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Posts tagged ‘differences in marriage’

Marriage: Opposites Attract

SOURCE:  Leslie Schmucker/Desiring God

God Draws Us in Marital Differences

My husband and I often don’t see eye to eye. After 31 years of marriage, you’d think that we would have figured out how to navigate our differences. We do love each other. We both have come to understand, by God’s grace, that love is not a feeling but a choice. People who don’t have that figured out don’t last 31 years.

My husband is a kind and generous man who I admire and love deeply. He is absolutely “respected at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:23, NIV). He and I are just wired so differently that our wires seem to cross more than they connect.

I’m an extrovert. When I’m stressed, I become re-energized by a good game night with the family, or a night out with friends. My husband is an introvert. When he is stressed, he re-energizes by catching a good documentary alone in the basement, or getting out of the house by himself for a while.

My husband is mindful of money, watching our spending closely, providing the checks and balances we need to keep from going into debt. I tend to see money as a means to bless others and enjoy new or interesting experiences. I’m the reason for the checks and balances.

The Greatest Challenge

Our differences seem endless at times. He likes a skinny Christmas tree; for me, the fatter the better. He is tidy; I am not. He is more formal; I’m more comfortable in jeans and a hoodie. He comes from a family of seven children; I have one sibling. His love language is acts of service. Mine is words of affirmation.

Perhaps the most challenging difference between my husband and me, though, is the way we handle anger. When I am angry, I need to talk about it. Often passionately. My husband goes inward with his anger. He becomes quiet and sullen. I run him over with a bulldozer of words. He shuts me out with a wall of aloofness. This has often resulted in a maddening cacophony of yelling and silence, resulting in resentment that compounds the conflict.

Still, we remain steadfast in our resolve not to divorce. In the moment, when tensions and emotions are running high, and frustration threatens to undo us, the temptation to split feels enticing. What stops us from making our lives easier (albeit temporarily) by parting ways?

In a word, Christ.

Would Divorce Be Better?

Divorcing my husband, apart from the pain it would cause us and our family, would only serve to remove the largest indicator and brightest illuminator of my principal sin: pride.  Choosing the easy road removes challenge. The removal of challenge removes the opportunity for growth. A lack of growth causes stagnation in our walk. Stagnation in our walk keeps us from Christ and everything he still has for us in this life, including in our marriages.

Romans 14:1 tells us not to quarrel over disputable matters. Here, God is speaking about the church. But this principle can be applied to marriage, as well. If God used marriage as a type of Christ’s church, should we destroy it for the sake of issues that have nothing to do with salvation (and everything to do with our selfish ambition and pride)?

Unequally Yoked?

God also admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 6:14 to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Unequal yoking of oxen leads to a lack of productivity and a lot of frustration.

Though my husband and I are equally yoked in Christ, we have felt unequally yoked in lesser things. We have more than once almost allowed ourselves to be ripped apart over opinions. However, we do not get a free pass to unyoke ourselves from each other for lesser things. We both have submitted to the easy yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:30). We are believers and, as such, we have no right to tear apart what God has joined (Mark 10:9).

What, then, do we do with our jostling and bumping within the yoke Christ has fitted us with? Christ’s yoke is easy in the sense that we can put to rest our confusion and uncertainty about our future in him. We are saved, secure, and bound to Christ eternally. But we’re still here on earth, tilling the rocky, seemingly impassable soil of our marriage.

How do we learn to walk in step with one another as sinners within the yoke?

One Love Language

Burk Parsons said, “The love language of all marriages is self-denial.” In my marriage, I often feel frustrated, hurt, tired, angry, and sometimes unloved. I know my husband feels the same at times. We regularly react to the other person’s failure to meet our expectations. He didn’t affirm me. I didn’t serve him. We have corroborated with ourselves instead of denying ourselves. And now we are unhappy.

I know what the world’s wisdom says about marriage. If I am unhappy, I should leave and find someone who will make me happy. Or I should just “eat, pray, and love” my way to happiness by pursuing endeavors that would help me find myself.

