Staying married is part of God’s best plan for us. I think staying miserable is a bit of a choice. =P
I partly come back to this thought, “If an arranged-marriage can develop into a lifelong relationship with deep respect and love for each other….then ANYONE who has chosen to marry the person they did should be able to do the same thing.”
I think we’ve become more a culture of throwing away things that don’t work the way we want, instead of trying to fix it. (Yes it’s a two-way street…and I’m not talking about unrepentant unfaithfulness or abuse here.) A marriage doesn’t suddenly become miserable. Something triggers a slow slide towards “miserable”. Maybe it’s that time you felt under appreciated. Maybe it’s a word or action that makes you not feel loved or respected by your spouse. That little seed takes root. And every time your spouse “did it again” or “failed to do it again”, it adds to the tally, which waters that little seed. Then that seed starts to grow deep roots of apathy, resentment and bitterness….before finally producing the fruit of a miserable marriage.
Each step towards misery is a choice to NOT communicate honestly. It’s a choice to NOT forgive or extend grace. It’s a choice to not admit wrong. It’s a choice to hang onto your pride. It’s a choice to keep records of wrongs. It’s a choice to believe the worst in your spouse instead of the best. It’s a choice to not find out what makes your spouse feel appreciated/loved/respected. It’s a choice to insist your way is the right way. And it’s a choice to keep your own interests/comforts/priorities #1. These choices build walls. So it’s hard to see how a couple who actively seeks to do the opposite to the above list won’t have a great marriage. I’m not saying it’ll be easy…but I’m pretty sure it won’t be miserable.
Granted sometimes you might not know HOW to do the opposite or even realize that it was a choice…but does it ever get to a point where it’s impossible to undo? That I don’t know. Could a clean break and fresh start be the only solution in certain situations? I don’t know. We live in a broken world….as broken people. What I DO know is that God can take a broken marriage and make it whole again. He can take a broken person and make him or her whole again. I think that’s ultimately where God’s heart is and as we submit to that, “miserable” will be a temperary state.
A story was shared about a nice doctor husband who, as a surgeon, is always on call at the hospital, doesn’t see his wife or young child often, and when he IS home, he’s so tired he just sleeps most of the time. The wife recently decided she’s had enough and left him.
It’s not like he cheated. It’s not like he was abusive. It’s not like he had harmful addictions.
It’s just that his work was very demanding, and perhaps the wife had expectations of what being a wife/mother should look like and that wasn’t being met. Is that grounds for leaving a marriage or is that a lack of understanding what marriage is?
Other than family doctors who can pretty much run their clinic hours however they like, one of the main reasons I didn’t want to marry a doctor was because of how demanding their work could be. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) if I can handle not seeing my husband days at a time or having to cancel plans if he gets a call or going on separate vacations or trying to have meaningful interaction with someone who just wants to sleep on his days off. But that’s given my personality and emotional needs…some people have done it successfully. Regardless of profession however, EVERY marriage will have unmet expectations where one or both feel like they’re getting something other than what they signed up for. What then?
If things are going through a rough patch, am I thinking, “We just have to make it through the next couple years until ____ is done“? What if after those couple years something else comes up. Someone loses a job. Someone gets sick. Something happens. And marriage continues to not be how I imagined and it continues to be hard. Year after year. What then?
I was reminded of one of my favorite books, “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” Marriage is about a covenant; it’s so not about falling in love. A friend said it really well, “It’s not about it getting better, it’s about how you’re going to learn to support each other.” I would add, “No matter how hard it gets and no matter how long it stays hard.” (Granted I’m not talking about abusive or dangerous situations here.) This really resonated with me. I can’t imagine it now, but I think it’s realistic to expect there will be times where marriage or life could be hard for what seems to be a long while. Changes to health, employment, having or not having children, etc can really spiral a relationship downwards…and I want to have at least thought about the possibility. How will we support each other through it? How will we keep resentment or bitterness from starting or taking root if one seems to be “giving up” more than the other? How to keep ourselves from focusing on how we’re not getting anything out of this and look for an exit?
Anyone have any experiences to share?
Sometimes, it’s honestly by faith….but built on what I’ve observed or have heard testimony on. I didn’t know Skywalker existed before I met him so I had no idea to his character or anything. But two friends whom I trusted spoke super highly of him and his family…and that said something. When we had started dating, one of his guy friends said to me, “Skywalker is a GREAT guy. Serious. You’re a lucky girl.” So that said something too.
