“Marriage is hard.” We hear it all the time. But it’s also good. And the two – good and hard – can’t be separated. Even so, when we’re walking through hard stuff in our marriages, the good can be hard to see and we need to address the hard. Y’all know my heart is for marriages and I’m thankful for this guest post from Brittany.
A few years ago, I found myself weeping in the corner of my bathroom. I had locked the door and turned the shower on so my children couldn’t hear me while I cried out to God wondering why this whole marriage thing was the complete opposite that I imagined it to be.
You see, I had done all the “right” things and was confused how I got here. I fell in love with a man who loved the Lord. We invited godly counsel to speak into our relationship. We served at a local church together. We were members of a small group at church and had been on countless missions trips. And still, we found ourselves in a very difficult marriage.
I sat in our bathroom weeping, wondering what went wrong and why God would allow this type of suffering into our lives when we had done all the right things. Unknowingly I bought the lie that my good works would protect me from hardship. I took the principles of wisdom and made them promises and I was angry that my dream life had come up empty.
The truth is, our marriage wasn’t just hard; it felt broken beyond repair.
Life looks differently now.
Our marriage is healthy and thriving, and although it’s not always easy we can look back and see how the Lord has used that season for our good and His glory. And today I wanted to share a few things that helped me during that difficult season with the hope that you’ll (a) know you’re not alone and that (b) believe that there is always hope.
- Seek godly counsel.
I will say this until the day I die, but God used another man to save our marriage. His name is Brad, and he’s the world’s best Christian Counselor. (Now, just imagine my flair for dramatics in a counseling session and you get a pretty accurate picture of our sessions).
In all seriousness, talking to a godly third party was one of the wisest decisions we have ever made. His ability to assess, identify, and then prescribe solutions was profoundly beneficial. He helped us see that brokenness wasn’t something to be afraid of because we serve a God who is in the business of redeeming broken things. He taught us how to not hide our hardships, but rather live them out vulnerably in the context of community. And as a result, we were able to fight through the pain of a difficult marriage and allow Christ to restore what had been previously broken.
If you find yourself stuck in a hard marriage and aren’t sure where to go, let me urge you to run to godly counsel. Find a pastor, a church leader, or a licensed counselor to talk to; it could be the very thing that saves your marriage.
- Don’t compare your marriage to others.
In a world where it is so easy to see everyday glimpses into other friends’ and acquaintances’ lives, it is so important that we keep our eyes looking upward not side to side. We all know that social media is a quick glimpse at each others’ happiest moments. We get the highlight reels of other marriages without witnessing the low points. And even though we know this, our hearts can still lean towards comparison.
I will be the first to admit that when my marriage got hard I had to get off of social media for a season. Every time I logged on, my heart would envy other families, other marriages, other lives. I looked at the cute couples on date nights and I would either get incredibly sad, angry, or disappointed in my current circumstances.
If you find social media contributing to dissatisfaction in your marriage, perhaps a break would give you the freedom to focus on what the Lord has given you and the strength to fight for what is yours.
- Love your closest neighbor.
I used to think that the commandment to love our neighbors excluded family. It wasn’t an intentional thought process, rather I just always assumed that in order love our neighbors I needed to leave my home. I remember sitting across from a close friend, talking about how wounded I was in our marriage when she encouraged me to love husband like Christ had called us to love our neighbor.
Huh? I cocked my head sideways and gave her a funny look as she continued to explain. “In this difficult season, God has called you to love your closest neighbor, your husband. And what has God said about loving our neighbors?”
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31, ESV
Listen, love doesn’t look like being a doormat. It doesn’t look like not telling the truth for fear of more conflict. It doesn’t mean that you give your spouse whatever they want. No, Love speaks the truth at all times. It puts the other person’s needs above our own. It points us to the author of all Love, showing us that the pictures of marriage and parenting are not ultimate but He is. Love pushes us to rest in the knowledge that although we will fail our spouses this side of glory, we serve a God that will NEVER fail us.
It’s easy to go volunteer with our churches for a few hours on a weekend loving our neighbors, but it’s hard work to do the daily dying to yourself for the neighbors inside your home. If you’re having a hard time looking at your spouse and seeing anything but a person who has disappointed you, perhaps trying to look at them through the lens of a neighbor will help. It was a shift in the way I looked at my husband and a changing point for our marriage.
- Remember that you’re not alone and that conflict isn’t always a bad thing.
It can feel lonely when your marriage feels like it’s struggling, but I am here to tell you that you’re not alone. Every marriage goes through difficult seasons and although most of us stay silent about it, I want you to know that just because your marriage is hard does not mean it’s forever broken.
The absence of conflict in a marriage is NOT what makes a relationship good or strong; rather conflict gives us the opportunity to dish out grace and forgiveness like it’s going out of style, and to learn how to receive it as well. A good marriage doesn’t avoid conflict, rather it pursues restoration in the middle of it. A good marriage seeks out what works for your family (not others) all the while honoring and reflecting a redemptive God.
You don’t have to have a perfect marriage to have a good one. Just because your marriage is hard, doesn’t mean it’s over. And even when the world says there’s no way you’re going to make it out together, I’m praying you’ll remember that we serve a God who is in the business of redeeming all things. And if He’s big enough to redeem all of mankind, He’s big enough to work a miracle in your marriage.
Marriage is hard work, but it’s figuring out how to get through those hard seasons and to fight for each other that gives you the foundation for a lifetime.
For those of you who have been or currently are in a difficult season in your marriage, what has been a blessing to you? What other things have you found helpful?
Cheering you on,
Brittany is a writer and an advocate for adoption. She is a graduate from Cedarville University with a MA in Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a MA in Teaching from North Carolina State University. She writes on faith and family over at www.brittanynsalmon.com and when she’s not writing, she enjoys time with her husband, three kids and dog. You can connect with Brittany on twitter and instagram.