4 Encouragements for Those in an Unhappy Marriage
- Amanda Idleman Contributing Writer
- 2023 6 Jul
Yesterday, for the first time in a very long time, I told my husband without a hint of a lie that I think we are going to make it.
If you haven't been through a really trying, unhappy season of marriage, you may not understand how meaningful those words are, but we have been stuck in tough, deep, at times seemingly impossible ruts, and I have lived feeling that one day we'd see the end of our marriage. The crazy thing is you wouldn't think that about us if you met us. We have a lovely family. My husband is an amazing man. We both love God. We want our marriage to work. Yet, we have struggled because we are sinful, very different people, and our marriage only stands a chance because we have God's power in our lives. On our own, we can't do this.
I've been there if you've spent hours fighting, feeling unseen and unheard. If you've sworn you'd never argue in front of your kids but have had Saturday plans ruined because you can't stand the sight of each other, we've been there. If you've studied those fun personality quizzes only to realize you and your husband are basically incompatible, I can relate. If you've struggled with mental health valleys, burnout, loneliness, miscommunication, bitterness, hurt, anger, and hopelessness, I've walked through all those marriage valleys.
I tell you the truth that our marriage only stands because God is gracious. Truth is, we will never get this thing perfect, and we will never stop needing God's help to keep our marriage alive. Some truths God has spoken into my heart, even in the past few months, have helped breathe new hope into our sometimes hopeless feeling marriage.
1. It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful
I can get so discouraged because I keep making the same mistakes over and over. My husband keeps not hearing me in the same ways. We keep falling into the same ruts. This hopeless Spirit leads to more and more unhappiness in our home.
God snapped me out of this cycle of hopeless thinking by reminding me that he is not a God that requires perfection to make beauty. He actually specializes in taking the most broken things and transforming them into new creations. Isaiah 61 talks about how he makes beauty from ashes. I have asked God to help me see the beauty that lives in our home and our marriage. I am actively surrendering to him the ashes of hurt that have stolen from us.
When I begin to shift my perspective, I see 15 years filled with joy instead of 15 years filled with struggle. The joy of growing up together, worshiping, making friends, meeting our four children, parenting, moving, serving, relaxing, and laughing together. Our story shows beauty when I surrender the years of failures over to the Lord.
2. Find Joy in the Lord
Both my husband and I can be fiercely stubborn, although I do think he is more stubborn than me. Recently I finally realized that while it is important to communicate with my husband about my feelings, I cannot change his behavior. I had to surrender my desire to make him change, hear me, or do something he hadn't done to the Lord (this is still a struggle).
A part of that surrendering process looked like finding my own joy in the Lord that was not always dependent on how he was doing. This is not to say that I don't care how he is doing but that my well-being is not dependent on him. My husband is a good man but still is a mere man, and every time I look to him for my wholeness when I feel anxious, depressed, lonely, or upset, things just go badly. He was not able to give me what I was looking for. He continues to strive to grow as a nurturer, but we both realize this is not his natural skill set.
We have found a lot more peace in our home as I have found more peace in the Lord. When I am able to regulate my emotions better, better express my limitations, or even just decide to pull away to pray when I get spent, our conflict does not escalate as quickly. If you are in a season of tension and struggle, rather than meditating on all the frustrating things about your partner, look to the Lord for ways you can find peace and strength in him. I am reminded of Matthew 7:3-5, which warns of focusing on the speck in someone else's eye, all the while ignoring your own plank. Start with your plank and pray that God will help your spouse deal with their specks.
3. Invest in Counseling
A quality Christian counselor is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your marriage. Sometimes we need the wisdom of others to help us grow. Every marriage faces conflict but what makes the difference for your future is your willingness to grow and change together. Most of us struggle with selfishness, anger, imperfect communication skills, hurts, trauma, and more.
In marriage, all of that junk comes to the surface in a way that is impossible to ignore. That does not mean you are fundamentally incapable of being or staying married, but it does mean that God is giving you an opportunity in your marriage to grow and heal.
A counselor can facilitate that growing and healing process by arming you with the tools you need to thrive. They can point out patterns that are traps in your marriage and ways to help avoid them. Their impartial ear can help you both feel like you have a safe space to be heard, making room for forgiveness and healing. My husband and I have enlisted the help of different counselors throughout our marriage over the years, and it has made all the difference in our lives.
4. Be Willing to Change
None of us dream of spending our lives unhappily together forever. That's basically our worst nightmare, yet many of us find ourselves stuck in lives that don't feel as joy-filled as we imagined. Sometimes joy, happiness, marriage, love - all the sweet stuff in life takes us being willing to make significant changes.
Is your work schedule creating too much stress in your home? Start praying about finding new jobs. Is your lack of family support making parenting feel like a heavy burden? Consider moving closer to family. Is past trauma or unforgiveness holding you stuck in a place of bitterness? Seek out counselors and doctors that can help you process the hurts of your life. Are lies keeping you from truly being close to your partner? Come clean and do the work to heal the wound you have inflicted. Is a lack of community leading to depression and anxiety in your house? Pray and ask God to help you find the right community for your family to lean into!
Our families, marriages, and lives are worth being sacrificed for. The world would tell us that love comes naturally and that if we are giving too much of ourselves, then we are doing it wrong. We deserve better. This is a lie. God is love because he gave it all for us. We love through service, giving, forgiving, protecting, admitting, changing, and working. It's not easy because it requires so much of us.
This is not to say there aren't situations in which God's best looks like leaving your marriage. When there is abuse, neglect, infidelity, manipulation, or other unsafe conditions, God does not wish you to stay in those circumstances. He wants you to find freedom, safety, joy, and healing.
For the vast majority of us, though, we are unhappy because marriage is hard, and we are struggling under the weight of the many responsibilities we have in this life. My encouragement is that there is hope. God can make beauty from your ashes. He loves you and your spouse and desires to grow your love deeper as you together find your way through your imperfections back to each other.
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God's Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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