Moving Up and Moving Apart
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Matt and Sarah Hammitt describe the many risk factors facing their marriage due to his musical career as the lead singer of the band Sanctus Real.
Moving Up and Moving Apart
Bob: Matt and Sarah Hammitt have been married for almost two decades now; and like every couple, they still have conflict.
Sarah: We have an amazing marriage. But when we hit conflict, it’s terrible and it’s toxic. In the earlier days—I would say the first 12 years—it was probably 10 days a month was toxic conflict.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 22nd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Having conflict in marriage does not mean your marriage is bad or there’s something wrong. It means you need to learn how to resolve conflict/what the Bible says about that. We’ll talk with Matt and Sarah Hammitt about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I don’t know how many of our listeners realize this, but Dave and I have something in common. Both of us—
Dave: We have a lot of things.
Bob: We do have a lot of things.
Ann: Oh, this is going to be good. [Laughter]
Dave: I don’t know where you’re going.
Bob: We were both, in high school, in bands; weren’t we? [Laughter]
Dave: You’re right!
Bob: You were in a band in high school.
Dave: Yes, I was in the Daydreamers.
Bob: I was in—
Dave: And then we called ourselves the Four-Man Midnight band. [Laughter]
Ann: Hey, you guys are the coolest.
Bob: I was in—our band was called Ambrosia [Laughter], until there was an Ambrosia, and then we had to pull off of that; right? [Laughter] We were Ambrosia: “Music like the food of the gods.” Because that’s what ambrosia is: the food of the gods. [Laughter]
Then we pivoted, and we became Flat River Junction during the country rock years; you know?
Ann: Oh, that’s good.
Bob: Flat River Junction was our band name. Then we started doing covers of ’50s and ’60s, and we became the Echoes. I wanted us to be The Original Artists, because I wanted to put out a cover record by The Original Artists and have people think it was the original art—when we—anyway, you get how all of that goes.
Dave: You were, I’m guessing, the lead singer?
Bob: I was the lead singer—
Dave: You were the front man.
Bob: —and played guitar occasionally. But sometimes just went full Mick Jagger on the thing, and just was there with my microphone.
Ann: I’m just going to confess that Dave is three years older than me, so his band played at my middle school—whatever it was—dance. [Laughter]
Dave: That might have been the highlight of our career right there, middle school dance! [Laughter]
Ann: I’m telling you—I thought, “He is the hottest, coolest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.” [Laughter] I don’t think I’ve ever told you that, actually, because you already knew it.
Dave: That’s the first I’ve ever heard that. I’m going to put on that jacket and see what happens. [Laughter] You never know! [Laughter]
My mom was our manager or whatever. And the guys wore whatever they wanted, but I had a Nehru jacket.
Bob: Ooh! I wanted a Nehru jacket, and my mom—
Ann: What’s a Nehru jacket?
Bob: —you know, with the high collar—and my mom was like, “No, you’re not getting a Nehru. Those will be out of style in two years.”
Dave: Yes, but the cool thing is—we wanted to be rock stars.
Dave: And we never were.
Dave: And we have a real rock star in the studio today—[Laughter]
Bob: That’s right!
Dave: —who—it wasn’t just a dream; it’s reality.
Bob: A Grammy-nominated rock star.
Dave: Yes! And a Dove award-winning rock star.
Ann: Who cares about him? I’m just happy his wife is here! [Laughter]
Matt: Me, too!
Sarah: I thought maybe you were talking about me, but—[Laughter]
Dave: We do have Matt Hammitt and Sarah in the studio today; welcome.
Sarah: Thank you.
Matt: Thank you!
Dave: We’re really glad you’re here. If you don’t know—we do know Sanctus Real—Toledo, Ohio. Ann and I are from Findley, Ohio; so Sanctus Real was a band we knew back in the mid-‘90s when you guys started in ’96.
Ann: Everybody knew Sanctus Real.
Dave: You were like from Ohio, so we were proud of that. But let me just give you a proper introduction: 20 years leading Sanctus Real.
Matt: Yes, 20 years. It was good/good 20 years.
Dave: Now, you’re married. You’ve got four kids; living in Nashville, still writing songs and doing music, still touring.
Dave: And wrote a book called Lead Me.
Bob: We should mention that the two of you speak at our Weekend to Remember®marriage getaways. We’re glad to have you guys as part of that team.