Christ, though, would have me carry my cross right up to the top of the hill of my marriage, loving my husband with no conditions, through the fiercest of storms. Why? Because my husband is my brother in Christ. He is a fellow believer, who came to Christ in 1997 right alongside me, entering into the covenant of grace, which binds us together even more than our covenant of marriage.

Reminders for the Married

In marriage counseling, Christ would have me obey Ephesians 4:29–32, which admonishes me to use my words to build up. It tells me to put away bitterness, clamor, and anger. It tells me, instead, to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.

Christ has told me in John 15:12 to love my husband as Christ has loved me. And in Luke 6:31, he instructs me to treat others, especially my husband, as I would want to be treated.

Shouldn’t I be considering Colossians 3:14, which exhorts me to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”?

Why do I forget these marvelous commands when I come in my front door? Why can’t I keep 1 Corinthians 13 in front of me in marriage?

I love Christ, I really do. And I love my husband. Still, I fall into sin in my marriage more times than I care to admit.

But God

But I serve the God who calmed the storm with a word (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39). I love the Savior who brought this world into being, watched it fall, then suffered and died to redeem it. I believe in the God who saved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8). And he did these things for my husband, as well.

Last summer I typed out the words of 1 Corinthians 13, and I keep them in a frame above my desk. When I am tempted to keep a record of wrongs (see verse 5), I go to these framed words. I pray for God to remind me how much he loves my husband, and how much Christ suffered so that I could have a godly marriage. I am still very far from conquering my relentless regard for self, and I am still adamant about a fat Christmas tree, but I know that our yoke is held firm by the One who put it there.

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Is Your Spouse Abnormal?

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

Each of you brings a different background and a different set of expectations into your marriage.

Here’s how to establish the ‘new normal.’

You’re snuggled in your warm bed, about to drift off to sleep. And then comes that dreaded question from your wife:  “Honey, did you remember to turn out all the lights and lock all the doors?”

That was our story during our first year of marriage.

We lived in Boulder, Colorado, where the winter nights were cold and we loved our toasty electric blanket.  I remember the night when I collapsed into bed, totally exhausted, and Barbara brought me back from the edge of oblivion with a light poke.  “Aren’t you going to turn out the lights?”

It occurred to me that I’d been getting up for the past two months and experiencing mild frostbite and that perhaps it was her turn.  “Why don’t you turn out the lights tonight?” I retorted.

Barbara replied, “I thought you would because my dad always turned out the lights.”

A shot of adrenalin cleared my head like the sun piercing the fog.  And I shouldn’t have said it, but I did:  “But I’m not your dad!”

Well, that turned out to be a night when we practiced the scriptural admonition to not  “let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).  You see, two forces clashed on that cold Rocky Mountain night—Barbara’s sense of normal and my sense of normal.  She felt it was the husband’s duty to turn off the lights because that’s what her father had always done.  That was normal to her.  But in my family of origin, that task was not irrevocably assigned to the male species.

When normals collide

Each of you brings a different background and a different set of expectations into your marriage.  Your family did things a certain way, and your spouse’s family did things a certain way. Often you don’t even realize what’s normal to you until you get married and suddenly your normal collides with that of your spouse.

On these issues, you need to realize that your spouse is not abnormal–just different.

For example, let’s examine some of the normals surrounding dinner time:

  • Was it normal for you to eat dinner together as a family on most nights?
  • What types of meals did you normally eat?
  • What did you drink?
  • Who cooked the meal?
  • Who cleaned up?
  • How did you normally dress?
  • Did you open the meal with prayer?
  • Did you start eating when you were seated or did you wait until after you prayed?
  • Was it normal to get a debrief from everyone’s day or was the television turned on and the dominant force?
  • If someone called, was dinner interrupted to answer the phone?
  • Was it normal to have friends over for dinner?
  • How often did you eat at restaurants as a family?

