I have met a few people who think marriage is easy. But those conversations are rare. Count-on-one-hand-and-still-have-fingers-left rare.
Most people I meet who are willing to get vulnerable reveal something that tends to be more universal than unique — marriage is hard. Worth it, yes. Rich with possibilities, yes. Designed by the Creator of the universe, yes. But easy? Uh. No.
Kerry and I have been in many a hard seasons in our marriage. Certainly not total nuclear destruction, but difficult and discouraging and “in-the-trenches” kind of hard. We have persevered, learned, and because of that, coming out of it more aware, and — in many ways — deeper in love.
For that I am humbly and eternally grateful.
Some things — ok, many things — if they are not destroyed by fire, are refined. No place is this more true than marriage. If we truly seek His Holiness first in our marriages then during those amazingly “in-the-trenches” times is when we will see His greatest work in our marriages. The refining heat is removing the dross, the impurities of selfishness out of our marriage.
In this journey, I would like to propose three things for you to ponder:
1. DO THE HARD THINGS OF LIFE DRAW YOU TOGETHER OR DRIVE YOU APART?
It really isn’t a question of if life is going to throw you curveballs. It’s only a matter of when. And sometimes it’s not even curveballs. Sometimes it’s just life. Whiney kids. Dwindling bank accounts. Rising expenses. Fast-growing lawns. Messy bathrooms. Demanding jobs. Endless laundry. Rogue calendars. You. Get. The. Point.
Exhausting. In the hard things we’ve navigated lately, I’m increasingly aware of how better Kerry and I do when the messiness doesn’t derail us. I wish I could say we are never derailed, retreating to our own corners and hiding in the darkness. But we are growing in our ability to stand back and take note and be wise in the face of adversity.
So pay close attention to what happens when life gets messy and hard, thus making your marriage messy and hard. Communicate ALL-THE-TIME!! Allow your spouse to know what is the tipping grain of sand or even the activity that causes you to crumble.
Let me ask you this: Can you find a way to inch toward each other instead of run in opposite directions?
2. ARE YOU WILLING TO PUT IN THE EXTRA EFFORT TO FIGHT FOR YOU MARRIAGE?
When marriage is cruising along, it’s effortless to take things for granted. But when emotions are frazzled and miscommunication is staking ground in our hearts and home, our self-preservation mode (fueled by lies from Satan) compels us to do only the bare minimum…We are now in “Survival Mode!” Go through the motions. Be civil, but not humble. Be present, but not really available.
Well, let me be completely frank with you that is a crappy approach to building anything that will endure. Instead of building a foundation of trust and oneness with your spouse, you are building a house of cards. Amazing to watch as they very carefully balance, but the first sign of trouble and it will collapse down upon itself.
Sometimes, we have to resist our natural tendency to coast. I’ve long believed that if unhealthy patterns (which are usually unintentional) go on long enough, they will become your normal. Who wants an unhealthy normal? Not. Me. Not Kerry. Do you?
Putting in the extra effort — however that looks in your situation — is an intentional healthy God-honoring choice. Again, you are seeking His Will, His Holiness first to establish a Christ-Centered foundation. And more often than not, it’s hard to do. Sorry. That’s the truth. But on the other side of continually choosing to fight for your marriage, what you’ll likely end up with is a marriage — a strong covenant commitment that is God honoring.
3. WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR SEXUAL INTIMACY IN A HARD SEASON?
I love sex. I mean, really love it. And while all the physical pleasure aspects are awesome (hallelujah), I also am deeply turned on by the emotional connection to the woman I married when we make love. And I know what that connection does to our relationship — how it helps us extend grace. And who doesn’t need more grace during a hard season of marriage? I know it comes as no surprise, but discord and division are not stellar aphrodisiacs. In fact, discord and division are horrible bedfellows to endearment and passion. So what do you do in a hard season?
I know that some serious marriage problems are full of excruciating wounds. Sexual intimacy takes time to restore. If you are in one of those places (such as trying to heal from adultery or other deep betrayal), I encourage you to work with a Biblical Marriage Counselor. And I encourage you to not take sex off the table indefinitely. I believe, though, for most couples in run-of-the-mill hard seasons of marriage, sex still needs to be in the mix.
I know. I make it sound simple. Probably won’t be. But here’s the cold truth: Satan is already trying to sabotage your relationship. When you stop having sex — which neither of you can biblically go get elsewhere — you unwittingly become a partner in Satan’s schemes. You compound problems rather than relieve them.
MY LAST PIECE OF WISDOM? PRAY FOR YOUR MARRIAGE.
I didn’t save it for last because it’s least important. I saved it for last because it is most important and I want you to remember it. God will always be in the business of meeting you in your deepest heartache. Yes, He already knows what is going on in your marriage. But He still longs for you to come to Him — raw and real — and talk to Him about it.
Marriage is easy. Said no one ever. Yup, still can count it on one hand.