Marriage is hard.
I married a wonderful man. He’s sweet and kind. He helps out around the house. He changes diapers and gets up with fussy babies in the night so I can sleep. He is an excellent provider with a great sense of humor. There are times when I look at him and cannot believe how lucky I am. He would die of embarrassment if I told you all the things about him that I find attractive and exciting. I believe with all my heart that he is God’s gift to me and we are a great compliment to one another. We grew up with similar values and beliefs. We have a lot of fun together. I could go on and on about the magnitude of his magnificence.
And still I am writing that MARRIAGE IS HARD.
I love him with all my heart, but we are very different people with very different ideas about things – trying to build a home together. We have to deal with one another every minute of every day. There is NEVER a break. There is NEVER a moment when what I do doesn’t mean something to him. There is no point in which I can say, “Well, these past four years have been fun, but I’m a little tired right now so I’m going on vacation. I’ll see you in three months.” This commitment I made is FOR LIFE.
“Well, of course it is,” you might think. Duh. What’s her problem? But if you’ve ever had issues with anxiety, I bet you hear the panic in my tone. The trapped, claustrophobic feeling. I bet you aren’t judging me for admitting the truth.
I was warned that marriage is hard, many times by many people before I got married. I was told to enjoy the freedom of my singleness and be grateful that I can spend $100 without explaining myself to anyone. These words were not lost on me. I heard them, I tried to absorb them, but I couldn’t because my aching need for all the benefits of marriage was screaming so loudly. How do you tell a starving woman that there will come a day when there’s so much food around her that she feels physically ill and wants to go on a fast? It’s ridiculous.
Of course I don’t want to be without him. The idea of losing him is terrible. I’ve adjusted to his help, his strength, his support, and not having him beside me would be devastating.
But the day in and day out of marriage can feel overwhelming. This person, this life, forever and ever, amen. This conflict we’re in, we HAVE to work it out. There’s no escape. There’s no other option. We simply have to work it out or one of us is going to spend the rest of our life angry with a side of disconnection.
Part of what I’ve been doing is looking at myself. How have I disappointed him? How have I created a situation where he is sad or hurt? How can I behave differently, adjust my expectations, compromise?
It’s part of my decision to BE AWESOME. My mediocrity is hard on this precious man.
I’ve given myself permission to have an opinion and insist on it. As a Christian who wants to honor God, I may have gotten a little confused on the whole “submission” thing. It doesn’t help our relationship when I die inside a little every day because I’m trying to fit into a mold not made for me. I can smile brightly and try with all my heart to fit for a while, but eventually the truth comes out. I gave myself permission to say what does and doesn’t work for me.
The most important thing I’ve been doing is PRAYING. Desperately praying for God to give us unity in our hearts. We are such different people that at times it feels like we’ll never be unified. We’ll always find ourselves compromising, but not terribly happy about it. Why should we live like that? God has ordained this marriage and blessed us with children. It’s understandable that we should be in agreement, 100%, on some of the important things in our lives.
I admit that the day that prayer came to my mind, the audacity of it nearly knocked me over. I felt like I asked God to turn apples and oranges into pears. It was ridiculous. But God is a miracle worker! He loves it when we bring our big, audacious prayers to Him. He loves it when we believe strongly enough in the power and might of GOD to trust that miracles can actually happen. And what a beautiful prayer! In hindsight it’s seems silly that I was afraid to pray it, but it was wild.
I’m not writing that I think married couples should agree on everything all the time. We are individuals for a reason and it’s good to have some diversity. But there are some big issues that you need to agree on. For example, basic parenting practices, what church to attend, and how much time to spend with your extended family.
I’ve come to believe that unity is possible. It doesn’t mean one person gives up everything so they can pretend to agree with the other person. It’s possible for God to so radically change each one of our hearts that we truly, in the very core of our beings, want the same things. At the heart of who each of us is, we can change.
In John 17:22-23, Jesus prays for His disciples with these words: I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
A friend of mine married a man who seemed like a good fit for her in every way, only to discover such tremendous differences after marriage that she was despondent and afraid. Over the last 10+ years, I’ve seen that couple become unified. When I spend time with them, I hear the same ideas coming from him as I do from her. Their expectations have changed, their habits and plans have changed. They’ve truly become united in their hearts. It’s been a neat thing to see. And they’ve told me it’s been really, really hard.
I’ve seen other couples do the exact opposite. They married with grand ideas that they’re perfect for one another and want similar things in life, only to gradually move away from one another. I’ve seen couples with tremendous chemistry and nearly identical values turn in fury and attack, tearing one another to shreds. I’ve seen the shock on their faces as they emotionally limp away, trying to figure out what just happened. I’ve witnessed the devastation of divorce much too close up, heard the wails of hurt and anger. I’ve seen the stunned children whose worlds have been ripped apart while their parents struggle just to survive. It has ripped my heart to shreds too. This horror is one that I never want to experience again. If you are considering divorce and want someone to coddle you and tell you it’s okay to leave, don’t call me. You don’t want to hear what I have to say.
Divorce is not an option. When we take divorce completely off the table, remove even the possibility of it from our minds and vocabulary, we can truly learn how to love. (There are some extreme cases where I’d advise differently, but they are too horrible to put into words. Use your imagination, if you must.) When we allow that slightly claustrophobic, anxiety-producing realization that there is NO ESCAPE, that we are in this thing for the rest of our lives, it forces us to find a way to make it work.
No matter how mad I get at Rick, no matter how hurt or betrayed, unless there is some kind of true, unrepentant evil involved, we are in this together. Forever. Because we have the rest of our lives to work it out, we don’t have to have all the answers today. We don’t actually have to come to an agreement before we go to sleep tonight. Sometimes a little sleep allows us to reset and puts things back into perspective. Because we cherish our children and want to give them the best possible lives, we will work it out. We will find a way to make it through.
Marriage is hard, but we can do it.
My friend with the unified marriage didn’t sail through the first ten years with ease. She did hard, aching work to build the marriage she knew she wanted. She allowed her husband to try and fail. She humbled herself over and over, suffering things in silence that no one speaks of openly. She went back when her heart was raw and bleeding, opening herself up to more hurt and frustration because she believed in her marriage. God has been faithful to them, but it’s a story of discipline and determination that many don’t want to hear.
If you’ve been through a divorce, my heart hurts for you. I’m not standing in judgment. I repeat: Marriage is hard. When I hear the word “divorce”, I hear heart break, betrayal, and devastation. Even in the worst of situations, God can heal, restore, and make whole again. I pray that God will heal your heart and restore back to you everything that’s been taken. You are precious and loved.
Edited on 9/8/18 to add:
Rick and I have now been married for almost seven years. A few weeks ago we encountered a challenge that would have once caused us to turn against one another for a time, leading to frustration and misunderstanding. Instead, we both immediately responded in the same way, unified and strong. It wasn’t my way or his. It was OUR way. I’m not sure if I’ve ever loved him more.
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