You could probably add to that list.  And that’s just one set of normals.  How about breakfast and lunch?  What were your normals regarding family entertainment?  Vacations? Birthday celebrations?  Christmas gifts?  Pets?  Handling finances?

Reader feedback

After I first wrote on this topic for an issue of Marriage Memo, a number of readers wrote to tell about the struggles they faced with this issue.  One wrote:

I mostly have a problem with my wife when it comes to turning off lights and celebrating birthdays and having parties all the time. I prefer the light to be off when I sleep but she prefers the opposite.  Again, my wife believes that every birthday (including that of our children) must be celebrated with a lot of presents (if it’s the children, then they must have a party at school, which she does all the time).

Another described a conflict that arose when she and her husband were celebrating their seventh anniversary.  They had a new baby, and this would be the first time they left the baby with her mother while they went on a date.  The baby was fussy at night, so she felt they should go out for lunch, but her husband insisted on dinner.

We finally sat down and talked about how both of us were feeling.  I was upset because I did not feel he understood how nervous I was, and I did not understand why we had to go out for dinner instead of lunch.  It turned out that that was not his “normal.”  His family rarely went out to eat, and they never went out for lunch. You just had a sandwich for lunch at home. It did not seem romantic or special to go out for lunch to him. On the other hand, my family went out a lot more frequently and it was for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I always loved going out for breakfast growing up, but my husband and I never do.  Now I understand why.

Creating a new set of normals

No matter how long you’ve been married, one of your priorities is to create a new set of normals in your relationship. And it’s especially important early in marriage.  In their book, The Most Important Year in a Woman’s Life, Susan DeVries and Bobbie Wolgemuth write, “Over the years we’ve seen couples in conflict over money or sex or in-laws, but what they’re really fighting about aren’t those things at all.  They’re really fighting about normal.”

A good first step is to commit to understanding each other’s normals.  Make it part of your vocabulary.  If you find yourself disagreeing about an issue, ask yourselves, “Is this a question of differing normals?”  You can create a spirit of discovery, where you can talk about normals in a way that doesn’t feel threatening.  Remember that, in most cases, different is not bad—it’s just different.

It’s amazing how honest communication, plus a good dose of flexibility, can help resolve conflict. In the above story about the couple celebrating their anniversary, the wife wrote that once she understood how their normals were colliding, she agreed to put aside her fears and go out for dinner.  “The baby was just fine with my mom,” she wrote, “We were able to enjoy our evening together because we had talked about where we both were coming from beforehand and were on the same page.”

A second step is to make choices together that reflect your priorities and values.  Let’s say that you grew up in a family that gave each other inexpensive birthday gifts, while your spouse’s family splurged and spent a lot more money.  As you consider how to celebrate your birthdays, this is an opportunity to make your own choices that reflect the importance you place on birthdays, and the number of banks you have to rob so you have enough to spend.

As you make these decisions, follow the guidance of Romans 12:10, which tells us to “give preference to one another in honor” (NASB).  In most of your decisions, your sense of normal will not be superior to that of your spouse.  If you both determine not to hold too tightly to what’s comfortable and familiar, you will find ways to compromise and honor each other and create your own normal in your new home.

So … who’s going to turn out the lights in your family?

Marriage Is for Holiness — Not Just Happiness

SOURCE:  Paul and Halee Scott

How our marriage has made us better people

Neither of us “needed” to get married.

Both of us were independent and for the most part, content in our singleness.

Paul dreamed of living alone on a boat off the coast of Newport Beach, California; Halee had plans to travel the world teaching English overseas. Yet there we were, barefoot on a sandy beach outside Santa Barbara, making our vows to the sound of rushing waves crashing on the shore.

Make no mistake, we were (and still are) head over heels for one another, but neither of us needed marriage to make us happy because we were already happy in our singleness. We understood—even then—that our marriage was ultimately more about our moral development than personal satisfaction and contentment. And that day, we washed each other’s feet in the surf to symbolize our commitment to serve each other to that end.

