When life arrived, threatening our marriage , we were unable to stand. We had no foundation from the beginning. No deep well of love to draw from during the parched times of life. No sweet memories of moments spent together enjoying the mere presence of one another. No tools needed to deal with issues greater than our abilities. We tried. Oh how we tried. But at the end of it all we ended up empty. Mercifully Abba intervened. He restored the years of drought with a year of sweet refreshment.
There is nothing like falling in love. The wonder of the unknown. The sweet moments of connection. The accidental brushing of hands. The agony of being apart for a few hours and the joy when he returns. The emotions of the experience are addicting — like a drug. It feels like it could last forever. Then one day, things feel different. Not as connected. The feelings fizzle as misunderstandings remind me that sometimes love is not easy. These are days love seems like a fairy tale. When doubt creeps in and questions double. When fear says, “See. No one ever changes.” When love becomes not something I say, feel or experience but a deliberate choice I make. These are the days when loving a spouse is hard.
I’m in the midst of learning how to deal with conflict the healthy way. I cannot fight this man, a man I love deeply. I have to allow him room to change and grow. I cannot stubbornly stand here and say, “It’s my way or the highway.” Loving him sometimes means that what I want is not important. I want him to be who he is and that means I must let go of who he has been and the idea of who I wanted him to be. This is real life, real faith, right now.
Have you discovered that loving your spouse is just not that easy…some days it’s hard…some days you just want to quit because it hurts so much? You are not alone.
Pray for your spouse. When I prayed for my husband it was usually “Please help him have a good day. Keep him safe. Help him to see the things that are causing us issues. Help him see how much we love him. Let him find you.” It was a good prayer. But, honestly, I was really asking Abba to fix what was wrong with my husband so MY life was easier. I was selfishly praying for me. I discovered that praying for him requires I spend more time asking Abba to change me and more time blessing my husband. I speak words of blessing. Protection. Love. Peace. I speak the things he does that I’m grateful for. I speak how much I love him. IF, and only if, he has asked me to pray for a specific issue will I pray for a change. Even then, I leave it up to Abba to decide how that looks. Praying this way takes the focus off me.
Keep talking. When I’m hurt the first thing I do is quit talking. It seems wise, as I won’t say something I’ll have to apologize for later. However, I’ve learned in the last year it’s selfish and manipulative. Misunderstanding or conflict is not the time to quit…it’s time to keep moving forward. We’ve been conversing about an issue for a couple of weeks. I’ve felt hurt a few times. I want to hide, because I am quite melodramatic, but I don’t. I keep engaged and talking about the issue. Still no resolution. We may eventually agree to disagree, but we are not running away from one another.
Take time-outs. When my daughter was young I used time-outs. Not as a punishment but as a way to stop a behavior that would lead to an explosion. As an adult I make myself take a time-out. Especially when I’m overwhelmed and my anxiety is raging. I have learned to say, “I just need a break.” I’m learning to say it with a little more kindness and a little less hostility. But honestly, when in a difficult situation, a time-out may be the best thing for everyone.
Seek sound advise. We have a lot of issues that work against us, even after all the changes. We now have THREE teenagers. I still have issues from sexual abuse and my Fundamental Pentecostal upbringing. The husband has issues. Even our dog has issues. Reality is the two people who married in 1993 are not the same two people married in 2015. Sometimes we just have to throw our hands in the air and say, “HELP.”
There are marriages that face the presence of adultery, pornography, drug and alcohol addiction or abuse. I don’t believe anyone is ever really prepared to deal with those type of issues. Seeking counseling, psychiatric or medical help is not weakness or a sign of failure. It does not show a lack of faith or a belief that God is not enough. It’s merely recognizing that the problem is more than one can handle.
Love from a distance. When dealing with matters of abuse, addiction or infidelity sometimes the most loving thing is to put distance between the both of you. Sometimes the only answer is to give the other space to learn to love themselves first, before they can love someone else. It’s the most painful experience but it may be the very thing that saves them from themselves. I don’t believe the husband wrote the email last year without a pit in his stomach. He knew that he no longer could live the way we were living. He knew he couldn’t fix me… or us. He knew that Patti Smith and Don Henley were right, sometimes love just ain’t enough.
The other day in the midst of a particular difficult situation the husband made an interesting comment. “The problem is now you care about me.” Now that we actually DO love one another, we can’t settle for the past ways of relating. So, we keep working on our marriage and ourselves. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. Because love never gives up.