By Lori Freeland, Crosswalk.com
Marriage is supposed to be forever. It’s also supposed to be a highlight in our lives.
Just look at the energy, excitement, and angst that goes into planning a wedding. Too bad we don’t put the same effort into planning the actual marriage.
Our lives might be different if we really thought about why we were getting married, who we were marrying, and how we could learn to be a good spouse. While that kind of serious reflection might break a few engagements, it might also save a lot of heartache.
But most of us, even if we’re questioning our choice of life partner, decide to march through our doubts… all the way down the aisle and straight past “I do.” And then we’re stuck. Or at least we feel that way.
And once the wedding-day thrills end, we’re left with unmet expectations, disappointment, or that sinking feeling that prompts us to ask, “Is this how it’s going to be the rest of my life?” Been there. Done that.
I’m the poster girl for getting married too young (just turned 21 and still in college) and for all the wrong reasons.
Daddy issues? Check.
Parents divorcing? Check.
Life as you know it crumbling around you? Check.
Running ahead and ignoring God’s plans? Check.
Fear of being alone? Check.
Desperate for a human savior? Double check.
Your reasons may be different. It doesn’t really matter why you got married. What matters is that you did.
You made a commitment to do life together. So what happens when you wake up in the morning—or week or month or year—after the big day wondering if you made the wrong choice? Or worse, knowing for sure you did.
You don’t have to stay stuck, and you don’t have to file for divorce. It doesn’t have to be either/or.
Thankfully, we also don’t have to figure it out alone. God promised to walk alongside us always. “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
He’s in your corner, and He wants to bless your marriage no matter how you got there. He also wants you to be safe, and that overrides any vows you’ve made in front of Him or anyone else. If you find yourself in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, please seek help. That’s not what this article is about.
If that’s not your story, there are ways to honor your commitment and make your marriage work. People can change. Relationships can change. With God, the impossible becomes possible. “... with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
5 Things God Can Do
1. Show You Truth
Often we blame the other person for letting us down, not being who we married, or forgetting to put us first. While that might be valid, it also might not be the complete picture.
We need to ask ourselves, “What kind of spouse am I? Have I let my husband or wife down? Am I the person my spouse thought he or she was marrying? Do I put him/her first?"
Sadly, when I do that, the answers aren’t always what I wish they were. Ask God to show you the truth about your marriage and your part in it. Then trust him to change your spouse’s heart along with yours.
2. Change Hearts
There are times when no matter what we say or how we say it, we’re just not heard. This is when I pray for God to soften my husband’s heart toward me.
To open his eyes and ears to my needs. To motivate him to work on our relationship. But often he’s not the problem. I am.
There are days I’m angry or fed up, and I don’t want to play nice. I want to take out my frustrations on my husband. This is when I pray for God to change me. And that’s not always easy. But every time I do, things move toward the better.
3. Give You His Love for Your Spouse
God’s love is perfect. I cling to that.
In the moments—or hours or days—I can’t find the love my husband deserves from me, I can ask God to give me His love. And it’s so much better than mine.
God sees the big picture, not only of my marriage but of who my spouse is. He knows the way our husbands and wives need to be cared for and cherished. He created their love language. Trust Him to fill in the gaps when your own feelings are stretched too thin.
He’s helped me see my husband in a whole new light—that has nothing to do with me.
4. Protect Your Heart
Living in a rollercoaster relationship is tough. The daily ups and downs can drain us to exhaustion, whether they’re real or perceived.
Trying to fix a relationship or wanting more out of a marriage when the other person has lost interest or doesn’t see the need for things to change hurts. A lot. But God is a God of peace and reconciliation.
We don’t have to struggle to shield our hearts while we nurse the wounds our spouse creates. While God doesn’t always remove us from the battlefield, He is faithful to bring us peace in the midst of the pain.
Ask Him to put you in a bubble and keep your heart safe. When I do that, He’s never let me down. With His arms around us, those darts that are thrown don’t come with the same kind of sting.
5. Redeem a Relationship
God is the only One who can take a mess and mold it into a masterpiece.
I’ve lived through many messes, and not once has He let me down. But He won’t take over until we hand Him the broken pieces of ourselves and our marriage and let Him have His way.
He can bring compassion, forgiveness, understanding, and even love where this is none. Trust that He cares for you more than anyone else, even your spouse. And He cares for your spouse more than you do.
He’s rooting for your success as individuals and as a couple. God can take a wrong relationship and make it right.