For most of human history and in most societies, the goal of marriage was to provide economic security through family alliances and to serve as a context for procreation. To marry for personal happiness (or love) was considered a selfish act that disregarded the needs of the broader community. It wasn’t until the 12th century that the troubadours (a group of traveling poets) introduced the concept of courtly love as we know it today.

Still other groups have emphasized the spiritual goals of marriage. The Catholic church believes marriage is a sacrament because the relationship between husband and wife represents the union of Christ to his bride, believers. In 1930, Pope Pius XI proposed that the primary purpose for Christian marriage was not procreation or sacrament, but to serve as a context for moral development. He writes, “This mutual molding of [spouses], this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony.”

The trouble—even for contemporary Christians—is that we often approach marital issues in an individualistic way.

In the cornucopia of Christian marriage self-help books, the guiding questions seem to be along the lines of “What can I get out of this?” or “How can I cope in this marriage?” rather than “What are we forging together?” or “How can our marriage make us each more like Christ?”

It’s not that God doesn’t want our marriages to bring us deep satisfaction and happiness, it’s just that marriage is bursting with opportunities for deeper spiritual growth—opportunities we may be missing if we’re not asking all the right questions.

But what do these opportunities look like in everyday life? How exactly can marriage make us more holy? Here are a few small, specific ways God has used marriage to carve virtue into our character.

Prudence.   Often translated “wisdom,” the word prudence comes from the word providence, which means “to see ahead.” I (Halee) can be candid to a fault. I’ve always had a knack for saying exactly what I think at the very moment I think it—regardless of the impact it has on the hearer. Early in life I’d seen how damaging it was to bury emotions, so in an effort to avoid that mistake, I made the equal and opposite error of expressing myself without a great deal of forethought.

But when we married, I noticed that my honesty was more divisive than it was beneficial to our marriage. I saw the impact my words had upon Paul, and I started to pay attention to how he communicated with me and with others. Paul knew what to say and the right moment to say it. He spoke thoughtfully, ensuring that his words contributed to the well-being of others. The truth didn’t always have to be painful.

Because of his daily influence, I’ve learned how to be more tactful in the way I say things. It was a difficult transition, especially in the beginning. During this period, Paul taught me his “three-day rule.” When I was tempted to respond to someone quickly and brashly, I took three days to think it through and pray. Eventually, I didn’t need to practice the three-day rule in order to exercise prudence in my daily interactions with Paul and others. I was able to “see ahead” and discern what words would best build up the other person.

Courage.   C.S. Lewis called courage “the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Courage isn’t the absence of fear as much as it is the willingness to move forward despite fear. Throughout our marriage, I (Paul) have seen Halee demonstrate courage over and over. She applied (and was hired) for jobs I thought she needed more experience for. She speaks regularly in front of hundreds of people even though she’s terrified of public speaking. The night our daughter was born, I caught her crying for a single minute (when she thought I wasn’t looking) as the labor pains intensified. She went on to brave 16 hours of labor to bring our daughter into the world.

I don’t like to get out of my comfort zone, but seeing Halee exercise courage over the years gave me the courage to quit my job in the middle of the recession. I’d been working for the company for 14 years, and I’d known God was calling me to leave the company for a long time, but I couldn’t imagine leaving after all the years I’d put into the company. I was afraid, wondering how I would be able to provide for my family. But eventually, I did quit and moved into the work that God had called me to.

Temperance.   St. Augustine wrote, “Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” Temperance is the ability to practice moderation in action, thought, or feeling. I (Halee) have never been good at moderation; I always seem to operate in extremes, whether in work or play. It wasn’t enough to have one job while going to school when I had time enough for two (or three). It wasn’t enough to run three miles when my daily goal was five. It wasn’t adequate to pick up the clutter around the house when the floors needed to be mopped and the baseboards scrubbed.

It wasn’t long into our marriage when I discovered Paul didn’t share this “value.” He was a diligent worker, but he didn’t feel compelled to put in excessively long hours. When we took the same course in graduate school, he was content with an A- (or even a B+!) while I sweated it out for an A+. When he cleaned the house, he didn’t always dust or mop or polish the leather couches. When we climbed mountains, he didn’t need to go to the top—he was content with going halfway. For him, it wasn’t so much about the destination as it was the journey along the way.

