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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I blog surf sometimes. At a random blog I came across this and although it is quite long, it is very well worth the reading:

Marriage is hard work. It's an amalgam of two flawed, broken, sinful people with a bunch of triggers and baggage, trying to be one person. A team, trying to keep two individual and one collective spark alive while dealing with car payments and leaky sinks and the larger matrix of family and world.

I am, by no means, an expert on marriage. I haven't been married *that* long, and my marriage isn't always sunshine and roses. We've had some pretty significant (to us) bumps in the road. I'd like to think we've outgrown most of those moments, and that down the road, what inevitably comes to test us or challenge us will be handled well. Our responses will be more mature, and we'll be more glued together so it will be harder to shake us up.

Nevertheless, sometimes it seems hopeless or impossible, and in those moments I often hear "marriage is not meant to make you happy, but holy" on endless loop in my brain. Occasionally, this snaps me out of my funk, but often I feel *more* morose about the whole business. Does God really not care about marital happiness at all?

After all, in my experience, it's the little things that kill. Or, as Song of Solomon refers to it, "...the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom." It's not ONE moment of angst, it's general dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and unhappiness that gets us to the ruination point most of the time. It's a million little undealt-with annoyances. It's the rude comment that suddenly seems like a larger character flaw (and may very well be). Big moments, like infidelity or separation or divorce, don't usually just happen. They are preceded by a long series of moments and decisions. Tiny moments, small moments, even medium moments, but rare is the person who wakes up one day in a happy marriage and says "I'ma blow it all up!" I've observed marriages fall apart after a mere matter of weeks, and I've observed marriages fall apart 30, 40 years in. In both cases, there were conscious decisions that led to those moments, and a general negative trending toward it. In my experience, NO marriage is immune to falling apart.

If you are in it for the long haul, that's kind of a scary thought. *I* certainly don't want to make it 20 years only to throw in the towel. When I said "I do", I kind of meant forever. What can I do to "cheat proof" my marriage? What can I do to "divorce proof" my marriage?

There are lots of great theories and ideas and books and philosophers out there that attempt to address this question. Personally, I've realized it's come down to one thing: me. Not that marriage only exists on one plane, he needs to be committed and loving as well. Of course, God is in control and in our relationship as well. But I can't control what anyone else does. I can only control myself. I can't control HIS level of happiness, I can only control my own. I can't control my marriage, I can only control how I respond to it, and what I do to nourish or destroy it.

Fact is, marriage doesn't make us holy simply because it's hard. Marriage makes us holy because we choose to grow through the hard times. And the ironic thing is, that's what brings lasting joy. Whatever comes in life, good and bad, we are faced with a choice of how to react to it...if not in the moment, then ultimately. What will I choose? Will I choose to be better because of this experience, or worse? Will I allow this happy time to nourish and grow me, or fatten me and make me lazy? Will I allow this hard time to strengthen me and better my character, or will I choose to carry it as an open wound and become bitter?

This comes through attitude and focus. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Does God care about our happiness? Does He care if our marriage is fulfilling to us as individuals, or does He only care about us practicing our iron-sharpening skills, becoming full of godly character?

I would argue that indeed, God cares very much about our joy. How often does He talk about the joy set before us? Do you know that there are commandments and instructions on happiness? God could have chosen many metaphors for the relationship of Christ and the Church. He chose marriage. And not just any aspect of marriage, but specifically a wedding. He chose the thrilling, mooney-eyed, love-is-blind, can't-wait-for-the-wedding-night, head-over-heels rabid JOY of two-become-one to illustrate it. There's an entire book in the Bible dedicated to love. Let me tell you, Song of Solomon is rated X. When I was younger I read through the whole thing just to be cheeky, and I was like "What's the big deal? 'My lover is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills'?" Now I'm like "OH MY GOSH IS HE TALKING ABOUT DOGGY STYLE?!?!" Rugged hills? Turn and be like a stag on the rugged hills? YOU CAN'T UNSEE IT BECAUSE I CAN'T. (and if you don't see it, be glad of your pure mind, and I'm so not explaining).

Passion, beauty, satisfaction, joy, happiness. It's all over the Bible when it talks about marriage. It's just as much our job in marriage as holiness is. The two aren't mutually exclusive, they are heavily entwined.

Which leads me back to the daily grind, ironically. Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT: "And 'don’t sin by letting anger control you.' Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil." Marriage is a long race that's perfected and completed by daily laps. And how you run those daily laps determines your score in the end. Perhaps more sobering, you can have a great time for a long time, but when you start stumbling, it can really affect your end score. The grace, though, is you can make up for it, because it's a long race. Or, if you did terrible for the first ten years of daily laps, that doesn't mean your marriage can't be redeemed and you can't finish strong. It CAN be redeemed and you CAN finish strong.

I can't control the future. I don't know what it holds. Maybe these words will haunt me one day, though I pray they will instead inspire me to righteousness. But I can examine and control what I am doing and how I am feeling and how I am running that lap today.

