Sunday, September 7, 2008

When Marriage Disappoints: A Follow Up

There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. It's easy to look at people around us and think they've got it all together - they hold hands, seem to be attentive, have people into their home...I could go on. But what happens behind closed doors, when the hand holding stops and the guests go home? The fact is, we just don't know. Though many couples look perfect there can be a storm brewing below the surface that could take the whole marriage down should the tides change.

When I wrote "Since When Are Men Stupid? (Confessions of a Not-So-Trophy Wife)" , I knew it would create discussion. What I didn't realize is that it would stir up serious pain. So far we're up to 16 comments with over 300 people having read the post to this point. So there are a few personal things I'd like to clarify and make some recommendations.

Know that the person writing to you is someone who has been there, done that. Though I am ashamed to admit it, there was a time I seriously contemplated divorce. The longer I contemplated it the worse my attitude became, and the more selfish I became. With my own hands I fed the beast of spite one minute, then ran to the corner to sharpen my weapons of hurt and insult the next. It's embarrassing to admit but it must be said: I was no husband's dream come true.

It took a craptastical amount of work to clean up the mess that we called our marriage. Admittedly, most of it was of my own doing, but we both fed the beast at times. We still struggle with those same habit patterns today, but there's one big difference: I know this is the marriage God wants for me, but it's up to me to be responsible for my attitude and actions.

If you have been walked on by a spouse and you read these words I'm sure they sting like pouring alcohol on a fresh wound. The compassion I carry in my heart for you is immense, and it comes from knowing what it's like to be the spouse that created havoc in her home. You may be wondering what happened to make me change the way I treated Dan. One word: conviction.

Dan could not do that for me.

The church could not do that for me.

Friends could not do that for me.

God would not let me go. I fought Him. I told Him to leave. I was always angry. But one day it was all too much and I couldn't take it anymore - being separated from God's will, that is.

Whatever your situation know that God is at work, even if you can't see it. Know it. Thank Him for it. You are not alone. God knows your pain better than you do. He knows your spouse better than you do. He knows what will make your marriage better.

In my limited ability to give advice I would suggest you seek out one or more of the following:

1) Find Biblically based Christian counseling. Even if your spouse refuses to go you can still go by yourself. You need someone to talk to who has seen the best and worst of marriage. Trust me, there is nothing you can tell a good Christian counselor that will shock him or her. Yes, it will be painful to recount your story but it's better to do it now instead of putting it off. Ask your counselor for strategies to unify you and your spouse. If your church does not offer a counseling program or if it's too close for comfort, try other congregations in your area.

2) Tell someone with a strong marriage about your struggle. Maybe there is an older couple in your church who has a strong marriage. Chances are there marriage is strong because they've gone through some trenches together. Again, it won't be easy to share your junk but it's better to do it now before things get worse.

3) Read Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, or even better get the DVDs. This guy is straight forward and speaks marriage in a way that both men and women love what he has to say. He is insanely practical. I recommend the DVDs because your spouse may check out on reading a book but might be more willing to watch a DVD. I can't say enough about how powerful this marriage training is - Dan and I loved it. We recommend it to everyone. Click here to link to amazon.com for a review. Also, two insanely fabulous books, "For Women Only" and "For Men Only", are the best little marriage books you've probably never read. Shockingly eye-opening. Click here to jaunt over to Amazon and check them out, too. If you can't afford them, try your church or local library. These are 3 books that you will devour. (And as a side note, don't buy these books for your spouse and say, "Here. You need this." Buy it for yourself. You work on you, let God be God to your spouse.) If you can recommend other books please leave a comment.

4) Pray. It cannot be overstated the power of prayer. A hard prayer to pray is, "God help me to understand my spouse before I ask you to help him/her understand me." HARD PRAYER. But these things don't come easy and they are worth fighting for so pray.

5) Study God's Word. Join a Bible study, an accountability group, or read alone. When you are growing in Christ God will change you, regardless of your spouse. Let God's Word permeate your being and see what happens.

For now this is the best advice I can give. Something else you may want to keep in mind is God's plan for your life and marriage. It is completely possible to overcome any circumstances in Christ. How will God use you and your spouse in the future to be real with other struggling couples? It's possible, because all things are possible in Christ. That's right - ALL THINGS.

Whether you're on a high note in your marriage or swimming up stream I think there are two question every one of us can answer:

The worst thing you can do in a marriage is..... -OR- The best thing I've learned about making marriage work is.....

OK, I'll go first. "The worst thing you can do to your marriage is seperate yourself from God." & "The best thing I've learned about making marriage work is to remind myself that my spouse is not my worst enemy. Satan is."

Now it's your turn. I'm anxious to read what you have to say!

p.s. It is essential that I point out that I am not addressing situations where physical abuse of any kind is involved. In such cases, don't be a hero. Get help now. (Special thanks to Andrea who reminded me of this point.) Here's an article from "Today's Christian Woman" that speaks to this issue.