Believe it or not, this difference in our approaches to things was one of the biggest sources of conflict in our marriage. But more often than not, his temperate approach was the better way, and even if it doesn’t always come naturally, I’ve learned to practice moderation in various areas of my life.

Charity.   Charity is the highest, the most important of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, charity). Charity is agape love, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. Thomas Aquinas describes it as “the most excellent of virtues … the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor.” A mistake many people make in marriage is fighting for their “rights” when charity—or love—requires that we lay down our “rights” for God or for the sake of others.

For example, guys sometimes think they have a “right” to their own space or their own time (like a night out with the guys), but I (Paul) realized that the perceived “rights” I had were really selfish aspects of my character that God wanted to change through our marriage. When I surrendered my rights—like cutting short a night out with friends to take care of Halee when I knew she’d had a long day at school or work—I became more diligent, motivated, and sensitive to others’ needs.

Marriage provides a daily context for spiritual growth because it gives us opportunities to put away sinful tendencies and practice more virtuous behaviors. The Roman lyric poet Horace wrote, “To flee vice is the beginning of virtue.” Every action we take has a consequence for our character. Our actions become habits and habits, like grooves on a well-worn path, become our character.

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Paul Scott is a registered therapist specializing in drug, alcohol, and sexual addition. Prior to this role, he served in leadership for Every Man’s Battle for 13 years. Dr. Halee Gray Scott is an author, independent scholar, and researcher.

Why Stay in a Difficult Marriage?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Dawn Yrene

Quiet miracles happen even in the most tumultuous unions

“Divorce isn’t the unforgivable sin,” my friend hinted, not so subtly. I had just expressed my deep remorse over marrying a man with whom I had little in common.

Kevin and I had been proof that opposites attract. He was the wild type—a tattooed, leather-clad biker. His first love had been his Harley until he had met Christ, six months before meeting me. To be honest, Christ and the Harley still vied for first place. His closet was filled with bike parts, and the motorcycle “herself” rested in the middle of his living room when not in use.

I, on the other hand, was a straight-laced evangelical who listened to Christian music, worked a Christian job, and spoke Christianese. I had my own idols, though, and at age 26, marriage was becoming one of them.

Kevin and I met at a Christian singles’ retreat. Both of us were there because of a roommate’s persuasion. By the end of the retreat, I had found a new friend in Kevin, “but that’s all,” I assured myself. We were too different ever to be more: I was having a tough time sleeping in a tent, but I had seen him napping while sitting on his motorcycle. This was a true biker!

When Kevin asked for my phone number, I was surprised. Our next outing was a rainy Fourth of July fishing trip. We arrived back in town soaked but with a pleasant memory. Kevin talked little, but when he did, it was often about the Bible. He had a refreshing realness about him. He was a baby Christian, and as babies tend to do, he brought a fresh perspective to life—especially my spiritual life.

We began attending a Bible study and praying together. After a few months, he proposed. Yet despite all the good memories we were making, we were also beginning to disagree often. I assured myself that marriage would make us “one” on issues such as childrearing, spending, and the many other significant differences between us.

As any married person could have told me, that wasn’t a logical assumption.

Till Trials Do Us Part?

Marriage magnified our differences. Kevin’s focus on me began to take his eyes off Jesus. My hopes for a blissful marriage and a friend who would always be there did the same to me.

Sometimes we idolized each other, looking to each other to fill the empty places we should have let Christ fill. We also fought regularly. Though Kevin could say sweet things, he also knew how to make me feel low—even abused. I was surprised to see myself, the “good little Christian,” becoming hateful and vengeful. I began pondering my friend’s advice. After all, Christians aren’t perfect. What if I married the wrong person? Why stay married if it’s all about fighting? Why stay imprisoned when a simple divorce could mean freedom? Why be unhappy?

