Can we be real for a moment? I’m about to open up my heart and my life, which is never easy. So I ask that as you read this post, you view it with an open heart and think about how it relates to you and how you can grow from it.
Ok so here we go … Marriage. It’s hard, right!? Maybe you are still in those early honeymoon stages and you are living in a world full of cupcakes and rainbows. Or maybe you haven’t seen that happy side of life in a long, long time. Maybe you are just fighting to get through one hard day after another. Regardless of where you are currently, we all must recognize that life can change in the blink of an eye. Today’s reality may not look the same as tomorrow’s. And marriage is the same way.
So when those hard times come in our marriages, how do we get through them?
Let me start out by saying, I am no expert. I am just a woman who has walked through some tough times in my marriage and lived to see the other side. I recognize that everyone has a different reality and what worked for me, likely may not work for others. But I think there are some basic things that we can all learn from.
Here’s a little of my story, to catch you up to current day… I actually met my husband when we were in elementary school. We were childhood neighbors. We didn’t fall in love at 6, I was boy crazy and had a crush on every boy within a 10 miles radius and he was shy and never noticed any one of the female species. In 6th grade, I moved a few miles away and he started attending a private school. I pretty much forgot about him until the summer before my sophomore year when I attended a summer work camp with my church. I still remember walking into the gym at our local middle school where we were sleeping during this week long camp and seeing this familiar face in a whole new light. He no longer was this little shy boy with glasses. He was the 15 year old version of the man of my dreams. I fell head over heels in love in that instant and there was no going back. That was more than 17 years ago and there hasn’t been a moment since that I haven’t known without a doubt that I was meant to spend my life with this man.
So cupcakes and rainbows, right? The rest of my life should just be a cake walk. Maybe we’ll have the occassional spat, but we are best friends and life is a breeze. Ha! Let’s just say I’m glad my pants didn’t catch on fire as I typed out that lie.
We are both people who live life very passionately. We love hard but we also fight with the same intensity. We are as opposite as two people can be. And I know he would agree when I say that there have been moments where we question why God put us together. We are like oil and water most days. I am the fiercely loyal wife who has a strong personality with a strong temper to match, and always plays by the rules, fearful of making a mistake and getting in trouble. He is the tattoo-covered rebel, who likes shocking people. He gets a thrill out of living to an extreme and isn’t one to back down to others, especially his hot head wife.
Sooo… we have had many interesting days as we work to blend our very different lives, even after so many years.
If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I have taken my marriage for granted for many years. I just assumed that we would always work things out and were never in danger of separating. Boy how wrong I was. Satan knew it too. And he decided to hit us where we were weak. I’m not hear to tell you the details of our personal lives, rather what I want you to know is that NO ONE is outside of the danger zone. The enemy does not want to see marriages thriving. It does not matter how long you’ve been together or how picture perfect your love story is, we must always recognize that our marriage is not guaranteed to last forever and some seasons will likely require actively fighting for our spouse.
In 2016, our life was a breeze. Better that it had ever been. Our financial struggles seemed to be a thing of the past, we had a lot more time to spend as a family than we had in the past. What could go wrong? That’s where Satan got us. We were living on the mountain top and we didn’t notice how slippery and steep the slope was around us. We let our guard down and before we knew it, we had hit the lowest level of our lives.
Our marriage had crumbled faster than we could have ever imagined and we faced an unknown future. For the first time, I looked at my future and didn’t know if my husband would be in it. It was a terrifying place, a dark place, and a humbling place. Here’s where it gets tricky. I could tell you all the details of how we got through it and how we got from the place where divorce seemed imminent to this place of beauty and strength. But most likely, the details of our story won’t even be relevant to yours because our lives are all so unique.
So here are some basic concepts that I believe made all the difference:
1) Focus more on yourself than your spouse. Wait! What!? At first glance, this seems backward right!? But here’s what I mean. If you are facing are hard time in your marriage, or possibly you are already separated, it’s easy and natural to think about all of things we wish would change in our spouse. Perhaps it really was their blatant mistakes that cause this season of pain and hardship. Maybe it was addiction, infidelity, or dishonesty that has caused this season. In those situations, we can clearly see our spouses flaws, and it’s easy to blame them for our current reality. But the truth is, one person is never entirely to blame.
While Jere and I were going through this, I was constantly being reminded that I needed to look within myself. It made me angry at first, because I felt justified in my reasons for being mad at him. But God quickly reminded me that His grace covers all of us. And that I was far from blameless. Over the course of a few months, I watched as God painfully peeled back layer after layer of my ugly exterior that I was oblivious to. I felt vulnerable at first and it wasn’t always pleasant. But it was necessary.
So instead of focusing on your spouse’s flaws, I challenge you to focus on your own. Ask God to reveal any areas that need to improve in your own life.
2) Realign your Priorities. This one was huge for me. I was so blind to this area of my life. I never took the time to evaluate how I spent my time. Was I truly putting my marriage first? No. Maybe you are in the same situation. Life gets busy and its so easy to justify our actions. I was a mom with 2 small kids, running businesses from home. So after the kids were in bed, I had work to get done. I may have been sitting next to my husband, but he was not the thing on my mind. I was too concerned with responding to my clients to give him the attention he deserved. And he did the same, so I felt justified. Maybe it’s not work for you. Maybe it’s browsing social media or catching up on all your favorite TV shows. And I’m not saying those things aren’t permissible. But they must not come before our marriages. Quality time with our spouse is more important than anything else. If we aren’t spending intentional time together, our marriages won’t be able to thrive. So I challenge you to evaluate how you spend your time. Are there things that you need to push to the back burner to give you more time to focus on your marriage. And remember, this is not an excuse to yell at your spouse for their misplaced priorities. It’s about fixing your own and leading by example.
3. Pray for Your Spouse. This may seem obvious, but are you really doing it? I know I wasn’t praying like I should have been. I prayed when I was frustrated with him. “Lord, change this.” Or “Lord, help him.” But I wasn’t actively praying like a wife should be. In fact, my prayer life has improved in every area since I made the choice to consciously pray for my spouse every day.
I recognize that these principles aren’t necessarily mind-blowing and you’ve probably done them all before. But they are also easy things to forget to do. Sometimes we need reminded of things often to make them reality in our lives.
I also recognize that this is not a complete list. I’m not promising that if you do these three things, and only these three things that your marriage will turn around overnight. I can’t even promise that it will ever turn around. Marriages only work when both parties want them to work. But I can promise that by doing these things, you will grow closer to Christ and that He will work ALL things for good. Trust Him no matter what your reality looks like today.
Lastly, I’ve included a list of resources that I used to help me through this season. If you want more info on any of these, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly speak with you in more detail.
Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. This book was really pivotal in my personal growth. The last chapter of the book makes you ask the question “What is it like to do life with me?” It was truly the beginning of me recognizing my personal role in our current situation.
And I’ve said it before, but journaling was huge for me! And I still do it every day (or almost every day)! See my previous blog post for links to some cute and inexpensive journals.
And lastly, make sure you seek out wise, godly counsel. I am so thankful that Jere and I both had wonderful people to help guide us through this time. It was instrumental in our story. I’m convinced wouldn’t be where we are today without the help and prayers of the loving couple who took us in and willingly met with us individually to help us chart through this difficult time. And that wise counsel should continue, not just be in your hard seasons.
Remember that no marriage is or ever will be perfect. But it’s worth fighting for!!! Fight well my friends!