Marriage is hard. Anyone who tells you any different is either lying or they haven’t been married for very long. My own marriage has seen some very low lows and climbing out was not so simple. Here are some of the ways that helped my husband and I through a very dark time.
1. One Vision. When the hubby and I finally decided to really put the effort into getting our marriage back on track, the first and most common theme we saw was a lack of vision. We had been through a rough few years and growing out of that time, we each had separate ideas for how to move forward. See, the problem isn’t that we go through rough stuff. If you think that forming an avoidance strategy for life’s troubles is what will save you, think again. Nobody can predict when a disaster might strike; whether it’s loss of friends or family members, strained relationships with in-laws, financial woes, illness, etc. These things happen and they happen to everyone in one form or another. The trick is to stick together during the storms of life. My husband and I knew we had drifted during the course of dealing with a large amount of stress and the first thing we did was decide who WE were going to be and how WE were going to move forward into the future WE had envisioned together.
For us, this vision began with our Faith. We needed to decide what/who we were going to believe and put our trust in. This would be the very foundation for everything that came after.
2. Humility. I know this might come as a shock, but it turns out that I have some major flaws. 😉 Seriously. When coming together to work out differences, it is so important to know yourself well. It is so easy to know our partners and to know how they are messing everything up, but the truth is that we really need to focus on what our own weaknesses are.
I can be incredibly selfish at times. I live in the moment and sometimes that means I don’t pause and take inventory of how my partner is doing. I might assume that since I am okay, he is okay. I really had to make a more conscious effort in understanding what he may be needing. With my husband being an introvert, many times this meant that I gave him some time to be alone. He might go work in the garage, or watch a movie on Netflix, or maybe just take a nap on our hammock. Whatever it was, he needed that time to be by himself in order to recharge.
3. Be a TEAM. This one was really huge for us. We had drifted so far apart that we were really just living separate lives under the same roof. I was gone a lot of evenings and he worked during the day. We rarely spent quality time together, let a lone sharing responsibilities for the house/life. Once we decided to roll up our sleeves, we made a conscious effort to work together as a team. We implemented special “family time” each week. We discussed EVERYTHING before making any decisions. And we also tried to include each other on tasks that might only require one person. The point was that even if we didn’t need one another, we really did NEED one another.
Some of the things we started doing together were yard work outside, filing the taxes, waxing the car, putting our kids to bed at night, having common friends, cooking, becoming vegan (at least temporarily. Thanks, babe!) and the list goes on. We haven’t mastered team work and there are plenty of times where we do things separately, but the point is that we took on this mentality that it really is us against the world, even when we aren’t physically with each other.
4. Grace. We are human beings and we are going to let each other down…often! The more we practice grace, however, the more those letdowns don’t seem like such a big deal. Remember that we are to view ourselves as if our shortcomings are a giant plank in our own eye compared to the sawdust found in the eye of others. Pour on the grace when things don’t go the way you had hoped. Forgive each other and start again. We never run out of chances with our Father in Heaven. May it also be so in our marriages (and all relationships for that matter).
5. Marriage is a Covenant. It’s not a contract. A covenant is generally a biblical term for how God has chosen to commit to us. He didn’t write up some legal document and have us both sign on the dotted line. The thing about contracts is that there are always loopholes. There is usually some kind of clause that lets you know there is a way out of this thing whether it be due to your partner not living up to their end of the deal, or those amazing feelings you once had somehow have faded away (shocker), or your problems would be easier to deal with if you were no longer together…and again, the list goes on.
The example that God has set before us is this: He has promised to stick by us, to love and redeem us, to do everything He can to make it possible for us to be in a right relationship with Him. He won’t force us, but He will be Faithful to us. The marriage covenant is one of the only covenants we have left which reminds us of the faithfulness of God. He is calling us to that very same faithfulness. For my husband and I, we had to decide that we would no longer live in a “give and take” relationship. We were committing to a “give-give” relationship. No matter how bad things got, we were to look out for the very best interest of the other and for the very best interest of the relationship between us. I was no longer watching my own back, no longer looking out for me and for what I should be getting out of all of this. Instead, I committed to looking out for the needs of my partner-learning to be more attentive, understanding his personality, paying attention to his interests and supporting and celebrating his victories. Why? Because through our covenant, we became one. We are no longer two people coexisting, but now we are a single unit, taking on this life together…and willing to love and sacrifice for the sake of the other.
What about abuse? In the case of abuse whether it be verbal, emotional, physical, etc. my stance will always be to do what is best for the relationship. Staying in any sort of abusive relationship not only undermines the covenant, but it also enables your partner to continue down a path of destruction. This is unloving and (in my opinion) unfaithful. You must find resources to help you get out of any circumstance where your life is continually in danger, not simply due to self-preservation(although there is absolutely a place for self-love), but out of a love for the other person which desires to see them become healthy and whole.
What about infidelity? Again, this sort of thinking goes back to a “contract” mindset. Infidelity is painful and it will take a lot of strength and hard work to mend what has been broken. But it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. I think that each situation is going to be unique. Separation and/or divorce may be part of the solution, but lets not confuse ‘solution’ with ‘hope’. The hope should always be for reconciliation if it is at all possible. Many couples have triumphed through such circumstances and have an amazing testimony to share with others who are going through similar times.
In closing: I have so much more to say and to add on the subject of marriage and covenant, but remember that marriage is a demonstration of Faithfulness. Committing to love and look out for the other even (or especially) at cost to ourselves is no easy task, but it is a Holy task. What a beautiful way to demonstrate what Christ has done for the entire world within our relationship to our spouse.
If you find yourself in a difficult place within your marriage, please pray that God would open your eyes and your hearts to the beautiful vision of covenant. Know that you have been given a high calling to be a “faithful partner” and you are not alone. Find a community of Christ-followers who not only share in these kinds of struggles, but are also willing to be transparent with one another and journey through life together. Amazing things happen in community, among them, healed marriages.