Amid all my questioning, a still, small voice kept reminding me of what I had prayed shortly before meeting Kevin. “Lord, instead of looking for a man who fits my list of wants, give me to a man who needs me as his helper, as Adam needed Eve.” Despite our differences, Kevin needed a helper, and the helper God had selected was me. And I needed Kevin—to balance me, challenge me, and cause me to trust God. Through the painful trials of marriage, God was purifying me, teaching me to obey even when it wasn’t comfortable, and rewarding me in quiet ways only I could see.

Nearly 13 years and five children later, my difficult marriage has brought happiness I never imagined and pain I never knew I could endure. Kevin has a growing relationship with Christ, as do I. Idolatry has been replaced by awe over God’s forgiveness. Brokenness and thankfulness have replaced abusive language and behavior. Answered prayer has turned a marriage that was an embarrassment to God’s kingdom into a testimony of His power.

Kevin and I are still more like black and white than gray. We need Christ to hold us together. But our roller-coaster ride has shown me that, contrary to worldly opinions, there are good reasons for staying in a difficult marriage. Here are several of those reasons.

Staying Power

WE ALL HAVE PRISONS.  Many situations can make us feel trapped: a nagging temptation, a tormented past, sickness, poverty, loneliness—or a difficult marriage. The Apostle Paul showed us what to do when there’s no way out: While in prison, he worshiped God (Acts 16:25). Being bound to an incompatible spouse doesn’t have to stop us from thanking God, experiencing peace, and receiving the His good gifts daily.

Divorcing my husband would ultimately be exchanging one prison for another. Bitterness and unforgiveness would create their own kind of trap. As Richard Lovelace wrote long ago, “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.” Could I, like Paul, rejoice in my prison cell?

DIFFICULTIES MAKE US BETTER PEOPLE.  We all hate suffering. But without it, who would we be? Looking at the lives of two biblical kings, a father and son, we get a glimpse. David lived a life of warfare, moving from one battle to the next. Yet at the end of David’s life, he worshiped so joyfully that he ignited a revival throughout Israel.

His son Solomon, in contrast, received from his father a productive and peaceful kingdom. He enjoyed peace, wealth, and whatever he wanted. Yet Ecclesiastes suggests that Solomon’s easy life led him to depression, cynicism, and weak faith.

DIFFICULTIES STRENGTHEN OUR PRAYER LIVES.  The Bible makes it clear that God wants people to stay married. Yet He hasn’t made marriage particularly easy. It’s only by crying out to God in our inadequacy that difficult marriages can change and grow. During our darkest moments, the psalms remind us that God understands our feelings and will help. In my marriage, the times forgiveness has been hardest have also been the times I have seen God’s rewards in the most amazing ways. Isaiah 64:4-5 says,

No eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right.

My marriage is undeniably better when I pray for my spouse. With this incentive, I’ve learned to pray for everything from simple blessings such as God’s mercy and peace in our house, to complicated requests such as how to communicate in a way Kevin will understand. I’ve even learned to pray things I don’t really want to pray, such as for me to recognize my sin and for God to change me into the wife Kevin needs.

STAYING MARRIED TEACHES US HOW TO FORGIVE.  If there’s one thing marriage has taught me, it’s how to seek and grant forgiveness. Kevin, who had suffered through two divorces as an unbeliever, recently told me how freeing it is to be able to ask forgiveness and receive it. In his previous marriages, the word forgiveness was never mentioned. I’ve also learned firsthand the truth of Christ’s words in Lk. 7:47:

Her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.

When I truly forgive Kevin for hurts he regrets causing, his love for me grows. In the same way, I love him more when he sets me free from the debts I owe him.

Often it comes down to a simple choice: Will I hold on to bitterness, or will I love Jesus enough to put another person’s needs before my own—even if that person has wounded me to the core? Will I be kind to a spouse who doesn’t return my kindness because the Lover of my soul asks me to, or will I bail out? If I put my spouse in the place of God, then when he utterly fails, I may give up on him, even despise him. But if he is a gift from God—a part of my walk with Christ—someone who can test my love for God on a regular basis, I will be able to forgive even when he seriously disappoints me.

