3 Ways to Build a Marriage That Can Withstand a Crisis
- Meg Apperson Contributing Writer
- 2020 3 Nov
Six years ago my husband, Cody, and I received the news that our third child would be born with severe birth defects.
Our daughter, Avery, arrived on a cool, spring night with a litany of structural problems caused by syndromic craniosynostosis. The season that followed was the most stressful of our lives and put a strain on our marriage that we never could have anticipated.
We lived apart for most of the first eighteen months of our daughter’s life as she endured repeated skull and brain surgeries and fought to survive complication after complication. She nearly passed on several occasions and forced us to rely on Jesus in a deeper way—as a couple and as individuals.
Our unity was tested and we learned, through God’s refining fire of suffering, ways in which to love and honor each other regardless of our circumstances.
Here are three ways to build a marriage that can withstand crisis:
1. Honor God's Guidance
When our daughter was a newborn, we had an important decision to make (one of many). One doctor on her medical team advised that we choose a trach for her, but the rest of the professionals weren’t convinced that it was necessary.
Cody wanted to go ahead with the trach and I wanted to do everything possible to avoid it.
I felt that I had a greater understanding of Avery’s medical care, so I arrogantly argued against my husband’s opinion. I thought his perspective was a selfish choice, designed to bring Avery home as soon as possible, even if the trach wasn’t the best idea.
In the end, we waited eight weeks before Avery underwent surgery for a trach placement. As the years passed, Cody and I both agreed on one thing—if we could go back, we would have trached her on day two of life. He was right and I was wrong.
Again and again, Cody would be right about how to proceed with Avery’s medical care, even though I knew the details of her medical needs much better. I learned to trust his instincts even when he couldn’t explain why he felt so strongly about which course to choose.
I wondered about the source of that inspiration. I realized I had found a possible answer when I was reading the account of Jesus’ birth in the Bible.
Herod had ordered the murder of all babies under two after he was alerted to the possible birth of the new, true King of Israel. Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, was alerted by an angel in his sleep that he should take his wife, Mary, and young Jesus and escape to Egypt.
The angel didn’t tell Mary, Jesus’ mother. He told Joseph, Jesus’ earthly FATHER.
It occurred to me that perhaps the role of the father to honor and protect his family gives dads access to a special grace—a divine instinct. I resolved to keep that in mind whenever Cody and I discussed Avery’s care.
We haven’t disagreed on medical choices in years, but if we ever do again, I know it will always be important to honor his opinions and role in Avery’s life. I have my own vital role to play that is in no way less than my husband’s, but it’s just one part.
Both roles are needed to make a whole.
2. Serve without Strings
After we brought our daughter home from the hospital, my husband went back to work and I shouldered all of the medical and ordinary care of our three children, two of whom were under two years old.
It was exhausting and I knew that working a traditional job would have been much easier. For a time, I resented my husband’s ability to escape and was even more frustrated when I perceived that he was making more work for me by leaving his clothes on the floor or dishes out on the counter.
Those things felt like a slap in my face since I was barely able to take care of my responsibilities as it was! Those actions felt purposeful—malicious, even—in my deeply grieved state. They weren’t.
As my resentment calcified in my heart, I realized that our marriage would be in serious trouble if I didn’t have a change of perspective. I asked the Lord to soften my heart and show me my own selfishness instead of focusing on all the selfishness I felt was directed at me.
The Lord answered, “Serve him with a joyful heart.”
So, I stopped keeping track of how many times he left clothes on the floor and began praying each time I washed the dishes he had left behind. “Thank you, God, for the privilege of serving my husband.”
We never discussed the change but the results were miraculous. Over time, my husband (who was never purposefully trying to leave more work for me) began to look for more ways to serve me. After dinner he would hurry to wash dishes before I had a chance to.
He would get up early and leave a load of laundry freshly folded on the couch before heading to work.
Looking back, I realized that God was teaching me obedience to Him through serving with no regard for what I would get in return. Honoring my husband was an act of worship and God’s standard for marriage meant that I had to give everything I could, all the time, without regard for the effort of the other party.
God rewards obedience every time.
3. Stop Talking about It
This point may seem counterintuitive, but I specifically mean: stop talking about the crisis. I realized that after Avery was born, the majority of our marital conversations revolved around things that were going wrong.
We had reduced our communication to a problem-solving venture, but we still needed to find ways to bond on an emotional level and be there for eachother.
Spend some time each day talking about something other than the troubles you’re facing. Reminisce on a fun time you’ve had together in the past. Talk about some dreams you have for the future.
Ask him/her what meals they would like on the menu for the week (and then make the meals!). Take a break from your troubles when you’re communicating.
Your relationship is bigger than your crisis. It existed before and--by the grace of God--it will endure after.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/dragana991
Meg Apperson is a blogger, homeschooling mother, and author of Sky Full of Stars: Learning to Surrender to God's Perfect Plans--a story of her family’s journey and about trusting God in the darkest and hardest times. You can find Meg at fourfinelives.com.