Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I found out over the weekend that one of my dearest friends has left his wife of more than a dozen years.
As I learned about his affair and the battle that’s already begun over his two children, I sobbed. I didn’t know what to say, how to react, what to feel. I just knew that nothing about this situation is okay.
And I was reminded of a couple years ago when three of our couple friends (friend couples?) got divorced, all within a few months of each other. One couple went through a very public split that involved betrayal and infidelity; another couple lost a business, their house and eventually their love for each other. The third couple just stopped fighting and moved on.
I don’t say any of this lightly. Though I was close to each of the couples I’m describing, I’m well aware that I have no idea of the pain they’ve been through. All of my friends who have experienced divorce have hurt – they’ve hurt each other and they’ve been hurt themselves – and I know they still bear the scars of broken relationships, broken promises, broken hearts.
Thinking about this, facing this – it just makes me so sad. I don’t presume to know the details of anyone else’s relationship or what is right or wrong for anyone’s life. But I do know that each of my friends made promises to God and to each other, and those promises have been broken.
I’ve broken promises, too. Mark and I have been married for 10 years (woo-hoo!), but the majority of those years have been peppered with fights and frustrations and tears and tantrums and disappointments and – hmmm, I wish I could think of something else that started with a “d.” But you get the point.
We came into marriage with expectations and assumptions, and we each let the other down in every way possible. We’re going through a Bible study about marriage right now, and the chapter we just finished talks about focusing on the good things about your spouse and ignoring the bad things. Let’s just say we had that reversed for more than a few years.
Early in our marriage, we even considered whether or not we’d made a mistake by getting married in the first place. I said I didn’t know if it would work. I thought that maybe it wouldn’t.
I’m not sure how we made it through. Not without scars of our own, that’s for sure. But somehow, we kept putting one foot in front of the other. We kept coming home to each other. We kept trying to fight it out and figure it out. We talked, we cried (Okay, I cried. Mark handed me Kleenex.), we prayed, we screamed, we planned, we promised – and then we did it all over again.
Why did we stay together? Is it that we couldn’t stand breaking our promises for good? Were we afraid of disappointing our families? Were things really not that bad?
Well, no. They were bad. We’ve had, ahem, issues. But in the end, we still loved each other. (Even when we didn’t like each other at all.) And we realized that our problems didn’t make us want to escape the relationship. Instead, they just made us anxious – no, desperate – to fix what had gone wrong.
I am not judging my friends or anyone else who has ended a marriage. I know that it’s only by the grace of God that I have not been in their shoes. Those situations break my heart, but they also remind me of how blessed I am. I spent the afternoon after learning about my friend’s affair patting my husband on the arm, just making sure he knows that I’m still here, and that I’m glad he’s still here, too.
A few of my friends have written some beautiful posts recently about marriage, and I want to share them with you.
- Lisa-Jo wrote about expectations and the Prince Charming myth.
- Sarah wrote about her affair and how God redeemed her – and her marriage.
- And Alece shared the story of her husband’s betrayal and how she’s picking up the pieces.
I also want to hear from you, about your relationships, about your experience. How have you made it through tough times in your marriage?
'd' word – how about doldrums?
How have my husband and I made it through the tough times? God and God alone. Only by God's grace are we together today.
On a more practical level, we made it through an extremely difficult valley by saying "WHEN we get through this…" (never IF, even when we weren't sure how we'd make it).
I learned how to forgive (yes, even really big stuff) by coming to realize that it's not about how much my husband messed up but about knowing that God is in control. And I realized that I have a lot to be forgiven for, too.
I learned how much he needs my respect, and he learned how much I need his love (read Emerson Eggerich's 'Love and Respect' – I highly recommend it!).
And most of all, when we were estranged, we both individually figured out we needed to fix things with God first, be totally committed to Him. Once we got that on the right track, everything else fell together.
To the praise of His glorious grace!
Oh, I know that was long, but can I add one more thing?
The other thing that was huge in helping us make it through was choosing very carefully who we were going to listen to.
I was in a fog, barely able to function day to day because I never thought I'd be in a place where my marriage was so close to collapsing. But I made a conscious decision to only listen to friends who gave godly counsel, only read books based in Scripture, and only listen to music that focused on praise.
When your discernment is weak, it's so easy to follow the wrong advice. The world says "He owes you, girl! Get him back for what he's done!!!" That's not God's way.
I agree – forgiveness is HUGE. And sometimes you have to forgive one another for the little things, too…like deciding that you just don't want to fight about whatever it is you've been fighting about any more. That you don't want to bicker and that you just want to do whatever it is to be together and happy.
Congrats on 10 years!
It breaks my heart to watch friends go through divorce. My husband and I have been through struggles and hurts, but like you, we've realized that we love each other and we are willing to do what needs to be done to make our marriage works. For both of us, that's a lot of dying to self and a lot of forgiveness. We've also made a commitment to spend time in God's Word and to surround ourselves with people who love God and want the best for our marriage. God is so good and His grace covers so much. Thanks for tackling a tough topic! (Wow…that was a lot of t's)
i'm still learning mary! and actually i did some soul searching on sunday (before and after Bible study) and God showed me some things that need to change in ME and that i need to work on. and it all kinda revolved around what we talked about in our lessons. (i'm so glad we chose a marriage study. even if it is a little vague sometimes!)
anyway, great post. it's encouraging to hear that other couples have endured and made through problems and issues!
and it's princess bride, right? your title? all i have in my head now is the priest saying mawwiage…
One of the things that Matt and I do is once a month we sit down after the kids are (tied up) asleep, and ask each other these questions:
What can I do to support you better? What do you need from me? How can I be a better husband/wife?