It used to be, I'd fixate on the negative to such a degree, I couldn't allow our marriage to grow. Unfortunately both of us have this issue, but fortunately, both of us are also aware of it and working to heal in that area.

One year, we were really low on cash. It was one of the poorest years of our marriage. That didn't really bother me, but it was early on in our marriage and both of us were really freaked out by every character flaw and every bump in the road. We spent more time pointing fingers and accusing than we did attempting to team up. Every time I acted a certain way, he was sure the next step was Harrid Shrew and our marriage would end. Every time he acted a certain way, I was sure it was a sign of a deeply flawed psyche that was unsurrendered to Jesus. Gosh, you'd think we were 13, the way we carried on about every. single. thing.

It's not that hurts or behavior should not be addressed. They SHOULD be. But it's what we were focusing on. It's like, trying to grow a plant indoors with a grow light. It takes time for a plant to grow, and the proper balance of light, heat, nutrients, and water. Instead of trying to find that balance and be patient with the growth in each other, it's like we were turning the light on brighter, and longer, and pushing it closer to the plant, screaming at it to grow already. Obviously, this does not work. It just makes for a sickly, scorched plant. Yes, offenses should be dealt with. Yes, husbands should "wash their wives in the word" and we should be as 'helpmeets', iron sharpening iron. But that can't be the sum total or focus of a relationship, because then it's about a scorecard and not about two people in love.

Anyhoo, we were low on cash. Through a gift from work and a little extra sidework, Hubby was able to score tickets to the ballet and a gift card to a super fancy restaurant for my birthday. I think it was my mom, but someone gave me money for a new dress. The big day came.

Someone did something. I don't remember which of us started it or what it was even about, because it never actually matters, does it? How often do we remember the angry and not the about? The point is, we arrived at our fancy dinner and we were ANGRY at each other. To top it off, Hubby had misread the tickets, and had somehow purchased ballet tickets for another day, a day we were actually going to be out of town (though we really could have figured it out). It was, quite sincerely, one of the most embarrassing and terrible dinners ever. And it was my fault, really. He was spitting anger and venom, too, and had his responsibility in the matter...don't get me wrong. But I was nasty. I could have been gracious, forgiving, generous, merciful, happy. Instead, I chose to ruin dinner over a trifle.

There we were, through means of gifts and working extra hard, having a dinner at a restaurant we couldn't normally afford, in a brand-new dress that was basically given to me, to celebrate *me* and my birthday, and all I could do was seethe. Nevermind the sacrifice my husband had made for this. Nevermind the thoughtfulness of trying to do something for me that I would specifically enjoy. Nevermind all the blessings.


I regret that dinner to this day. If only I'd let it go. Maybe it was something that we really did need to address and discuss. Maybe he was mean or rude to me, maybe I was mean or rude to him and I was defensive about it. So what? It could have waited, and certainly it could have been handled with love and grace instead of anger and angst. Romantic dinner wasn't the time to be angry. Now, I see it for what it was: a thoughtful and meaningful gift. A precious sacrifice. Now, I count his gift among the better he's given me through the years. But I refused to see it in the moment because of...pride? fear? concern that if I didn't address what was going on RIGHT THEN I wouldn't be able to later? hurt? anger? offense? I forever marred that memory, because I can't undo it, for a sense of justice? A need for justice? A black and white view? a narrow focus? A WRONG focus?

What rubbish.

I wish I could say that's the only time it's happened, or that it doesn't happen any more. It's one of my chief character flaws, and it comes from a place of fear and anxiety for me. A lack of trust, yes, and the trust has nothing to do with Hubby and everything to do with me and my baggage. But I'm learning.

Someone posted the following recently, and I think it illustrates what I'm getting at:

An old Cherokee told his grandson, "My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies & ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, & truth." The boy thought about it, and asked, "Grandfather, which wolf wins?" The old man quietly replied, "The one you feed."

I think a trap a lot of people fall into is a narrowing of focus, and a lack of remembering the big picture. Well, maybe I'm the only one who falls into that trap. But the point is, what truth am I clinging to? I'm not talking about absolute truth or relative truth, I'm talking about focus. It's true that we all have sinned and fallen short, and that my husband is a sinful, flawed person. I'm a sinful, flawed person. On the other hand, he's also wise. He's steady. He's often my rock and anchor in choppy waters. He's smart, ambitious, driven, and has a great work ethic. He provides for our family. He is very sweet and tender to our children, in fact he's a great dad. He's also quite handsome. :>

I COULD list all of the ways he falls. I COULD think about it and obsess on it and try to figure out how to get him to see his mistakes and how he needs to fix it and how I think he should fix it to best make ME comfortable. But how loving and godly is that? Would I want him to do that to me? (in case you read this honey the answer is NO, no I would not) But wouldn't it be more profitable to focus on his strengths and love that about him?

