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Marriage Through The Hard Times

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.

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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.

Work through the hard times. Have the tough conversations. Don’t give up because you can work through it and will be stronger on the other side.

Sean Leacy

Christ follower, husband & father. Geek extraordinaire, SysAdmin & avid outdoorsman. I love to lead worship & write. #DadLife #RedeemingFatherhood

  • jason

    Last October, just a month before our 20th anniversary and two months after moving into a brand new dream house, my wife told me she wanted a divorce. I’ve spent the last five months fighting like hell to save our marriage, but she’s never budged and I’m now preparing to move out and file for divorce.

    All your suggestions are excellent, but I thought it would be helpful to share my own thoughts and experiences as someone with a different perspective.

    1. Neither of you are ever completely right or completely wrong. Every marriage is made up of two broken, defective people who make mistakes daily and hurt each other on a regular basis. When things get hard, it’s easy to focus on what the other person did or didn’t do, but all that does is increase pride. Be willing to show grace and forgiveness even when you don’t want to, and be willing to humble yourself even when you think you did nothing wrong. Remember that the goal is unity. Our stupid words and actions work against that unity, grace and humility work to repair and strengthen it.

    2. Sometimes sleeping on conflict is the best thing to do. Emotion is deceiving and can lead us to make stupid choices. It’s good to take a step back for a day or two until the emotion subsides and you can think more logically. Plus, sometimes just getting a good night’s rest can make a huge difference. Don’t ever rush any big decision.

    3. Counseling is an excellent resource, particularly Christian counseling. But it’s also not a magic bullet. For it to work, both people have to want to be there. Sometimes individual counseling is necessary before couples’ counseling is an option. Be patient. Again, if you’ve gotten to that point, there’s going to be a lot of hurt and anger on both sides, but don’t let those emotions determine your future. You might have to sit and wait for a while for the other person to come around to counseling or for that counseling to start working once you go. And also know that counseling isn’t fun. You’re opening up a lot of old wounds, and it’s usually extremely painful. But if you’re both committed to the process, it can help.

    4. Some people say that a temporary separation can be beneficial if things get bad enough. If it makes sense financially, it might. A lot of times it just creates a greater financial burden, which can exacerbate things. But if you do separate, set clear boundaries and time tables ahead of time and make sure you’re both on the same page. Also, absolutely do not do ANYTHING before consulting with a good attorney first.

    5. My wife and I always said divorce was not an option, but that can change, even if you’ve done everything else right. When times get hard and there’s a lot of uncertainty, hold on to God no matter what. I’ve prayed Proverbs 3:5-6 every day for weeks, and it’s made such a huge difference. Also remember that while God hates divorce, he never promises that we’ll never lose our spouse or our job or our health. Trust Him no matter what happens, even if you don’t understand it. God is good and faithful. He can heal your marriage if the two of you are committed to it, but even if He doesn’t, He’ll never leave you or forsake you.

    Hope that helps!!

    Jason Spooner

    • Jason, thank you so much for taking the time to write that out and I apologize for taking so long to respond (apparently I missed the notification that you replied). Some absolutely excellent points to consider! The wonderful thing about taking on this task of starting the Redeeming Fatherhood project is that I get a chance to talk with other men who are in varying stages in life. Whether it be single, newly married, divorced, remarried, widowed or celebrating their 30th anniversary we all have something to learn from each other.

      I hope my posts here don’t come across as through I’m an expert on the topic or that what I’m writing is the whole picture. My goal is to write short posts covering a few key points in an attempt to connect with men who’s attention span may be something like my own lol. Your comment is exactly what I hope for when clicking “publish”; getting another side of the story we are all a part of. I hope as others read through this post they take the time to read your comment as well!