Marriage is an adventure filled with up’s and down’s, unexpected changes, new opportunities, and challenges of all shapes and sizes. Most couples get into marriage with the expectation that their spouse will never change. We think the guy or girl who made promises to us on our wedding day will not only be faithful to us, but faithful to remain just the way they are.But people live through seasons. Marriages go through seasons. Men and women change. We have dreams. Then we have kids. And we have careers. We have changing preferences, new directions, and a mind that is always being conditioned by our experiences. We change. So it’s understandable if you feel disappointed today that things don’t seem to be going as expected in your marriage. So here’s something new to expect… expect things to change.
As a Pastor, I often have the opportunity to sit down with couples, or more commonly, husbands, and talk about marital problems. I’m often asked permission, in a sense, to pursue divorce for reasons that are outside of the Bible’s parameters for doing so. And the most common reasons include…
- We’ve just grown apart.
- We’re not who we used to be.
- I thought we were compatible but we just don’t get along.
- We can’t communicate… handle conflict… or come to agreement.
The conflict usually involves sex, money, kids, or even issues such as politics or religion. But unless your are currently enduring an abusive situation (in which case, I would advise you to flee without hesitation), your marriage is worth the fight!
What about infidelity? Yes, Jesus mentioned that the Bible makes room for sinful people to dissolve a marriage when it is fractured beyond repair by adultery, but the Bible still doesn’t command us to divorce under such circumstances. Instead, you should know that your marriage is worth fighting for!
And when I say “fighting for” I mean that your marriage is so important that the energy you expend, the self-discipline and self-denial you practice, the tireless, sleepless nights of worry and anxiety and the deep valleys of disappointment can all be embraced as worth it when what is at stake is the vows you’ve made to your spouse.
You may or may not have married the right person, but if you stood before God and promised your life to someone, you are married to the right person.
I know this blog post is too brief. I’m not addressing all the objections that are, perhaps, welling up in your throat right now. What if we just can’t stop fighting? What if I keep trying to show grace just to get stung again? What if I’ve tried and failed a thousand times?
I know. Those questions are rooted in deep pain. I was there once. Not too many years ago, Angie and I went through one of the darkest times I’ve ever experienced. I was depressed and selfish and angry. There have been moments I wouldn’t have blamed her at all for leaving. But she stayed. And we stayed at it. And we’re far from perfect and certainly have a lot to learn but one lesson under my belt is this… she’s worth fighting for! My marriage is worth fighting for!
What does “fighting” look like? It can include many things, but here’s a partial list. Don’t give up until you’ve tried these things repeatedly…
- Confession of all secrets.
- Honesty about all disappointment.
- Respecting a less-than-respectable spouse.
- Loving a less-than-lovable spouse.
- Counseling (we’ve done it and highly recommend it).
- More repentance.
- Affection, when it feels awkward.
- Sex, when it seems like a chore (consensual, obviously).
- Praying together even when you feel like a hypocrite.
- More counseling.
- Attending church together, even after a fight.
- More repentance, and humbling, and apologies.
- Acts of service that are under-appreciated.
- Forgiving what might seem unforgivable.
- Marriage retreats.
- Books on marriage.
- Mentoring by an older couple.
- Accountability with a couple of close friends.
- More repentance, and more counseling.
My wife has shown me far more grace than the rest of the world may ever believe. More importantly, God has shown us both far more grace than we could possibly deserve. And at the end of the day, THAT’s the secret sauce to fighting for your marriage. Grace. God’s grace. More of God’s grace. More repentance, and grace, and forgiveness, and starting over again and again.
Yes, you ARE married to the right person. Keep fighting.