For I have learned another covers over a multitude of wrongs. I used to think this was mistranslated or some kind of mamby pamby wishy wash. But I have learned that what loving and forgiving someone does is give them the space and grace to change. Instead of focusing the hot light on the vulnerable plant, I offer nutrients and water. I have learned that our issues have fallen away or resolved themselves through love. And for those we are still working on, love gives us the space and the patience to wait. It's not giving someone an excuse or pass to sin, it's giving them a true motivation to change. No one wants a whip, everyone needs a hug.

Recently, we had a spontaneous and random opportunity to go out for a date. I wasn't really in the best mood to start with, but again, someone did or said something and I felt angry, offended, hurt and huffy. We were standing in line to order, and I stood there with seething bitterness and snapped something along the lines of "Well, so much for the date. Guess we'll be getting this TO GO instead of FOR HERE." To his credit, bless his heart, my patient husband remained calm and basically reminded me it could be whatever I wanted it to be, and he was more than willing to sit down and try to have a date. "FINE", I said. And thankfully, years of experience under my belt, I realized that I DID have a choice to make.

I could continue to hang on to my offended sense of justice, seeking to 'make it right'. I could make him pay for hurting me. I could focus on the negative. Or, I could let it go, forgive, be at peace, address it later when we aren't so angry IF it still needed to be addressed at all (not everything does, you know. I learned this recently as well). I could focus on the positive. There we were, out and about and kid-free for a few hours. We had a bit of 'disposable income' as they say, so we could have a date. So I decided to focus on the positive and try to get over myself.

The truth about me is, I'm a mushy compassionate heart-led person. I am a very sensitive person and my feelings are easily hurt. That doesn't mean that I need to hold everyone accountable for every offense, real or imagined, on my part. In fact, if I treated my friendships the way I treated my marriage in that respect, I probably wouldn't have friends. I bruise easily, and my first step is taking it to the Lord, not to the other person. 90% of the time, it turns out I can deal with it on my own and it's over and done with. The other small amount of time has already been pre-handled through prayer and contemplation, and is more likely to produce godly fruit than if I just jumped up and down and demanded restitution for every offense. I'm learning to keep my mouth shut when it doesn't matter, and to not make everyone else responsible for my feelings. Because...they aren't. I am. I'm not talking about sublimating myself in order to not rock the boat, or to give someone power over me, or to avoid issues that really do need to be tackled and hurts that do need to be healed. I'm talking about the little foxes in the vineyard that don't originate nor belong there. So in that moment, our date was teetering on a knife's edge and I realized it. And I chose to hop over to the happy side.

And you know, it was such a sweet time. At first it was by force of will that I was smiling and being kind and forgiving, but soon it was genuine soft-heartedness and bliss. We ended up walking around hand in hand, having a great kind of day. We never ended up talking about whatever it was that had upset me, because it was one of those things I should have kept to myself and it didn't matter in the long run (I mean, clearly, because it wasn't that long ago and I can't remember what it was). I thought of Bing when he sang:

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

It did remind me of that long-ago painful dinner, however. What a difference, and how much differently they turned out. I went home in tears those years ago, and we were angry and fighting for days. This time, we went home hand in hand, and have laughed through the days since.

And there was no special, secret, amazing thing that happened. It's not like he did something to me years ago that was so horrible it warranted that amount of angst, and whatever happened recently was so much less and therefore needed so much less angst.

All that happened was forgiveness, and a recognition to focus on what really matters. We didn't choose unholiness or bitterness, we chose holiness and betterment. And we are happy.

Thus my advice to myself is as follows: relax. True issues don't need to be dealt with in anger or the moment. Get help if you need to, but they can be dealt with first through prayer and in your own heart before you deal with them together, IF you need to address it together. Try to resolve it in yourself first. Focus on the good in my husband and the situation, and keep that ever before me.

Everything else is just a momentary opportunity on the daily lap to sprint or to trip. Try sprinting; it's better for you, and it helps your score in the long run.

450 Posts
You were right..... it was worth the read. Thanks for sharing.

315 Posts
Great post. :) Usually I skip big big posts, but this time I've read it all the way.

I'm not a religious person, but I guess that I can get what the original writer means. Me and my husband started to argue a lot when we moved in together, as we were both drowned by many new responsibilities and our different views bumped with each other. Now things are much better thought.
It's important to learn how to communicate with each other, and not let things bottle up. But how we do that means a lot, just like how much of a big deal we make things seems to be. I've realized that many things we argued, or even past hurts doesn't mean much anymore. A relationship is in constant change.

Basically, I try to focus on how much my husband means to me, and how much affection I feel for him and what if we separate. Focusing on being grateful of having him by my side and how he's irreplaceable makes a big impact on how I see things. Also, being married means that we've committed to not give up easily and be together for better and worse - focusing on the feelings that drove me to make such vows also impacts how I feel in the end.
And then thinking about all the possibilities within our marriage - how happy we can ever become together -, also keeps me having faith in our marriage.
Lastly, being conscious of my own emotional nature helps too. I know that I tend to be very dramatic and negative when I am filled with emotional waves of anger and sadness, so that I should just let it pass before ever deciding on something.
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