Dave: Yes, that’s awesome to be part of that team.
One of the things I didn’t realize, until I read the book—which, by the way, great book—it’s like a memoir of your life.
Ann: It’s so good, guys. It’s very real and authentic, so thank you.
Sarah: Thank you.
Dave: Yes, and how you started sort of early in the band days on the road. It was interesting to read. Well, let me ask you this: “Is the lifestyle of being a rock star all that it’s—that Bob and I dreamed it would be?”—[Laughter]—since we never got there!
Bob: That’s right!
Matt: Well, I don’t know if it’s exactly ambrosia. [Laughter] But I will tell you, it is a pretty good feeling to have anybody sing your song. Then you have hundreds of people or thousands of people—that makes you feel like the thing that you created—that God put in your heart/that He created through you that you got to sing meant something to somebody. That part of it really is exciting. It’s fun to perform with a band.
But those behind-the-scene moments, when you’re not on the stage/when you’re not singing those songs or writing those songs, come with a lot of sacrifice and some very difficult trials of what life on the road is really like, especially when you’re married.
Ann: Let me ask you, Sarah: “What’s it like to be married to the rock star?”
Sarah: In the beginning, we were just kids; and we were having fun. It was fun to travel, and I went on the road with him for—how many years?
Matt: Full-time for five years with me.
Sarah: It was fun! We had a great adventure together. I think I put all of my dreams on hold and just chased his with him, so it was fun. It was difficult getting married and getting straight on the road, because we didn’t have a normal marriage. We had to—
Ann: Weren’t you living and sleeping in a van at times?
Sarah: Yes, it was hard. It was—
Dave: One of the things I love about your book is, even when you talk about those days, you’re very honest. We love honesty. You’re so real that it was pretty cool—not for you—but to read about fights, conflicts, even intense—you’re walking off the stage, and you guys are yelling at each other. Talk about that because that’s real life, whether you’re a rock star or not. But how did you manage that?
Matt: It was difficult, because we would just/I’d literally go from being on stage, performing, to all of a sudden, the reality of: “My wife has needs.” It’s not just about me being on the road and performing; it’s about me doing life with my wife. I have to find a way to learn how to not just focus on my career, but “How do I focus on this new marriage that God’s given me?”
At times, to be totally honest—you can read about it in the book, of course—I didn’t know/I wasn’t focused all the time. There’s a story in the book, where I’m just like off, wandering around. Sarah’s been working merchandise all day. I’d come by; see her. I’d have a coffee in my hand; and she’d be like, “Did you bring me one? Did you think of me?”
Ann: Did you say, “Wait, do you know who I am?” [Laughter]
Matt: Oh, yes, “I’m the lead singer of Sanctus Real!”
It was hard for me, definitely, to try to pull my head out of the career dream and then pull it into this marriage dream.
Sarah: Well, and you went straight from your mom’s house to my house; meaning, you didn’t have any transition time. It was straight from there. We were young; we were so young. We met when we were 19; married when we were 21. Yes, we were just figuring it out.
But fighting on the road was complicated. I’m not one to really hide how I feel; so if I needed to say, “Hey, you’re kind of being selfish, and you’re not thinking about me,”—I think, too, it was hard for him because he didn’t conflict that way; that wasn’t the way his family did it. They sort of hid it or brushed it under the rug and let it go; whereas, I’m like, “I can’t live with this wedge. I need to feel known and loved. Here it is…let’s talk about it.” But for him, he wanted to escape from it. It would just escalate, and it would just explode.
Ann: Dave speaks around—he’s a pastor—so there was a night that my car broke down, and I couldn’t get to this big fundraiser he was speaking at. I finally got there, after I had walked a mile. I was all muddy, and my shoes—
Dave: She’s being nice. The reason the car broke down was my fault.
Ann: He had fixed the car by putting a C-clamp on this very important part.
Dave: —a vice grips.
Ann: Oh, that’s what it was.
Dave: Honey, come on! Elevate it up to where it really was!—[Laughter]—a vice grips. So long story short—
Ann: So I got to the event late; and Dave was frustrated, because I wasn’t there. As I walked in, disheveled, angry, upset—because he wasn’t taking care of me, and I felt like the world was all about him—this woman came up to me. She said, “Are you Dave Wilson’s wife?” I said, “Yes, I am.” She said, “Oh! It must be something to be married to him.”
