’ve told me they can see the difference now versus then, who’ve been with us in the five years since we moved here, moved back to Michigan, who’ve said like, the way we talked about each other then was very condescending or contemptuous
Josh: Who is telling you that? [laughs]
Phylicia: A good friend. [laughs] A good friend who loves us said that back then versus now, it was actually visible, that the way we talked about each other was, at times, not kind.
Phylicia: It was obvious that we didn’t like each other. I think that’s the thing, is we all think we can hide our marriage problems better than we actually do. It comes through in our attitudes and in our words, and looks on our faces and things like that. Her point was that there was a progress seen from then to now. I would say a lot of that is due to our personal spiritual growth, and also the people around us. The church, once again, supporting us simply as people and as a family and that enabled us to grow our marriage. What would you say about how you’ve grown spiritually? How has that affected you as a husband?
Josh: It definitely has. I’ve been in communication with other guys in my life, strong Christian men, that have been great sounding boards for just things I’m struggling them with, or feel I might be inadequate in or just seeking advice on how to cultivate our marriage, and so I get a lot of good feedback from them. So, it’s been a huge blessing to be a part of a mentorship or an accountability group just for life. And definitely being in prayer and memorizing Scripture, and keeping my focus on the Lord has enabled me to pause before I blow up, or most oftentimes at least, and has allowed me to be more supportive and thoughtful, and maybe even notice that the dishes need to be done.
Phylicia: Historically, Josh has been completely blind to things that have been in the middle of the floor or dishes on the counter. They don’t even exist.
Josh: I didn’t know that socks aren’t meant to be left next to the hamper.
Phylicia: [laughs] There’s a lot of women that listen to this podcast.
Phylicia: But yeah, I’ve definitely seen that in you that as you’ve grown spiritually– and you were a newer Christian when we got married, or when we were dating, at least.
Phylicia: You were a pretty new Christian. Even as a new Christian, theologically, knowledge wise, you were very much growing, very new and all of that. But I do think that one thing that’s very apparent is that knowledge does not equal maturity in faith, because I knew a whole lot about the Bible when we were in our first year of marriage. And yet, I was a very mean, angry person, still struggle with being an angry person. But that first year, who I was did not match the amount of knowledge I had about the Bible. And who you were was very gracious and kind, even though you needed to grow in your knowledge of the Bible and of the Lord. So, it just shows that knowledge does not equal spiritual maturity unless you are letting the Lord change your heart, and unless you let the Lord change your heart, you won’t let Him change your marriage. So, that’s something that we’ve both been working on for almost eight years now, is letting the Lord change our hearts individually. We don’t do devotions together. We really haven’t in years, right?
Josh: No. It can be difficult just based on busy schedule, as well as just, I think when we did that, and that was the only time we had to do devotions and we did together. We didn’t have any individual time with the Lord. It was almost like having a Bible study or small group you go to, and then you never have your actual devotions. Or on worst cases, going to church and never read the Bible during the week. So, though it’s great and it’s unifying, I think, just with the stages of life we’ve been in, it hasn’t been the best option.
Phylicia: Yeah. For us, it was better to do a separate time with the Lord, and then just talk about it, or pray together at meals, or in bed rather than doing a time together in the Lord, it just didn’t work. But as we’ve done those separate devotional times, I’ve seen you grow a whole lot. Have you seen me grow?
Phylicia: Oh, good. [laughs]
Phylicia: Looking at our marriage, since those super difficult years, because in the difficult years, we both told each other why–
Josh: I don’t really like you. [chuckles]
Phylicia: I don’t like you, which I’m not sure I recommend saying that to somebody, but we both said–
Josh: We were in a bad place.
Phylicia: I know why people get divorced. We even asked like, “Why are we married? Why did we even get married? Why did we think that this could work if we’re so different and we have nothing in common?”
Josh: We actually asked that question just before we got engaged, actually.
Phylicia: Yeah, we did.
Josh: You were traveling for your school conferences and we’re just like, “We have no common interests. Why are we even doing this?”
Phylicia: Yeah. Right before we got engaged, we’re on both on business trips, and we just felt like, “Gosh, we don’t have anything in common? Why are we doing this?” We almost broke up, but we ended up back together. I’ll tell my side, then you tell your side. But I ended up back with Josh because I pictured him going on to marry somebody else, and I knew I didn’t want that to happen. I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. I know that sounds so cheesy, and it sounds just like a Hallmark movie, but it really is what I thought when I was praying about it. I just thought, “If he’s not there, I don’t know what my life would be like.” That in prayer is what I went on to make the decision. Was I completely 100% sure? No, I wasn’t. I’m not sure that you can be completely 100% sure on somebody. People change and you don’t know every single part of them, but you’re committing to them and you’re risking love. Love is a risk. And so, I took that risk on Josh, knowing his character. Why did you decide to stay with me?
Josh: I think it was the hope that we could grow together and overcome the barrier and figure it out. Again, it’s a leap of faith. In addition to that, it was a little bit of–I couldn’t picture myself with someone else. I did love her, so-
Josh: -wanted to make it work.
Phylicia: [laughs] So, we did. Even though four years later or three years later, we really were struggling and asking some of those same questions, at that point, we knew that we were in covenant to each other. Obviously, this was not an abusive marriage, it was a very lonely marriage.
Josh: At times.
Phylicia: Yeah, we were both very lonely at times, but it was not abusive or neglectful. So, those would be different circumstances, but we were just in a very unhealthy marriage, and the covenant that we knew we made really, I think, kept us together just by nature of it being a covenant until we could grow spiritually and get the counseling that we needed. Would you say that’s accurate?
Josh: Yeah. Kind of duty calls sort of thing, loyalty.
Phylicia: Yeah, the loyalty and the accountability to the Lord, and to the people who witnessed our wedding.
Phylicia: We take that very seriously.
Josh: It’s like if you go back on an oath, you might as well have not taken the oath at all.
Phylicia: Right. To us, the covenant, biblically, was before God, and because we didn’t have a biblical means of leaving the covenant, which would have been abuse on faithfulness, it meant that we were going to have to find a way to heal. That is part of what we’re going to share in the rest of this series. We’ll talk a little bit more about the different pieces of this story in depth as well as the Scripture that speaks to the different parts. We’re definitely not experts. We’ve been married almost eight years, which makes us not experts at all.
Phylicia: It’s fair to say we’ve gone through a lot, lot, lot, the first eight years.
Josh: You hear some people talking about the seven-year itch. That’s just people who have pretty, relatively easy marriages to the point that things get hard or boring at seven years, and they just want to up and leave. But we say that, “Well, we’ve never been bored and we never had it easy. It seems for any duration, so we just passed right by the seven-year itch.” [chuckles]
Phylicia: Yeah. We flew right past– actually, I’d say year seven was probably one of the best years we’ve had. We can call it the seven-year Sabbath instead of the seven-year itch. [laughs]
Josh: Yeah, the year of Jubilee.
Phylicia: Jubilee year. Well, anyway, you guys, we obviously didn’t run down the entire story of our marriage in one episode here, but we hope this gives you a better picture of what we’ve walked through together. In the next 11 episodes, we’re going to look at some more detail of what we’ve learned in those seven years together or eight years, almost together. And look at what Scripture says about things like sexual sin in marriage and fighting and parenting together and all sorts of fun stuff like that. So, I hope you guys will find this interesting and encouraging as we go through this series with you. Again, we’re not trying to preach to anybody about how to do marriage, but we do hope that it gives you a picture of an everyday Christian marriage and what it can be. [laughs]