THERE’S A WAY THAT SEEMS RIGHT…BUT ISN’T.  A difficult marriage can seem like a mistake—but it may not be.  A spouse may be the best person to teach us to die to self (Mk. 8:35).  Males and females have different needs and wants when it comes to sex, communication—even TV preferences! In marriages where the list goes much further, including preferences in food (health versus junk), holiday traditions, denominational affiliations, and cultural backgrounds, divorce may, at times, seem to be the right choice.  But Prov. 14:12 says that sometimes what seems right leads to death. Kevin’s and my differences have caused many tears, especially in trying to raise happy, emotionally healthy children.  But if we trust God, we can believe that divorce, while it may seem logical at times, would only destroy the good results God wants to produce in us.

FEELINGS THAT HAVE FADED MAY RETURN.  Some couples find that bitterness and resentment have made it impossible to love one another. But Jesus said, “All things are possible with God” (Mk. 10:27). Both Kevin and I have reached low points where it seemed we could never love each other again. Miraculously, our union has become such a team, such a friendship, and such a wonderful romance that we feel unworthy and amazed at God’s ability to restore. Utter hatred can become passionate love when we submit those feelings to God, and obedience overrides the desire of the moment.

MY MARRIAGE SHOULDN’T BE MY ENTIRE LIFE.  God has jobs, talents, and good works (Eph. 2:10) planned for each of us. In a bad marriage, God may bring relief through an outside occupation or a specific calling. He may use our hurts to minister to others who suffer. Focusing only on our marriages—good or bad—can cause us to miss out on the good God wants to do through us and for us in other areas of our lives.

I CAN CHOOSE TO SEE THE GOOD IN MY SPOUSE.  Every situation and person has good and bad aspects on which we can choose to focus. First Thessalonians 5:18 says to give thanks in allsituations.

When I wanted our yard fenced a few years ago, Kevin and I disagreed. He didn’t feel we could afford it. I wanted protection for our kids. Finally, he put up a six-foot chain-link fence—after I had told him I didn’t like chain link.

Years later, when I look at that fence, I can feel angry at my husband’s choice or thank God that Kevin sacrificed his time, sweat, and money to keep our children safe. I can also remember that men and women often think they’ve communicated clearly, when the opposite sex heard a completely different message. Maybe Kevin didn’t realize that chain link was that big of a deal to me. Maybe it was on sale. Maybe he tuned out during that part of the conversation. When marriage is tough, there’s still an opportunity to find my spouse’s good qualities and thank God for them—despite the imperfections.

Marriage by the Book

In an age in which counselors tell us to get out of “poisonous relationships” and even well-meaning friends say divorce is OK, I can remember the words of an old, yet living book. I can remember that it’s not really about my marriage to a man, but to the Bridegroom. If I love Him, I’ll obey by loving my spouse. In doing that, I find—strangely—that my difficult marriage can become a delight. And while God doesn’t promise that, He does ask if I am willing to die so that I can find real life in losing mine. I must admit such obedience doesn’t come easily.

Thankfully, Kevin’s Harley no longer resides in the living room. He sold it a year after we married to pay bills from our daughter’s birth. Now, we have a pet rabbit and five rowdy little children in its place. Lately, Kevin has been browsing the internet for another motorcycle. I don’t know what I’d do if he brought it into our living room. But with God’s help, we’ve made it over enough hurdles that I hope we wouldn’t let a little thing like a Harley in the living room get in the way of a happy marriage. With all our differences, we make too good a team for that.

In fact, I’ve come to believe that differences and difficulties are a recipe for truly great marriages. Differences may make marital harmony more difficult to achieve. But when two people with varying strengths come together, wanting to obey God and allowing Him to be strong where they are weak, the marriage that results becomes a powerful force for good in this world and a great reason for unbelievers to believe.

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