When life gets messy, I’m generally more encouraged by catching glimpses of loveliness than I am by sharing war stories. That’s just me. One way this manifests in my life is in the content of my blog. It’s more sunshine and roses around there than not. And that’s how I like it. But sometimes after having written about the lighter side of marriage someone will leave a comment saying something to the effect of, “I wish it were like that for me and my husband.”
Oh, sweet sister, I feel you.
I’ve always felt called to keep the most intimate details of my marriage (good and bad) private, but anyone who’s ever been married for a while knows that you don’t get to your 11th anniversary without hitting a few bumps in the road. Dan and I have spent our fair share of time navigating love’s stormy seas and I’ve hated every last minute of it. There’s just something so isolating and lonely about being out of sync with your partner in love and life.
Over time, though, — thanks to the wise advice of trusted friends, gentle promptings from God, and more experience than I might have preferred — I’ve picked up a few tricks for making it through those times of hardship. I thought I’d share them with you in case one or two of them might help a fellow gal in the midst of trial…
- Reminisce – Sometimes when Dan and I are struggling, it helps me to remember a time when we were really in sync. I like to think about happy memories and look forward to a better day. I always have to be careful not to give in to despair, though. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never discover that couple again, but that’s just silly. Without fail, that lovesick couple returns and their love is even stronger for having weathered the latest storm together.
- Take the Long View – I try to remind myself that this struggle won’t last forever. Every marriage is comprised of a series of peaks and valleys. I find solace in the knowledge that this too shall pass.
- Pour Love into Him - Some marital problems come about as a result of outside pressure that one spouse is facing. It’s tempting to volunteer unsolicited advice and correction — especially if you find your husband taking some of his angst out on you. While we should never let ourselves become doormats, a little extra mercy goes a long way during times like these. After the storm has passed you two can sit down and talk it all out. For now, just show him that you love him, believe in him, and are there for him even when he is at his worst.
- Stay Humble - If it does feels like your husband is short changing you in the love department it can be easy to fall into a victim mentality and convince yourself that you’re the better spouse. Believe me, I know. No one throws a pity party with as much panache as I do. In most cases, though, it’s just not true. We all have ups and downs and each spouse is called at different times to do the heavy lifting. Think back to a time when you were struggling and your husband carried you. Be grateful that he was there for you during your time of need and remind yourself that we all experience periods of weakness.
- Find a Pressure Release Valve – Find someone – be it a spiritual guide, friend, or family member – in whom you can confide. Just one (or maybe two). As tempting as it is to share your heart with every friendly face that crosses your path, only bad things can come from exposing the intimate struggles of your marriage to the world at large. Going through hard times without a compassionate ear and wise guidance isn’t smart, either, though. If you are not able to release a little of the pressure you’re feeling in the company of a trusted friend, it will end up being directed at your husband which probably isn’t what your marriage needs right now.
- Take Care of Yourself – Marital struggles can be incredibly stressful. Be sure to take time to pamper yourself a bit. Buy yourself something you’ve been coveting, take a long hot bath, nap, have drinks with your girlfriends, and/or go outside, exercise, and breathe in the fresh air. If you’re not getting the support from your husband that you need right now, make sure that you take care of you.
- Pray – When your marriage is on the rocks, it’s easy to become resentful – especially if you feel like you’re an innocent victim. As hard as it may be, be sure to pray for your husband and marriage each and every day. When a person prays for someone who has offended him/her, it guards against resentment because it’s almost impossible to hate someone you’re praying for. And of course, whether or not you’re struggling with resentment, your prayers will go far in helping to heal your union.
- Do it for God – Ultimately, every act of wifely love is not just a gesture of kindness toward our husbands, it’s an act of service for God. He is the one who gave us our husbands and tasked us with caring for them. On those days when choosing to love your husband feels nearly impossible, set your eyes firmly on Him who gifted you with your marriage and love your husband for His sake.
I know that for those of you down in the trenches, you might read these words and think, “It’s just not that easy,” and you’d be right. It’s not as easy as following a little list of tips and waking up to find that everything is rosy. These crosses of marriage are hard, and painful, and they make you stretch yourself in ways that you might just as soon have not. The above suggestions won’t take that cross away. For me, they’ve simply helped to make carrying it a little less painful and a little more infused with hope. So, I share them in the hope that they might do the same for you. But even if they don’t, just remember: for every cross there is a resurrection and yours is coming, my sweet friend, whoever you may be.