Someone who I admire and respect announced recently that she and her husband are getting a divorce. She was a loud and fierce defender of marriage and publicly proclaimed that she and her husband had a fantastic marriage. Her announcement didn't come with an apology for misleading us or for being anything other than a freaking awesome wife. Just a few weeks ago I listened to her husband talk and was amazed at the unity in their marriage, the way they must have come to their conclusions together to be able to consistently give the same message from different perspectives.
Frankly, I was envious. I idolized marriage for many years, dreaming of the amazing wife I'd be, expecting my husband to be the perfect mix of strong leader and humble giver. I thought intimacy would always be exciting and spontaneous. We'd confidently know how to raise our children right because I'd done all the research on good parenting and my husband would happily go along with my plans and ideas. What I found out is that marriage is hard. It is difficult to make the choice to be a family over and over, to get through the times when intimacy is strained and someone is always knocking on the door. Both parents have ideas and thoughts on raising children, and no amount of research from one parent can outweigh another parent's lived experience.
I don't know what happened in her marriage. All I know today is this: two people who keep going back, time and time again, who fight it out but work it out, who are determined not to ever give up - those are the people whose marriages survive. But it takes TWO people to do that.
If you're still single, choose well. The person who will never give up isn't necessarily the one who is the most exciting, most successful, or most charming. Don't choose your spouse to create an image for yourself and your family, to prove to others that you have what it takes to convince someone with idealized traits to love you. Choose a spouse who brings you peace in the quiet moments alone, a spouse who sees what's good in you and draws it out, a spouse who can handle your opinions even when he/she doesn't agree. Attraction is important, but a person becomes more or less attractive as two people grow in intimacy. Success may be the reflection of a well-disciplined heart, but it can also open up a marriage to power struggles or a one-sided relationship with a workaholic. Excitement is wonderful, but will there be something there when the newness wears off?
My marriage has lasted eight years, so I am not writing from the perspective of one who has weathered all the storms. What we have weathered is nothing to blink at: extreme stress and exhaustion (for years) from the fight to save a child's life while trying to care for two other young children can lead to some very troubling things. It's changed us in deep ways that have greatly impacted our relationship. We've had to work very hard to overcome the obstacles we've faced, but we're determined to be a team. We've sought help and have submitted to their guidance, even when that was very hard. I have a personal goal to be a DELIGHT to my husband and children, but I can promise you that most days, I am no delight. (Lord, help me.)
I am praying for the marriage that is ending now. I can't judge them. Perhaps everything WAS wonderful and then something so devastating happened that it's not recoverable. The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful; who can know it? They're parents and for the sake of their children's hearts, I'm glad they aren't pointing fingers. God, help them.
Let's hug our spouses a little tighter today and do all we can to protect our marriages and families. The ending of a marriage, the breaking of a family, has an enormous ripple effect.
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