I really like this because our needs change over time. One month I may need more time to write, or maybe I want to be more intimate. He may need me to give him alone time, or there may be a scary movie he wants to watch and he needs me out of the house so I won't be freaked out for a week. Whatever the needs are, we focus on those until the next month. This gives us both the opportunity to express things that are important to us that the other one may have missed (cough cough- like cleaning the house. That would be my tragic downfall) and reminds us that we speak entirely different love languages. One month, we both agreed that the romance was getting lost, so we challenged each other to do something romantic in the next 4 weeks. It was fantastic to know that something special was cooking and we didn't know when it would arrive! Little things like that make forgiveness easier, because we get it out into the open if there's an issue that needs addressing. :)
Chris and I have been married for almost 5 years. And those 5 years have been the most trying years of our lives. And I can honestly say there were plenty of times I wanted to throw in the towel and wave a white flag of surrender. BUT..when we got married we said that the word "divorce" was no longer in our vocabulary. It wasn't an option. And there were two things that kept me holding on: 1) I didn't have a biblical reason for leaving and 2)although I was unhappy, I couldn't imagin my life without him. So through A LOT of prayer and willpower, we are finally in a great place. No one ever said marriage was easy. In fact it's probably one of the hardest things ever. But it's a committment we made to God and to each other and that's worth fighting for.
This post could not have been written at a better time. I've been married 4 years ~ I thought by now things would be easier in a marriage, when in fact I think it is harder because the 'new' has worn off, honeymoon is over and the real work has begun. I understand all the 'd' words! Thanks for the encouragement and resources.
Oh, Mary – this post just gave me full body goosebumps! I just found out about a cousin who is getting divorced and I know *exactly* what you mean about wanting to hold onto your own spouse a little tighter in those moments of discovering that marriage is fragile and breaks for some people. Yes, yes, and yes, – but for the grace of God I too may have been in there shoes. It's so scary and sad at the same time. But like you, we have set our sights on Him because this marriage is more than a two person deal. We promised God we'd stay together and thank goodness He continues to hold us to it!
Big hugs, Lisa-Jo
PS: I was so wrapped up in your post I didn't even notice you'd linked me. Thanks.
Married 22 years and have had our fair share of 'issues' to grow through. That's the key… 'grow through them'. I just erased a long comment that I realized is actually a blog post in the making…so I'll dive deeper into this at a later date :) but bottom line that I want to share is that society says it is all about personal satisfaction when really it is all about personal sanctification. God works out His glory in our relationships when we stop looking for personal satisfaction and start looking at what work He is wanting to do in us both. (husband and wife)
EAsy…absolutely not! Worth it…absolutely yes!!!
I've got my own story too. Seems that a lot of people our age do. Brave post. Thanks.
thanks, mary. i appreciate it.
I will second what Tami said. The fact that we remain together to glorify God is one thing that keeps us that way. Very lovely post about a tough issue.
thank you for sharing. your openness is beautiful.
Excuse me man in the Room… Hope you don't mind.
We are going to disappoint our spouses all the time. No way around it. We are human and have human desires. We are meant for perfection and expect our desires to be met 100% all the time. Each person must realize that the other will never have their desires fulfilled by the other. Only God can fully fulfill our desires 100% of the time.
I will put it to you this way. It was not until I realized that my wife would never be able to fulfill my human desires, that I freely started to love her. I put the yearning of my desires on God's shoulders not my wife's. I set her free from the burden.
But now our Marriage is stronger than ever, and desire each other even more. Even when we disappoint the other.
Hope that makes since.
i wish my chapter ended differently than it does.
i'm holding out that my story ends better than it feels like it will at the moment.
(and thank you for the link, mary. and the love you've so graciously poured on me in your comments the past two weeks.)
Just wanted to say that this was an excellent post! My hubby and I have had our "moments" shall we say, but in the end, we love each other even if we don't like each other from time to time (LOVE THAT SAYING YOU WROTE AND I'M TOTALLY STEALING IT! LOL).
I think people just give up too easy. I have known five different couples in the past two years that have divorced. Families broke apart and it's all so sad.
The one story that really got to me was one where this guy left his wife and two boys to reunited with his middle school sweetheart that he found via MySpace. The middle school sweetheart chick left her three kids behind in Texas (we live in TN) to be with him. Five kids who "lost" a parent and for what? I just don't buy it ya know. I think as an adult AND parent, you owe more than that to your kids. I couldn’t imagine leaving my hubby and kids behind just reconnect with someone that I knew 20 years ago. But these people did. As a Christian, I'm not suppose to judge others, but it's hard when you see parents putting their needs in front of their kids needs. I hugged my hubby extra hard that night before bed when I found out what this other guy was doing.