Sarah: Yes; oh, yes!
Ann: I said, “Oh, it is something.” [Laughter]
Sarah: I know!
Ann: Did you feel that? Because these people—
Sarah: All the time! Even with the song, people will come up to me and say, “What a beautiful song; your husband wrote that for you!” I’m like, “This song came out of my heart’s cry; and even after the song, it’s still my heart’s cry.” It came after a heated fight, where I still felt misunderstood. These words were awesome, but it was like I needed it to be reality. Do you know what I mean?
Matt: Wait; you mean that song didn’t fix everything, sweetheart? [Laughter]
Sarah: No. [Laughter]
Ann: The song we’re referring to is Lead Me.
Sarah: Yes, yes—the song, Lead Me—exactly.
Bob: This song happened 15 years into your time on the road with Sanctus Real. This was a long process of frustration, and feeling alienated, and feeling abandoned, and being at home—taking care of kids and having to take somebody to the emergency room while your husband’s on the road—all of that stuff.
Sarah: Oh, man! I mean, I can even remember—I was pregnant for Bowen; I think I’m eight months pregnant—there’s a tornado coming; he’s on the road; I’m down in the basement with my two other kids. Tornado comes by, floods the basement while I’m in it. I’m just like, “What in the world?!” I have no—Matt’s gone; he’s not there—it was time after time: our pipes would break…
It just—it was years, and years, and years of feeling that loneliness of doing it myself. Then, when he would come home, he was tired. I think, when you do what he does, sometimes there’s veils over your eyes that you can’t see things in a certain way. He couldn’t understand, and he couldn’t connect with me in what I needed. I think a lot of that had to do with the position.
Matt: We were living two different lives, really.
Matt: I’m showing up at a church, and it’s like everybody makes food for us—I mean, it’s hard work; I don’t want to—
Bob: They stand up when you’re done with the night and just go, “You’re wonderful!”
Matt: Yes, so there’s a lot of reward for the work; where Sarah was at home, working very hard, for very little to no reward.
Matt: I just didn’t have that empathy to walk in the door and say, “What do you need from me? How can I give? How can I serve?” I’m thinking, “I’m going to walk in and plop on the couch, where it’s just going to be marital bliss.” She’s like, “No!” The diapers hit your chest at the door: “Your turn.”
Getting to a place, where I could see my selfishness and learn how to put her first, without her having to bare her wounds to show me that. Of course, that’s a lifelong process. But it had to start somewhere. I think that Lead Me was the response to one of those moments, where I first was able to say, “Hey, how do I take my first real major steps?”
Sarah: I have always said to Matthew, “I don’t want to walk through life with you. I’m sorry, I’m not going to settle for that. I want to dance. I want to feel cohesive, and I don’t feel cohesive; I feel the opposite.”
I’m very stubborn, and I persevere. I will push and push to get to a place of feeling like we’re dancing. You know, I think—
Ann: But it sounds like you were pushing for quite a while without him hearing.
Ann: How did you get him to hear?
Sarah: Well, I think it’s all in him, to be honest. Because I don’t think it’s the way I have said it; because I’ve tried it every which way. I tried it nice; I tried aggressive; I tried it all the different ways.
Ann: I think so many women can relate to this. [Laughter] Yes, yes. Keep going!
Sarah: Every time, it was not understood. I think, for me—that day he wrote that song and we did find a level of understanding—I feel like it was just something that God lifted and gave him.
I remember—it’s funny; I was thinking back—I used to cry, and cry, and cry, and say, “Why did You give me this hard, hard marriage? It’s so difficult! You have to use this. If we’re going to go through all this pain, please use it. Because I’m not leaving him, so what are You going to do with it?” I would just be like, “Do something!”
I would say, outside of conflict, we have an amazing marriage. But when we hit conflict, it’s terrible and it’s toxic. In the earlier days—I would say the first 12 years—it was probably 10 days a month was toxic conflict, which were probably the days he was home; you know? [Laughter]
Dave: I was going to say, probably, when at home. [Laughter]
Sarah: But we would fight—and he was on the road; we’d be on the phone—it was intense and that feeling. You know, I think slowly—we’re still—we still have moments, where we get stuck and we say the things we wish would have never said—still, as a 40-year-old, after we’ve walked it all—but it becomes further and farther between, and we hang onto that.
