What do you do when your marriage is crumbling?
We’ve all seen the broken husband, the overbearing wife, the demanding father, the perfectionist mother and the bickering couple. We can see the tangible effect of a breaking marriage on the faces of every child who has to go through it. We may hear here is hope for the couples who struggle through the hard times but what can we do to keep afloat? We come from different backgrounds, grew up with differing family dynamics and all have our own emotional “baggage” that is brought in to the relationship. When conflict is not resolved and expectations are not expressed we pile on even more bags and for many couples it leads to a breaking point (or many). We have to take the time to open those up and address what’s inside. Few things things are as toxic to a marriage as quiet resentment and unspoken expectations.
So how do we make make it through hard times? What do we do when one or both parties have given up? How do we resolve conflict without insulting each other? I am far from an expert on the matter but here are a few things that have helped me in *my* marriage:
1) Know your partner. I talked about this briefly in my post on the “Pillars of a Healthy Marriage“. Know who they are at their core. Remember who you fell in love with. Build that mental/emotional foundation for what makes your spouse tick and then look at the difference. What circumstances have brought them to where they are now? What circumstances have brought *you* to where you are now? It’s not often one big event (though it can be) but years of holding in smaller things.
2) Take a breath. It’s better to walk away from a heated argument than to say things you will regret in a tone that will spur more descent and division. Marriages with kids complicates this as you don’t always have the luxury of going on a long walk to clear your mind. Find a place that is quiet and cool down. If there are no quiet places in the house grab some headphones. When you’ve both had a chance to calm down connect in private and try again.
3) Stay committed. We live in an age where divorces are common place. Why fix a marriage when you can just move on to another one? The problem with this life style is that you are not addressing the issues that caused the turmoil in the first place, you are running from it and will drag those same bags in to your next relationship. It’s not enough to “stay together for the kids”, you need to stay together for each other.
4) Don’t sleep on conflict. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” Eph 4:26 – There is great wisdom in staying up to work through conflict. It’s better to miss out on sleep than risk letting the conflict get buried under the busyness and stress of the next day. We want to avoid burying emotions, not add to them.
5) Spend time alone together. No cell phones. No friends. No kids. No distractions. A bottle of wine (or two) and a quiet place where you two can sit down and talk through what is happening. I’ve found that hard conversations are easier had when you remove yourself from many of the things that caused the conflict in the first place.
6) Seek counseling. You can try all you want but some times it’s best to stop reading a 30-something’s blog and talk it through with a professional. They are they are there for a reason and the right one can make an incredible difference! Ask trusted friends, family and your pastor to help you find one that would best suit your needs.