When we got married, we knew it would be hard at times. We’d had plenty of wise, seasoned couples warn us that while marriage has its share of sweet, joyful moments, it will also stretch, break, and grow us in ways we never could have imagined. Oh man, have we seen this to be true.
We’ve wrestled with what it looks like to support each other in times of depression. We’ve struggled with the reality that physical intimacy is really hard and confusing at times. We’ve worked to love each other in the midst of our personality differences, different hobbies, and a million other things (you can check out the archive of my marriage posts here).
And as we’ve shared life with other couples and read all of the your comments here on this blog, we’ve been reminded over and over again that we’re not the only ones who struggle in our marriages. This combining of hearts, souls, bodies, and lives is beautiful and challenging, and it seems like just about every married couple we know struggles with it in some way.
When Marriage Isn’t A Priority
The fact that marriage is hard isn’t the only common theme we see in our conversations with our married friends. Another statement we hear over and over again is something along these lines: “Yes, our marriage is really hard right now. We’re struggling with __________ and we feel distant or angry or sad, but we really just don’t have time to deal with it right now. We’re really busy with __________ and jumping into these issues is just too much.”
Oh my goodness, my sweet friends, can I just start by saying that I SO feel you on this one? When Jordan and I got married, it seemed like we were just so BUSY. I was working full time and taking night classes several nights a week and Jordan was student teaching and occasionally working nights as a server in a restaurant. When I started to wrestle with depression and we started to see some issues with intimacy in our marriage, we put off really diving in for months. It just didn’t feel like we had time to open that can of worms and put in the work we’d have to do to get to the bottom of some of the issues that were starting to pop up.
Life absolutely comes in seasons, and sometimes those seasons of busyness are inevitable. I completely understand why people let intentional marriage fall to the wayside.
Here’s where I get scared. When we say we’re putting off really jumping into those issues in our marriage until we have more time, we assume that someday we will actually “have more time.” And friends, is that ever the case?
It seems like as soon as we finish one busy season, the next season quickly follows. From seasons of school and career-building to pregnancy and raising littles, there is always something we could justify pouring lots of time and energy into. Those things are good and important things that we do need to tend to, and I don’t think at all that we need to completely abandon them to spend time solely with our spouses.
But with the divorce rates as high as they are, I wonder if our strategy of putting off working on our marriages isn’t actually working. Maybe the time to work on our marriages isn’t in the future when our jobs are set, when our kids are older, and life finally feels “easy.”
The One Thing To Do When Marriage Feels Hard
In 2016, I propose that we do things a little differently. When marriage is hard and our spouses seem distant or angry or just plain exhausting, let’s stop turning on Netflix and ignoring the problem. Let’s do the one thing that it seems like the majority of our country isn’t doing with our marriage struggles: let’s lean in.
Let’s lean in to the fact that marriage is hard and start really exploring why that is. Let’s set aside time we don’t have for real conversations with our spouses on a regular basis, for date nights even when they seem frivolous and we don’t have time or money to spare. Let’s lean into the bitterness and frustration that have slowly built walls between us and the person we walked down the aisle to, doing whatever it takes to break down those walls and meet our broken, vulnerable husbands and wives where they huddle hurting on the other side.
Let’s say no to activities and commitments that take us away from our spouses and our families unnecessarily, knowing that saying that hard “no” to some good things means we get to say a sweet and beautiful “yes” to the best things.
Let’s put our time (and even our money) into marriage counseling, whether with wise, seasoned couples whose marriages we admire or with licensed counselors who can help us do the hard work of peeling back the layers of hurt that have built up over the years.
When the world and our fragile, fearful hearts tell us to back away, to turn on the TV and avoid the growing distance in our marriages, let’s do just the opposite: let’s lean in close.
Our marriages matter, and even when its overwhelming and scary, my prayer is that we would lean in to the hard and broken places in our hearts. I pray that we would put our marriages first, knowing that a solid marriage is the foundation for solid families, joyful hearts, and so much more.
In 2016, let’s be the brave people who lean in when marriage is hard, who fight the good fight for intimacy and joy in our marriage that is real, hard-won, and oh so worth it.