11 comments:

Andrea said...

While it is important to remember all marriages have their ups and downs, if a partner is violent, that will not change. Counseling for the victim, will not change what the batterer does. The only way to make that a better relationship, is to end the relationship. There is never an excuse for domestic violence. God does not want you to be hurt. If you need help, visit this website - http://www.ncadv.org/

daphne said...

I also recommended Love & Respect on my blog!! LOVE that guy (and his wife even though she is not as funny as him, bless her heart!).
Best thing to do is forgive your spouse and worst thing to do is expect your spouse to meet needs and desires only God can meet. Sets ya both up to fail. Grace & Peace, daphne

Stacy from Louisville said...

Andrea,
Your wisdom is well heeded. I added a note to the original post. Way to reach out.

Stacy

Alison said...

Another hard prayer is "God, please do whatever it takes to get my spouse reconciled to you. Help me understand that you will take care of him, and I need to learn more about Your will for my life in the meantime." Very hard when you feel unbelieveably helpless, and don't know if your spouse will ever choose the right path again.
Thanks for always keeping it real for us Stacy. As much as I love your sarcasm (it's my favorite form of communication), it's nice when you share your struggles as well. Gos has given you a great forum, and I appreciate that you are using it for Him.

The Hall Family said...

The book "His Needs, Her Needs" by Willard F. Harley is great.
Best thing: We each made a list of our top 5 needs in marriage. We review them from time to time, but for the most part, we try to put the other person's needs before our own. Then, we each always feel like we are being taken care of. It shows how much we love each other and sometimes becomes a game to see who can outdo who.
Worst thing: Expecting my spouse to read my mind and despising him for not
We also have our 5 rules for fighting that have worked wonders.
1) NEVER hang up on the other person if having a fight over the phone.
2) Do not use the words ALWAYS and NEVER ("You always..." or "You never...")
3) Don't bring spouse's family into the fight. You can bash your own family, but you cross the line when you put down their family
4) Truely listen to what your spouse is saying. Don't be formulating your response while they are speaking.
5) Don't be afraid to say "I was wrong." It's easier to say "You were right" but admitting you were wrong is harder.

Love the blog!! The humor is great, but the serious moments hit home, too.

mj said...

The best thing I learned about how to make marriage work is that even my husbands flaws are part of the grand package that is God's perfect gift to me. I had read enough marriage books to know that marriage wasn't meant to make me happy...but I kind of forgot that when iron sharpens iron (as our imperfections rubbing against each other serves to do) it really doesn't feel good, but does conform us both more to the image and character of Christ. Even the things about him that make me nutty are things that God can work to my good by growing patience, grace, forgiveness and trust in me. And getting rid of selfishness, pride, and self-righteousness. Fun times!

Miss Hannah said...

My husband and I are coming up on our third anniversary this November, so I am by no means an expert, but ...
The worst thing you can do in a marriage is to build walls and shut out your spouse.
The best thing I've learned about making marriage work is to understand that your spouse was not designed to approach situations the same way you do and to allow a cushion of grace to surround conflicts that come out of those different ways of thinking.

We LOVED Love and Respect. Another book that broadened my understanding of why my husband and I don't look at things the same way was 52 Fights: A Newlywed's Confession. Because your readership is primarily Christian, I feel the need to include a disclaimer: It is not a "Christian" book. However, it is a hilarious and insightful read and was written by a woman as she worked through her first year of marriage, determining what it means to be a wife, how to solve conflict, how to leave and cleave, etc.

fb said...

Having been married well over 30 years now - we still struggle at times. My answer is that the rib God took from Adam was a very important one - :). Seriously for me the worst is holding on to past wrongs - and at times enjoying my right to do so. The best is learning to totally rely on God in all areas of my marriage. Don't know if I will ever accomplish that......

Gabriele said...

When I was twelve my parents went through a miserable struggle in their marriage. I was terrified they were going to get divorced.
Many years later, my mother explained that during that time she started praying that God would grant her True love for my father. Eventually, she began to have peace in knowing that she was in God's will by loving and respecting her husband. After a while, she began praying that my father would also have True love for her.

Now, after 39 years of marriage, people tell them all the time that they seem like newlyweds. Mom and Dad still work hard at their marriage and still have their fights. But at the end of the day, they still have True love for one another.

It's something that I pray for my future husband and me to have (whenever God brings him to me) someday.

Thanks for sharing more of your heart!

Kate (17) said...

For teens out there... "For Young Women Only"

Oh yesss!!!

MO said...

The best thing I've learned about making marriage work is saying, "I was wrong" is not as hard to say as we like to think!

The best book I read for my marriage was,Dr. James Dobson's "Bringing Up Boys". I don't know how much it's helped me with my three sons, but I so understand my husband better after reading that book!