Ann: So it comes back to you, Matt—that God, it sounds like, really got ahold of your heart.
Matt: Yes, I think it’s the willingness to step outside of your own reality and embrace your spouse’s reality as your own. That’s a really difficult thing to do, but I think that’s what ultimately we’re called to do for our spouse; right?—is to lay down our lives for our wives.
I think part of learning to be a man is actually being willing to—not only/I would say denying yourself means also denying your own reality, in a way—because we all see things so differently. We all want to hold onto the way we see conflict: how it should be resolved, how we should communicate—how she wants me to dance through life; but what if I’m not the kind of dancer she wants?—it’s like, “Can she accept me that way?”
Or can I say, “Her reality of how she wants me to dance, how she wants me to communicate, how she desires for me to mend her wounds in conflict, even when I don’t understand completely why she’s hurt when she’s hurt or how she responds to me, can I embrace that reality as my own because I love her reality for who she is more than I love myself?”
Bob: Talk about the first time you saw her. Because, as she’s describing what she wants, I’m thinking, “Bro, you should have seen that—[Laughter]
Ann: “—the first time you saw her!”
Bob: “—the first time you saw her!”
Matt: Yes, exactly. Yes, the first very first time I saw Sarah, it was at this festival. We were a new up-and-coming band. We played early in the day. That night, Third Day is on stage, doing the headlining set. The lights are shining out into the audience. I see this girl, in bare feet and overalls, just dancing/smiling. I literally thought to myself, “I need that in my life. This is carefree—
Sarah: Well, you got it! [Laughter]
Matt: “—this carefree woman.”
I always think I was always this uptight people pleaser. I gravitate towards shame and, you know, I go inward with my feelings. She’s just like all out there. I’m like, “Man, that’s amazing. I just don’t want to let go.” I loved how carefree she was before we got married. But then, after we got married, she’d come into our bed with black feet, you know, from being outside barefoot, and rub them on my legs. [Laughter]
Ann: That’s a great description of marriage! [Laughter]
Matt: Yes, and I’m a little OCD. I’m trying to be loving and just let her. [Laughter] Yes, it’s just so funny; because when you see that thing, you’re like, “That’s what I need in my life.” Is that really what you want? Sometimes, it’s not what you want; it’s what you need.
Now, of course, over time we grow up/we change.
Sarah: My feet are clean now, too.
Matt: Yes, your feet are much cleaner now. It’s interesting; because still, it’s like we say, “I do,” to this thing. Do we really say, “I do”? When we say, “I do,” do we keep doing? It’s the whole “I Still Do” thing—right?—“I still do.”
Bob: But this is so true for all of us. We see things/I saw things in Mary Ann that are different than me; that I thought, “This will compliment me. This will balance.” I wasn’t thinking it, cognitively; I was thinking, “That’s missing; that will complete me.” Then you marry and, all of a sudden, what you appreciated in small doses is there all the time. Now, it’s like, “I liked a little of that, but I don’t know that I want it all the time and with full force like it’s coming right now.”
I think a lot of couples, when they face that, they go, “What did I miss? I thought we were going to have this and now what was attractive is now annoying.” And we’re surprised by that.
Matt and Sarah: Yes.
Bob: Given the way conflict has happened for you guys, when you’re speaking at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, and you’re talking about how to resolve conflict in your marriage, are you speaking and going, “Oh yes, I need to do this, too”? [Laughter]
Matt: Oh yes, every time.
Sarah: We had a fight this morning, so—[Laughter]
Matt: We definitely did have a fight this morning, yes. If you had a fight this morning, out there, you’re not alone. [Laughter] I did some repenting on the way here, Dave, so you know, it’s fresh.
It’s so funny; because we always joked, at the Weekend to Remember, that every couple always seems to have that fight right before they’re supposed to speak/right before they get there. But you can take that—you know, what I actually did say to Sarah; I said, “It’s amazing that we get to go,”—and I would say this about Weekend to Remember, as well and being here today—I said, “How amazing is it that we get to take this pain that we have in our lives and that God gives it purpose?” It’s incredible.