They say, whoever “they” are, that in marriage, your insecurities grow stronger, possibly because you’re even more vulnerable having made yourself that much more intimate with someone. My whacky female mind starts imagining all sorts of things; this didn’t happen when we were dating. I think it’s Satan throwing darts to attack marriages…to make someone distrust, then they start acting on it, which creates a vicious cycle of suspicion and acting out that breaks down a marriage. (And as marriages fall, society crumbles…which is a win for Satan.) You can either fall for Satan’s schemes, feed suspicious thoughts and doubt, or you can choose trust. This is where I say it’s sometimes by faith because our emotions can be so strong, but so unreliable.
I’ve caught myself with the thought, when Skywalker is later than usual in coming home, “Is his assistant hitting on him?” (and other times it’s “Did he get hit by a car?“) I believe Satan tries to drive fear into our marriages. But perfect love should drive out fear. So then I have to go back to whether I believe Skywalker’s love for me is real, whether my love for him real. And whether God’s love for us real. As well, I ask myself if there has EVER been ANY time or occasion where Skywalker has EVER done ANYthing that would warrant my doubt or suspicion? Nope. So, I pray for Jesus to guard my thoughts/heart, to remove seeds of distrust or doubt, and then I choose to trust. Can Skywalker trust me? I hope so….
Showing love to Skywalker is an easier practice for me. I try to go through 1 Corinthians 13, the famous passage on what love is and isn’t, and do what it says. Of course following through on this isn’t so easy, but at least I know what to practice. Am I patient? Was that kind? Was I being self-seeking or looking out for him? And I can very quickly determine whether or not that word or action was loving.
I also try exercising love languages. Skywalker’s love languages include receiving acts of service and quality time spent together. I like to throw in little gifts once in a while…for variety…but it has to be practical ones as he’s not sentimental much. So I pack him good lunches (or try to), try to have nice dinners for him to come home to, give massages, occasionally surprise him with snacks he likes (but know aren’t so good for him) and I guard our schedules to ensure we have sufficient time to ourselves through the week.
As for respect…I DO respect him, but I’m learning this is a hard one to show. I believe it’s hard for a lot of wives out there too. Not nagging or mothering Skywalker is showing huge respect. It goes both ways but not speaking “down” to each other shows respect. I’m also learning to respect his sense of timing or trust his words that when he says he’ll take care of it, he’ll do it. It might not my way or in my exact timing, but he’ll do it. Me keeping quiet demonstrates my trust and respect for him. Of course, there’s been a couple times where he’s said he’ll do something, then DIDN’T do it…so then I have right to be mad about it, but even then, respect is about extending grace by not purposely trying to lay guilt on the other person.
I’m not one to compliment much…but am learning he NEEDS to hear that I respect certain things/characteristics/decisions he made or that I admire different qualities he’s shown. Hearing I respect him is as important to him as hearing he loves me is to me.
In general, I think it’s also in calling each other to be better versions of ourselves…in ways that motivate and nourish us as individuals. He is not me, I am not him. It’s easy enough to find buttons that set the other person off, but loving and respecting each other is about finding buttons that add boosts of energy, well-being, emotional nourishment, etc. Those are the ones a marriage NEEDS. So….learning and practicing.
How do you show love, and in particular, respect to your husband?
Last week I wrote about what that initial “spark” is when you meet someone you feel attracted to. It’s a high. It’s a rush.
You get together. Get married.
And then I hear how couples barely talk to each other a few years into marriage. Or how couples don’t care to spend time together because they’ve got their own things going on in their lives….they’re just sharing the house now. Or how any conversation is only about the groceries, the bills, the weekly schedule or the kids. Or how “date night” is going to a dinner where each are on their respective smart phones through the meal, followed by a movie in a dark theatre shared by a hundred other strangers where the only thing you hold isn’t his/her hand but your bag of popcorn and drink. It honestly makes me a little sad when I see it.
One husband with two young ones commented to us that since we’ve only been married two years, we’re still in the “honeymoon” and romance kind of phase but that in a few years we’re not going to care so much what the other person is up to. Will still love them, but just not care so much.
I’m a little alarmed by this…is that going to be us??? I don’t want to become that comfortable, but kinda emotionally disconnected couple. I want to always find things that “spark” between us. I want to make sure there’ll be moments of feeling melty inside…for the rest of our lives. I’m pretty sure I’m not a hopeless romantic so this goal isn’t unreasonable is it? Any thoughts or comments from those married longer than two years?
I asked Skywalker what still makes him feel the spark now. He said, “The Holy Spirit.” JUST KIDDING. He said, “I love that we can have fun and be silly together and you’re hot.” *melty* “How about you?”
I said, “I love how you make me laugh, that we can ‘play’ together and how sometimes with one look from you, I can get weak-knees.”
Yeah…hope we’ll always be a little sparky. Long into Golden years of being wrinkled and grey.