Sometime after the preacher pronounces you man and wife the unwelcome truth hits you; marriage is hard!
That realization may come within hours or it may take months, but every marriage encounters real and big problems. Just today someone told me, “Dr. Carol, tell people the truth – how hard marriage really is!” I don’t know any statistics, but I would guess that for most couples some major problem has ambushed them by the time they return from the honeymoon.
It’s no wonder that for the past couple years there are, for the first time, more unmarried adults than married adults in the US and other developed countries. It’s well known from other research that, in general, successfully married people live healthier, longer, and happier. But that’s not enough to convince many to take on the enormous challenges marriage presents.
Ask almost any married couple and they will tell you the problems are real: communication, intimacy, conflict, differing expectations, money, parenting, and more.
These and other visible problems, however, are just the surface issues. As helpful as pre-marriage instruction, date-night advice, and much of the marriage help out there may be, it only deals with the symptoms. And just like with physical symptoms, problems will continue until and unless the underlying diagnosis is made and treated.
The Troubled Marriage Diagnosis
Perhaps 90% of those who write to me about their troubled marriage say something like, “My spouse is doing these things wrong, and I can’t get them to change.” The spouse writing to me is filled with misery, frustration, loneliness, or anger, and they can’t see any way out.
I’m sorry to bring you the bad news, but here it is; you married a sinner. One who is emotionally challenged, easily angered, moody, or doesn’t follow through on promises. One who struggles with sexual integrity, pornography, substance abuse, or mental or physical illness. One who doesn’t know how to communicate, or who has baggage around sex because of trauma or abuse. One who doesn’t know how to parent or manage money or deal with extended family. One who doesn’t have the kind of relationship with God that they should have, and who doesn’t have an ideal commitment to spiritual growth.
Yes, you married a sinner.
And you may have guessed by now the Part 2 to this bad news; your spouse married a sinner too. You struggle with emotional stability, healthy communication, forgiveness, intimacy, finances, parenting, sexual integrity, and/or physical or mental limitations. Your spiritual life is marred by pride or self-righteousness or rigidity or anger or control or apathy.
And your spouse could likely write to me and say, “If only my spouse (that would mean YOU) would change, we could have a happy marriage.”
Here’s the bottom line;
One sinner + one sinner + a marriage certificate = BIG TROUBLE.
And since you and your spouse are in that company, your marriage is in trouble. That’s why marriage is so hard.
More Bad News
Feeling discouraged yet? That’s not the end of the bad news.
The most devious, determined, smart, treacherous, evil being in the universe is out to get you and your marriage. The enemy has pulled out every possible trick to destroy marriage in general and your marriage in particular.
And when he can’t outright end your marriage or keep it from happening, he puts just as much effort into making your marriage destructive, painful, distorted, broken, and thoroughly miserable.
I believe Satan does that because he knows how much misery a troubled marriage brings to you as a child of God. And he also knows how much damage a successful godly marriage would do to his own kingdom of darkness.
If your own and your spouse’s sin nature wasn’t enough to lead to marriage trouble, God’s enemy and yours is only too quick and too cunning to supply plenty of reason for trouble.
One wonders how any marriage would ever survive?
Treatment for a Troubled Marriage
Enough bad news; I’m about to give you the very best news ever. There is a treatment that works – every time. 100% guaranteed.
The word treatment is more appropriate than the word cure because this isn’t a one-time fix. It’s not one magic book or pill or technique that will get rid of your marriage trouble forever. It’s not even a one-time prayer.
And the treatment is, let God deal with your sin nature.
This does not mean sitting back and saying, “God, fix me.” It’s an active process in which you cooperate with God. It will take many different forms depending on the brokenness you and your spouse bring to the marriage, and the circumstances life brings. It will mean things like learning how to forgive, learning how to communicate, and pursuing healthy intimacy. It will involve things like developing skills in finances, parenting, emotional resilience, and healthy boundaries. It will include learning to have an open heart, and what loving well is all about.
And here’s the best news of all. This treatment will work for you regardless of whether your spouse agrees to take the treatment or not.
This treatment will not guarantee absence of pain. It doesn’t even guarantee your marriage will be saved. Your spouse’s vote plays a huge role in those questions.
But whatever happens with your marriage, YOU can be healed. YOU can be changed. YOU can fulfill the purpose God has for your life.
And if your spouse also agrees to the treatment, your marriage WILL be restored.
All the marriage help in the world is only treating the symptoms unless the root cause is addressed. If allowed, God can and does use marriage to bring growth and healing that can’t happen in any other way. It is not simple or easy, but it always works if God is allowed to do what He does best.
So here’s the question; will you allow God to work on YOU, and leave your marriage in His hands?
Your turn: How does this perspective on the root of marriage trouble apply in your relationship? Have you experienced God working in your marriage? Leave a comment below.
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