“If you are staying married just because you told Jesus you would – for no other reason at all – you are winning.” – Me to a friend several days ago
We want it all to make sense. We want the equation to work. Respect him and he’ll love you. Love her and she’ll respect you. While the idea isn’t ridiculous and is biblically based, I want to offer some encouragement to all of you who are in a marriage that just doesn’t quite pan out that way, but you’re still showing up, loving and respecting the best you can today – or maybe you’re just showing up with a fair amount of unsureness and inability.
Sometimes you are both doing the best you can do and it still isn’t working. This is where more than 50% of the population calls it – time of death: it-doesn’t-feel-good-anymore-o’clock. This is where we decide whether we meant our vows or we didn’t.
The Blackwell’s are there with you. We love each other – truly we do – but it’s been quite a long stretch now of not feeling particularly excited about each other and certainly of not being on the same page. I’m not going to go into all the details because, quite frankly, this is not the forum for that, but suffice it to say – we are muddling and fighting our way through, too. We are frustrated, wounded, and exhausted due to the past several years of our lives together, and we can’t quite figure out how to get back into a good rhythm with each other. Y’all, we have both wanted to give up – quit trying – stay but not work so hard at thriving. Oh, how we’ve wanted to quit, but every time, the Holy Spirit reminds us that this is not what our Jesus came for – He didn’t come for half lives or half marriages. So, we pick ourselves up off the ground to look one another in the eye again, ready for another go at it. We are bone tired weary, but we are not NOT showing up. I promised to actively love this man until I die – and while there are days, weeks and months that I very much want to flip him the bird, roll my eyes, or head for the hills, I will not – because I promised my God that I wouldn’t. I promised Him I would stay – and because I rest so confidently in His great love for me, His abundant power and resources, and His promises of blessing for obedience – I stay. We stay.
So, how do you stay when you reach the place of feeling like it’s all a big pile of poop?
- Pray that junk down. I have written about this concept before because it revolutionized my life. It freed me up from having to manipulate, push, and control circumstances or, specifically, Josh. When I know what my heart is telling me but my man isn’t there yet, the answer is to submit and pray that junk down. This is also important and applicable in the realm of protection and power. His role in our home is a thing that we cannot begin to understand the weight and responsibility of. We should praying for our husbands even more fervently and often than we pray for ourselves and our children. When you don’t know what or how to pray for your man (or anything else in your life), For the Family by Sylvia Gunter is my very fave. Don’t be thrown off by the dated cover, she is an epic prayer fighter. I’ve learned so much by praying through her book.
- Tell the truth. I am just now learning to do this well. I mean, not the part where I tell the truth – that’s been relatively easy for me, but the part that I do it after careful calculation and without letting my emotions dictate my delivery. We ought to be intentional to create space for one another to tell the truth – about our own struggles and about potential pitfalls in our spouse’s life. It’s sticky and awkward and potentially dangerous because, in this case, delivery matters enormously. If you verbally berate your spouse and then tag on an, “I’m saying all of this because I love you,” it doesn’t have QUITE the effect you might hope. Speak with kindness, pour on grace, practice patience – and be willing to sit in the yuck with your spouse.
- Be nice. I am so serious about this. This is a thing that, other than a few times a year, we do a pretty good job at. We don’t call each other names – ever – well except in our heads. We are only human. We don’t belittle or demean. We try to help one another and give each other space. We aren’t always perfect, but the rule, in our house, is be nice. That applies to all of us, and it helps prevent long lasting, deep wounds.
- Spend time together. Fight with every breath you have to make time to be together. Not on your phones. Not doing separate activities in the same room. Together. I’m not saying all day every day – but once a week-ish, in my experience, a few hours of just the two of you will make a big difference. I know the whole – but what about our kids, our job, our extended family – is hard. Your kids will feel more secure when they know their mama and daddy love and enjoy each other. Your job will still be there in a few hours. Your extended family will like you better if you like each other. Something’s gotta give, friends – and it should never, ever be our marriages.
- Be aware of your own humanity. When our needs are not being met in our marriages over extended periods of time, whatever that may look like, we become more vulnerable to allowing them to be met in other relationships. This is what, more often than not, leads to affairs. I am HYPER sensitive to this in my own life because I KNOW I am not immune. It’s better to be considered cold by your co-workers or other friends of the opposite sex than to find yourself smack in the middle of a relationship with someone that you didn’t even see coming. I’m not saying you have to BE cold to keep things healthy, but I AM saying that the world just might see it that way. See the whole Mike Pence thing for reference.
- Have the sex. I don’t have a lot to say about this, but I remember reading something by Jen Hatmaker – possibly in For the Love – that sometimes you just need to have the sex. When you don’t know what else to do and there aren’t any serious, need to talk this out with a third-party emotional wounds – you just need to come together again. God values sex in marriage. Maybe we should, too.
When Josh and I moved to Colorado in the fall of 2014, we prepared ourselves for a full force attack on our marriage. We knew this is where we would likely be hit the hardest, and we weren’t wrong. Josh was crazy busy and extraordinarily alive in what he was doing, which meant he didn’t have a lot to give me or need a lot from me. I was still neck deep in baby while also trying to get our oldest settled in school and figure out what my role was or needed to be in our church. In some ways, I was also extraordinarily alive albeit not as much as Josh because of the baby situation – which IS a gift, but not one that necessarily made me feel vibrant and alive. This boiled down to us being prone to cross paths, throw high fives, and slap good enough on our marriage.
Also, we were sick a lot. Everyone. For all the fall and winter and most of the spring months we were there, someone was puking or snotting or coughing with fever. Let your imagination go wild.
All that to say, we knew we had to fight to spend time together, to see each other, and to protect our marriage. So, we did. We went out without our children about once every ten days – this was a result of having a good pool of babysitters at our fingertips who we knew well because we were planting a church with their families. We went out together often, and while we still had our share of issues (this isn’t the first time I’ve written about marriage being crazy hard), we began to enjoy one another more and more. We began to live like we were on the same side. It was a gift.
Right now – it’s not that simple. We are not on the same page. That isn’t a cry for help or an admission of defeat – it’s just the truth. We can say those truths aloud to each other and then plow through them because of one thing…we are in this. Neither one of us is packing our bags and hitting the road – not literally, not figuratively. We promised our God, and so we stay. We fight. We honor. We love. We screw up. We say we are sorry. We pray. We get up and try again tomorrow.
That’s it. You’re not alone. Stay. If the only reason you stay is because you stood at an altar and promised God you would, you are winning, and you are in the company of every couple who has ever made it ’til death do us part.