I fell asleep last night praying for the marriages of my friends by name. I’m at that stage of my life where it seems like far too many friends’ marriages are falling apart. Maybe it’s the age, maybe it’s the busyness of life, maybe it’s the stress of children. But for some reason, I feel like it is happening with increasing frequency to those around me.
And it breaks my heart.
You may not know this, but I used to be a divorce attorney. I walked through that difficult journey with people on a daily basis. Each story was different. Each set of circumstances unique. But somewhere, somehow, marriage didn’t work for that couple anymore. And it was devastating.
Here’s the thing – marriage shouldn’t work.
There is nothing about the joining of two lives at (usually) a young age that makes sense. Two different people. Two sets of personalities. Two sets of needs. Two styles of upbringing. Two sets of goals, dreams and desires. To join those two very distinct beings together “for better or for worse” (and let’s be honest, none of us really likes thinking about the future “worse” when we get married) seems absurd. “To death do us part” seems unlikely. And the more we watch marriages around us fall apart, the more we start to see that demise as somehow “normal”.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to leave the field of family law – I knew the escape route too well. I didn’t want to start thinking of divorce as “normal”.
Because when you really think about marriage, it seems like it shouldn’t work.
But it can. It has. And it does.
When I see the marriages that have survived and thrived for decades, I know that is the future I am aspiring to reach. But it doesn’t just “happen”. It takes work. It takes commitment – not just on that wedding day, but each and every day. So if marriage shouldn’t work – how DO we make it work?
1. Protect Your Marriage
None of us likes boundaries. We like to do things our way. We like to live by the mantra “You Only Live Once” and throw caution to the wind. We like to live as if there are no consequences. But there are. Devastating consequences.
When I say “protect your marriage”, I mean to guard it with your life. Keep your eyes wide open to the things that threaten your relationship – and then FLEE from them. Don’t play with fire. Don’t cozy up to temptation. FLEE from it. Run the other way.
If it’s someone at your work that has caught your attention, if it’s someone at the gym who you look forward to flirting with, if it’s text messages sharing private, personal conversations with someone other than your spouse – STOP IT. NOW.
It may seem harmless and innocent, but it’s not. Sure, you may think your situation will never develop into anything else – but you’re opening that door, even if just a crack. Slam that door shut and run the other way. Protect your marriage.
2. Invest in Your Marriage
It is so easy with all the demands and pressures of life and children to put marriage on the back burner. It’s easy to start to think of your spouse more like your roommate. The monotony of the chores, the routines of daily life – sometimes living with your spouse resembles living with your college roommate, without the fun nights out on the town.
That’s why it is so important to invest in your marriage. To take opportunities to demonstrate love to your spouse in sometimes even just small ways. (I’m totally preaching to the choir here, and would love some of your suggestions on how you invest in your marriage). It’s not easy with two working parents with two children under the age of 3. I get that. I’m living that. Remember, it shouldn’t work – but it can. It has. And it does. Invest in your marriage.
3. Have Faith in Your Marriage
Don’t just believe in your spouse and your marital vows, keep your faith central to your marriage. When we start to look to our spouse to give us the security, love and understanding we need, they will inevitably fall short. They will have bad days. They will get distracted. They will mess up. And we will get frustrated. We will start to feel neglected. We will start to crave more – and far too often, I see people start to look outside their marriage to fill those gaps.
Don’t look for someone else to fill those gaps – look to God to fill those places. Allow Him to give you the security, love and understanding you need. Because when we allow those deep needs are filled by the One who created us, we aren’t looking to our spouse to be our everything. They can be who God has given them to us to be – our partner, our lover, our friend. Keep faith in your marriage.
Marriage can and should be one of the biggest blessings in our lives. It is worth our protection, investment and faith. Surround yourselves with people who are like-minded, people who will support you two as a couple, people who will encourage you to stick together through the tough times, people who will speak truth to you, even when you don’t want to hear it.
Marriage shouldn’t work. It doesn’t just happen by accident. Be patient with your spouse. Be gentle with your spouse. Look for opportunities to show random acts of kindness. Love selflessly. Love genuinely. Love humbly.
And may yours be the marriage that doesn’t just work – may it be one that overflows with joy, happiness and love beyond your wildest dreams.