Every time I speak at Weekend to Remember, especially on conflict—I think that’s my favorite one—and the “We Fight, Too”—because I get the opportunity to, not only share that “You’re not alone; We fight, too,” to show our scars; but to also give those practical little things that we’re learning, along the way, that have helped us so much.
Dave: How did you get to the point—because every couple has to get there—where you actually love those things that drove you crazy? [Laughter]
Matt: It is funny; because those things, after 19 years of marriage now, there are some of those things about her carefreeness that just like, even if they drive you crazy, they become home. It’s like the thing that time does. It’s kind of endearing that it drives you crazy now. You go through: at first, it was really endearing, just romantically, nothing negative; then, all of a sudden, it’s like all negative; and now, we’re at that phase, where it’s home to me and I wouldn’t want anything else.
Sarah: But we had to push through some massively hard times to get to that place where it feels like home.
Sarah: Because I think we got to a place, where we felt like we might not push towards feeling like home.
Matt: Yes, absolutely. Yes, there are always moments—right? —where we think, “Do we want to keep pushing? Can we keep climbing? Do we give up? Do we throw in the towel?”
I think the beauty that I see now/I do think, “Oh, that feeling/just that deep feeling of, when I put my head in her neck and I smell her hair, or that that’s just only one person in my life that could give me that sense of just being my home no matter where we are.” I think, “Man, what would I do without that? What if I wouldn’t have pushed through?” There were moments I could have never imagined feeling that beauty ever again; and now it’s like because of those moments, when I thought I’d never feel it again, feeling it again is even more powerful.
Even today, though I’m still struggling, as a man, to let go of my own reality—and desire of how I want her to be, her to speak to me, her to have conflict with me; it’s like how the way I think things should go—we still battle those things. Every day, I still have to make a decision: “Am I going to be willing to lay my own comforts, my own realities, my own ideals down to embrace: ‘What it is that she needs from me and to serve her?’”
Dave: I’ve got to tell you—hearing you describe home, which, by the way, is a song lyric—I mean, you said that we want to throw away the crazy, but it’s home—made me think of the couples listening right now, who are ready to give up: “Don’t give up!” Just hearing you describe that—I mean, you can feel; and you can read it in your book—the pain, and the struggle, and the work you’ve gone through—it didn’t happen in a day or a year—it was years, maybe decades, and now you can look and go, “I’m so glad I held on.”
I literally thought of my mom and dad, who quit, and thought, “Oh!”—I mean, I’m 60—I don’t want to say how old, but over 60—and still feel that angst in my soul: “I wish Mom and Dad would have fought for home,” because my home broke. That’s why I have a passion to help homes. And FamilyLife® is—that’s what we want to do—give hope and help.
But I just want to say to that couple: “Don’t quit. I know it’s hard. I know right now it’s so dark; you just want to walk out. Don’t walk out. There’s a child, like me, hoping mom and dad make it. You can make it! Jesus can resurrect a dead marriage. You just heard their story. Yours is the next one. Hang on.”
Bob: This is a book—what you’ve written is a book that will encourage couples—
Ann: Oh, it’s so good.
Bob: —“You can persevere. Hang in there. Work through it. Press in.”
We’ve got copies of Matt’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s called Lead Me, and I want to encourage listeners: get a copy of this book. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy for yourself—maybe a couple of copies—so you can share it with other people you know. Again, the book is called Lead Me. It’s a compelling story of their life/their marriage. Order from us at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy. Again, the phone number: 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I’ll just say: we would encourage every couple to get together with other couples and spend some time talking about your marriage. Don’t try to do this on your own, but have a team approach to building a strong marriage. We’ve got resources. Dave and Ann, you guys have got the Vertical Marriage video series; we’ve got the Love Like You Mean It video series; the Art of Marriage® video series. These are tools designed to help promote conversation between you and other couples to help strengthen your marriage and help you work through the issues that inevitably come up in a marriage.
You can find out more about the Art of Marriage video series, the Vertical Marriage video series, the Love Like You Mean It series; go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find information about resources we have available to help you strengthen your marriage in community.
I hope you can join us, again, tomorrow. We’re going to continue our conversation with Matt and Sarah Hammitt, talking about the realities of their marriage: some of the challenges they faced and how God has met them in the midst of those challenges. I hope you can tune in for that. We may even get Matt to pick up the guitar/sing a song for us tomorrow. I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Got some extra help this week from Bruce Goff and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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