We don’t like to talk about our struggles. I especially don’t believe that I should be sharing my struggles in my own marriage all over the internet. But I believe that if we don’t deal with our struggles, our struggles can end up controlling us and putting a wedge between us and our spouses. Here are some general habits that we’ve seen in our own marriage and in other marriages that we would like to address and deal with, and some steps on how to stop doing them:
- Giving up: I don’t just mean walking away from the marriage. That’s a given. Separation or “the D word” aren’t even options for us. But unfortunately, I’ve seen many marriages where the couple has been physically together for decades but have been emotionally and mentally disconnected for just about as long as that. Being happily married doesn’t mean that you didn’t sign the divorce papers. It means that you have open communication, love, and trust between you and your spouse. And in simple fights, you can heighten the gap between you and your spouse simply by having a dismissing attitude. When you’re in the middle of a fight, you might be tempted to say things to tear down your spouse (“You’re not listening to me!”) or to be dismissive (“Okay, yeah, whatever you say”). Don’t do that. Resolve right now, when you’re not fighting, to stick it out until you have reached a compromise. The silent treatment is also a form giving up. My tendency is to want to walk away when there’s tension and not deal with it. A friend from college warned against that when I did it to her. The only exception to this is when you are physically deprived of energy. If it is late, if you are hungry, if you’ve had a long day at work, then let your spouse know that, and make a plan to talk about it again.
- Assumption: As I’ve said before, I try to be a mind-reader and tell my husband what he’s thinking. Not only isn’t that healthy for him because it limits his ability to express his own feelings, but it’s also unhealthy for me because it exhausts me trying to analyze everyone else. This also goes for assuming how he will react when I do something. If I go out and see a nice bookshelf that I really want, I may assume that since I don’t spend a lot of money from our budget anyway, my husband wouldn’t mind if I just splurge a few hundred dollars on a bookshelf. Communication is key, and whether your husband says the same thing every time you ask, you still have to ask. It’s polite, and it keeps conversation open.
- Sarcasm: There is a time and place for sarcasm and joking, but when it’s time to be serious, it’s time to be serious. My husband and I are both guilty of dismissing a conversation with a joke, a smile, or a laugh, and my husband has clearly articulated why we do that. I’ve learned that my husband jokes when he is uncomfortable. When I’m confronting him about something, or when I’m crying, it makes him uncomfortable. So instead of confronting him even more by yelling at him for laughing at me, I need to trust that he’s not making fun of me. His laughter is just an indication that he’s not ready to talk about it, or that he’s trying to ease the situation. We both have things to work on, and I’m very thankful that my husband has been honest with me about his struggle with this.
- Priorities: If you are a Christian, these are the priorities of your life: God first, then spouse, then children (if you have them), then family/friends, then everyone and everything else. This is so hard when you’re close with your mom or when you have a best friend that you tell everything. When you’re married, those ties have to get loosened, not cut, because you still need other people in your life. You have to readjust what you share with your friends and family. You also have to readjust how you spend your time. Surrender to God first, and He will show you how to put everything else in place. That’s at least what He promises in Matthew 6:33.
Overall, prayer is the answer. If you are at a crossroads in your marriage and you think your situation is impossible, stop what you’re doing right at that moment and pray. You may have other habits in your marriage that are causing a divide between you and your spouse. It is so important to call it what it is and to ask God to heal you from those tendencies. Marriage involves becoming one, a constant laying down of our old habits and the ways we were trained in the world. When we work on becoming one, some of those habits pop right back up to the surface and expose their ugly little heads. But when we recognize and deal with those issues, we are able to cut the weeds that are trying to choke our marriage and nurture the good habits that are causing our marriage to flourish.