The marriages you saw and experienced growing up were a mixture of good and bad. If your parents were happily married you saw many good things such as communication, respect, growth, commitment, and more, even though they were not perfect people. But marriage in the real world today is different from that of your parents or other healthy couples you observed.
Or perhaps what you saw growing up made you scared that marriage would mean more misery than joy. Marriage meant conflict, fighting, codependency, or anything but real intimacy. You may have been determined to not repeat your parents’ mistakes, but even so those learned responses seem to be invading your present marriage.
Or perhaps the images of “marriage” in your mind are mostly from TV, movies, or other media. You might unconsciously see marriage as more a temporary throw-away trial relationship, or more trouble than it’s worth. And in “the church” marriage is often held up as the ultimate good thing (at least on earth). The only time marriage struggles are discussed is on the prayer line (cough-cough, the gossip line).
Real life marriage seems so different from what it’s “supposed” to be. Should it be this hard? Why can’t we communicate? Why can’t we seem to work out our sexual intimacy, or money issues? Perhaps we should never have gotten married.
Part of you believes your marriage should be better than it is. But you wonder whether it can be better. Your prayers and pleading don’t seem to be doing much.
Yes, you are one more piece of evidence that every marriage in the real world is tough!
Marriage as a Laboratory
The union of two sinners is a setup for misery.
It’s also one of God’s most valuable and effective laboratories on earth to change human beings into the likeness of His Son, through teaching us to love well. And in doing so, a growing marriage becomes perhaps the best advertisement ever for God’s kingdom.
It’s not that every human being can or should or will be married. But if the parties involved will give God the chance, marriage can be the best place to develop the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, self-control, kindness, patience, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23) It’s where we can learn about communication, unselfishness, commitment, and God’s kind of love.
Marriage can also become the vehicle God uses for healing. As God designed it, marriage is where you are known for who you really are, wounds and all, and loved anyway. You see how your brokenness affects others, and are provided the grace and support to grow and change. And you learn to provide that same kind of grace and support to your spouse.
But many marriages don’t provide that kind of environment. Or at least the results many married people experience are far different from that ideal.
So what are we to do?
Won’t You Please Help Me?!
Our modern culture doesn’t make marriage easy. (Not that it’s ever been easy!) Where can you get some help?
Let me suggest three places.
Far and beyond any human help, God Himself wants to help your marriage. Marriage is His invention, after all.
This means more than “God, make my spouse change!” This means bringing your total situation to Him – your own incomplete sinful self, your spouse who disappoints you, and the relationship you have developed up to this point. It means you recognize your way isn’t working, and that God’s way is really your only chance.
Issues like real intimacy, forgiveness, healing from shame, and lasting change only become possible because of Jesus. He loves you just the way you are – miserable or less-than-healthy marriage included. And He also loves you enough to walk with you to the marriage He intended, however difficult that journey. He is the One who provides the power and wisdom to do marriage right.
Another Godly Couple
A godly couple who has walked the journey ahead of you can be invaluable. Whether or not they are older chronologically, some godly experience can provide invaluable insight and support.
Pray about and intentionally look for another couple who has a marriage demonstrating some of the things you believe your marriage needs. Watch what they do. How do they treat each other? What is the fruit of their relationship? Listen when they talk for clues to how God has dealt with them, and what they’ve learned.
And if possible, talk with them. Ask them questions. You’re not looking for sympathy for your misery, although such a couple can provide much needed encouragement. What you’re looking for is someone who has walked this road, who is willing to be real in talking about how they overcame challenges, and will pray with and support you as you invest in your own marriage.
The Fully Alive Group
There are many avenues available today to get marriage help; Christian marriage or pastoral counselors, marriage conferences, marriage books, marriage classes. Many of these are immensely valuable. Take advantage of them!
But many people find these avenues difficult, or scary, or out of reach. Although you perhaps “should” be able to talk to someone at church about your marriage challenges, it may feel impossible. You may feel isolated in your marriage struggle, and like you have no one to talk to.
The Fully Alive Group is our online community devoted to helping people meet and overcome challenges including marriage conflict, disconnect, and lack of intimacy. It’s a place where you can be as anonymous as you wish, and still get personalized feedback and support.
Your marriage doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it affects and is affected by your emotional/mental wellbeing, your physical health, and your spiritual life with God.
Comments or questions? You can send me a confidential message here.
Your Turn: Could your marriage use some help? Have you tried to get some help? What kind of help do you believe would be most effective? Leave a comment below.
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Can’t Talk to Anyone?
Loneliness is painful. And dangerous – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But doing something about it is possible!
Get a free downloadable pdf When You Can’t Talk to Anyone, with a little followup about some steps you can take.