When You Think It's Dying
I can remember with vivid detail the day Paul came home from a birthday party and said “What do we do if I wasn’t supposed to marry you? What if I’m supposed to be with someone else?” The way he said it, I knew he had someone in mind, and I knew exactly who that someone was.
I was standing at the kitchen sink, finishing dishes, and I could see my world – this life we had built together – begin to crash down around me. And after taking a deep breath, I took off my wife hat, put on my best friend hat, leaned against the counter and talked him through the reasons why that certain someone was exactly the wrong someone for him. The fun and the flirting wouldn’t, couldn’t, last, and in the moments when life throws a curveball and you need a partner more than a lover, they would find themselves on opposite sides of the equation, bickering and growing bitter. I knew my man, and I knew all of this to be true. And he knew me, and trusted in that “my best friend will always have my back” kind of way that I was speaking the truth to him. God was gracious to grant us that kind of friendship from the beginning, and it carried us through. Six years later, we can hardly remember who those kids were, or how we could possibly ever not be together. Some of the memories of specific conversations linger, but the pain and the hurt are gone, replaced with trust and intimacy. And I know we were blessed… even in our dumbest, most selfish moments. God held us together with a divine glue I couldn’t understand at the time. Even when one of us threw our hands up and wasn’t willing to proactively work on things, or we were numbed with pain and regret, that cord of three strands wasn’t easily broken.
But what about when it feels like it’s been so long since your spouse even wanted to try to work on things? What happens when the pain builds up faster than the forgiveness can heal the wounds? When it seems like it’s all just too hard? Every marriage is different, and there are no hard and fast rules for how to take a marriage from broken to whole, but there are some guiding principles that can help bring some light to the dark.
You can’t fix your marriage. So stop trying to. That feels counterintuitive, I know, but it’s true. You didn’t create your marriage, you don’t hold it together, and therefore you can’t fix it. You may have popped the question, or planned a wedding, or done the day in and day out activities of being married, but Scripture is pretty clear that marriage is God’s creation, and He is the one that ties two souls together and sustains them. When things feel rocky we tend to scramble, frantically trying to do and say all the right things, and avoid that heated topic, or snore more quietly, or wear that dress he likes all the time, or, or, or… but when you realize that the husband and wife are just players in God’s show, it takes so much of the pressure off. That’s not to say that your actions don’t have an effect on your marriage - they do. It’s important to speak honestly and kindly, to value purity and integrity, but when pain and struggle are the bread and butter of your relationship there is no one thing you can do to put your relationship back together. There may be steps to take, good habits to reinforce, apologies to be made. But ultimately, Jesus will bring the healing, Jesus will provide the grace, Jesus will restore what’s broken. So quit striving, and seek HIM.
Get Right with Jesus
I know, I sort of jumped the gun and mentioned this step in my last point. But it’s just that important. It’s part of the human condition to forget that our actions and words stem from the content (and state) of our hearts. We will look for action steps before we turn to prayer. However, when pain and brokenness are present, sin has occurred. It may be your sin, or your spouses; or (gulp) your sin might be the way you responded to your spouse’s sin. Regardless, all that needs poured out to Jesus. Spill your heart to Him, let Him cleanse you. And then ask Him what the next step is.
Pray for Your Spouse and Marriage
You might just find out that the next step to take is to pray for your marriage. It’s a little cliche, sure. But it’s where all the power is. And i don’t mean for you to offer up generic little cries for help, that are soaked in prefaces and bargains. “Jesus, please, if you see fit, bless my marriage, and if you think it would be okay, could you help my husband to stop cheating on me and help me control my temper, and I’ll never drink diet coke again. Or at least for a week.” Start by believing that Jesus WANTS to bless your marriage and Jesus WANTS your husband to stop cheating and He WANTS you to control your temper. So pray those things into existence. Speak against the sin and the enemy; call it out and pray blessing and restoration. From a place of humility, confess your and your spouse’s sins and ask for Jesus to heal hearts. Admit that you can’t fix this thing, and ask Him to do so. And don’t stop, ever. Keep praying, keep petitioning heaven.
Have you ever found a half empty bag of potatoes in your cupboard you forgot was there? They’ve been covered in plastic and shoved back in a dark corner for weeks, maybe months, and they have turned soft, and icky, and are dripping some sort of brown goo all over the place. Have that nasty image in mind? That is exactly what happens to marriages that are left hurting and broken in secret. I know it’s not customary to “air our dirty laundry” in public. We are afraid what people might think, or say. But I typically find that honesty invites vulnerability. Find one person (at least) that you can confide in, and tell them everything. Let them pray for you and be on call for when you need reminded that Jesus is and always will be in the business of creating life from dead things.
Seek Friendship over Romance
I’m a Hallmark-movie-loving, roses-and-glitter-and-candle-light-dinner romantic at heart. Honestly, I think Jesus is, too. He created us for that (men and women alike). But like I learned from a corny Lifetime movie, “romance is just friendship on fire.” Romance is the outpouring of a friendship that is deep and intimate and progressing to the next level. When the friendship starts to die, and we try to force the romance “to just feel like ‘us’ again,” one of two things will happen: 1) one of you will feel the falseness of it all and it will create more distance between you, or 2) you will rely on that fuzzy feeling to carry you instead of putting in the effort that healing takes, and you will find yourself in a worse place that before, confused about how you got there. So go back to when you were first friends. What did you like to do together? What did you talk about? What made you laugh? Revisit some of those things and see if the friendship doesn’t begin to rekindle. It might just be the stress relief you need to lay a foundation on which your can marriage be rebuilt.
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