roller coaster marriage

So as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m feeling led to write about marriage these days. 

And as I’ve also mentioned in the past, there are certain topics I feel God nudging me to touch-upon while I’m writing and my reaction to him is simply just, “Crap.”

Astute and eloquent, I know.

For the record, I don’t really WANT to write about marriage.

It isn’t that I don’t want to help others through my own mistakes. It isn’t that I’m concerned you all will think less of me. It isn’t really any  big reason other than as writers, we often experience attack in the very subject we pen.

Yes, I know better than to allow fear to silence that call and so I step-out in obedience. But I’m praying for protection as I do.

Marriage is like the “Noble Duke of York” lyrics: when you’re up, you’re up. And when you’re down, you’re down. And when you’re only half-way up, you’re neither up or down.

I’ve talked to enough of you to know the roller-coaster of marriage is not something just Jason and I experience.

Authentic marriage is a series of ups, downs, and neither-up-nor-downs. Thank you, the Noble Duke of York.

So what to do during the down-swing? How do we wait-out the valleys so we can be sure we’ll be able to enjoy the peaks?

Here’s what I’ve learned thus far (and keep in mind, I speak to you as someone who’s not figured this out but is rowing your same boat, sister):

DISCLAIMER:  If you are in an abusive marriage, the below does not apply. Seek professional help and create a plan for your marriage. I don’t hold the belief women should stay with an abuser just because they took a vow.

1. Only YOU can prevent marriage fires. If your husband is coming at you in frustration and saying things he doesn’t mean or yelling or anything else that can transpire during an ugly fight, the worst thing we can do is throw sparks right back. It just makes the situation worse. But how do we react when this is happening? A counselor friend of mine recommends either walking away or saying “I won’t talk to you when you’re like this. Let’s discuss this after you have calmed down.”

Regardless, YOU are in control of what YOU do no matter what your spouse does.  Add sparks of your own and you’re going to get a fire you won’t be able to control. And if you’re the one yelling and saying things you don’t mean? Then accept it if your husband walks away or tells you he’ll talk to you about it later.

Nothing good comes from shouting matches. No one hears a thing.

2. Your words can be a bullet or a balm.  Encourage healthy discussion without yelling, mocking, or name-calling. So we get some conflicting advice on this as Christians. Ephesians 4:26 tells us “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”But it doesn’t say anything about reconciliation. I used to insist we hammer all issues from an argument out and get to the bottom of it before we went to bed but truth be told, it’s really not the ideal time to work through it all. We’re tired. We likely have to get up early in the morning. Patience is short, fuses shorter. It’s OK to agree to table the issue until the following day BUT: kiss goodnight and say “I love you” to your husband. He may not say it back but that’s OK. Remember: only YOU can prevent marriage fires. YOU control your part.

3. Live and let die. In other words, live your life forward and forgive your spouse of the transgressions from the past. Think of it this way: what if every time we messed up, Jesus was right there reminding us of all the other times we had messed up in the past? What if He dangled forgiveness like a carrot only the lucky obtain? Just plain silly to even think of it this way, isn’t it? Jesus forgives us right then and there. As hard as this is, we are called to do the same.

“But, wait a minute here,” you might say (if you’re like me.) ” I’m not Jesus. Only Jesus is Jesus. He is flawless and I’m not.”

And it’s true that we aren’t Jesus and only Jesus is Jesus. It’s also true that we are disabled by the flesh. However, as Matthew 24 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.'”

Three words jump out at me here: must deny themselves. We must die to ourselves in our marriage, sister. But your husband must die to himself in your marriage, too.

Both parties must die to themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Jesus – no matter what. (But if your husband refuses to do so, you still can.)

4. Pray that God will soften your heart towards your husband. The enemy loves to attack marriages. If he can take down a marriage, he can reach more people because so many are negatively affected by the death of a marriage. While I don’t like to pay more attention to the enemy than he deserves, I will say he can do some serious work on our thoughts until we start to think our spouse is actually the enemy. Jason is not my enemy; the enemy is the enemy. But sometimes I forget this. Praying that God will soften my heart towards him has allowed me to remember he’s a person with real feelings and needs.

5. Get in the word. I once rolled my eyes at this advice because it seems like the token answer to Christians experiencing hardship. But here’s the reality: it’s the token answer because it’s true. Nothing softens my heart like reading God’s word. If you need a good starting place, I recommend the book of Colossians, Proverbs, and Psalms.

If you are feeling hopeless, sister, let me encourage you: there IS hope. Pray like crazy. Control your part. Seek help if you need it. But never, ever lose hope.

What is something you have learned since being married?