No matter why you walked down the aisle, He wants to redeem your relationship.
You just have to let Him. Throw away your insecurities, your uncertainties, and your impossibilities, and watch Him work in your life. You might have to be patient. You’re in it for the long haul. But one day you’ll look back and realize all He’s done. I have.
5 Things You Can Do
1. Be Honest
I can’t tell you how many people have told me they knew they were making a mistake while they were walking down the aisle. That wasn’t me, but only because I couldn’t see past my need to hurry up and get married so my husband could “save” me and “fix” my problems.
Once I did realize that all I’d done was drag my old issues into a pile of new ones, I felt guilty. I didn’t want to admit I made a mistake, not even to myself.
So I kept it inside, creating the perfect environment for it to grow and fester. We can’t fix a problem without first acknowledging that there is a problem.
It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay. That your marriage isn’t okay.
You might not be ready to share your feelings with your spouse but give yourself permission to be honest with yourself and with God. The relief that follows will be worth it.
2. Get Off the Wheel
Most struggling marriages live in a cycle of “he said/he did, she said/she did.” Life will keep spinning in that vicious circle until one of you decides to break the cycle.
Someone has to give, and if you’re the spouse reading this article, it will most likely be you. Whether it’s fair or not.
Sorry. I really am.
Stepping off the wheel is hard. I had to throw myself off, and the landing was painful. But it got to the point that it had to stop, or my husband and I were going to lose our marriage, our family, and ourselves.
What does it mean to step off? You quit playing your part in the same old script. You refuse to engage in the negative stuff. You refuse to give back what you’re getting.
You stay quiet even when you want to scream. Even when you’re right.
One day, after the cycle has been broken, you’ll be able to discuss “hot” topics without jumping back on that wheel. But that’s not now.
3. Pray Before You Speak
Once you’ve pried yourself off the wheel of destruction, the hard work begins. The more we think we’re right, the more we’ve been hurt, the harder it is to walk away from a potential fight and keep quiet.
I honestly could not do this alone. I had to ask God to set off an alarm in my head that reminded me to back off and take it to Him in prayer when I really wanted to get in the ring and fight till the death. Our emotional death anyway.
If this is you, ask God to prod you when to swallow back the words and wounds you’re dying to inflict. The more you let God take over, the more you practice self-control, the more natural of a reaction praying before you speak will become.
4. Give Yourself Time
Your marriage isn’t going to be instantly renewed. Especially if you’ve been struggling for a while.
Get into the headspace that making your marriage into what God wants it to be will take time. Think long term. Prepare yourself that sometimes things get worse before they get better.
People don’t change overnight. And people have to change in order for a relationship to change.
5. Get Outside Help
Find a marriage counselor for both of you or a therapist for yourself if your spouse won’t go. Reach out to friends who embrace your worldview, who’ll pray for you and your marriage, and offer you Godly advice.
Choose people who will help you, not judge you, when things get hard. Look for things that make you happy while you’re struggling to make things work. Go on double dates with couples who are in marriages that work.
Think about places where you and your spouse can volunteer or hobbies you both like that give you a buffer but still allow you to be together.
Not every marriage story comes with a happily ever after. I’m grateful mine did, and that we just celebrated 30 years. But that didn’t happen until I gave my husband and myself over to God.
It took me close to 15 years, but when I finally did, what I discovered was that whether I married the “right” person or not wasn’t what mattered. I made a commitment. And God wanted to help me honor it.
He wanted the marriage to be a blessing to both my husband and to me.
First, I needed to get past my preconceived ideas and let Him redeem the relationship I’d chosen. The things that used to drive me crazy about my husband are things I’ve come to rely on.
His strengths complement my weaknesses and mine do the same for him. Because of our differences, we make a great team.
There will always be issues. That’s true for any relationship. But the more we work through them, the stronger we become as a couple and the better we learn to love each other.
Lori Freeland, an encourager at heart, believes everyone has a story to tell and wants to help make those stories as strong as possible. An author, editor, and writing coach, she holds a BA in psychology from The University of Wisconsin and currently lives in the Dallas area. She’s presented multiple workshops at conferences across the country, has experience in developmental and copy edits in various genres, and writes nonfiction, novels, and everything in between. When she’s not curled up with her husband drinking too much coffee and worrying about her kids, she loves to mess with the lives of the imaginary people living in her head. You can find her inspirational blog and writing tips at lafreeland.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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