As the title says, this is short letter from me to you. You, the ones who find yourself where you never thought you’d be: staring at the shambled remains of your marriage. Teetering on the brink of divorce.
I’ve been where you are. Six years ago Kim and I were at that same point, our communication had broken down to the degree that we were both ready to walk away. We harbored our bitterness, anger and outright hatred for each other, surrounded ourselves with smug self-justification and heavy chains of unforgiveness.
The future looked bleak. Hopeless.
Since then, we’ve not only resuscitated our ailing marriage, but with God’s help we’re now in a position to offer real, time-tested advice to those couples who have also reached the breaking point.
There have been a handful of relationships that we’ve counseled over the years, and we’re beginning to see some common patterns in their predicaments. So I’m going to touch on four areas that you’re most likely struggling with and need to actively make change in if you want your marriage to survive.
#1 - The Time Factor
The mess that’s in your lap today? It didn’t just materialize spontaneously. Your marriage is like a slow cooking crockpot, and this didn’t just happen overnight. The emotions you and your spouse are feeling are the direct result of the slow accumulation of weeks, months or years of bad decisions.
So believe me when I tell you that the solution is most likely going to take an equally long time to establish. That twisted knot of bitterness and hatred in your hands? It’s going to take a joint effort to unravel.
God can help you in the process, but don’t envision Him as an easy fix. He won’t fix your mess immediately or spontaneously. It’s going to take time, and you’ll have to actually do your part in it. And yes, it’s going to hurt. (Far more than just cutting ties or running away…)
#2 – Take Assessment. Take Responsibility.
As much as you want to point the finger and blame everything that’s happening on your spouse? That’s not the whole picture. Whether you realize it and accept it or not, there is something that you did which only served to escalate the problem. You threw fuel on the fire that’s raging against you right now.
So take an assessment and ask yourself flat out: “What did I do? How did I hurt them? What did I say that contributed to their pain and actions?” If you can’t find the answers (or refuse to look closely for them), then go to a trusted friend and ask. And by “trusted” I mean someone who’s not afraid to tell you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not.
The best solution, however, is to go directly to your spouse and ask them yourself. They’re the one you’ve hurt, and they’re the one you’ll need to apologize to. So instead of playing guessing games with yourself and your friends, why not humble yourself and ask them?
It’s completely possible that the roots of what you’re facing was spiritual. The lies that Satan feeds us are powerful, and those who believe them are easily caught in the mental traps. But the choice to believe those lies? In our hands. So stop looking for a demon under every rock as you try to pass the buck. Take responsibility for what you’ve done wrong and choose to make it right.
#3 – The Big Picture
As I mentioned in “The F Word” a few weeks ago, marriage is a virtual microcosm of every other relationship in your life, and will affect every relationship you’ll have in your future. Whether you choose to resolve your conflicts mutually or jump ship, you’ll be setting a precedent for how you handle these things in the future. Your tomorrow will be determined by how you handle your today.
#4 – In God You Trust?
Just as it was for Kim and I, it’s probably safe to say that for most of you on the brink of a marital meltdown? You’ve taken your focus off of Him and placed it squarely on your spouse. You’ve stopped looking for Him to meet your every need, and instead put the weight of your day-to-day comfort and security on them. And guess what? They failed you. Because they’re human.
You have a choice to make. You’re either going to trust what God says about your marriage, forgiveness and unconditional love. Or not. And at this point in your struggle, you’ll be tempted not to.
It’ll be easy to rationalize exactly why you can’t trust God. You’ll say He just doesn’t ‘work’ for you, or at least doesn’t work fast enough for your preferences. Your mind will work overtime why trusting in God is a waste of time, and then you’ll choose to put your trust in the “next best thing.”
Once you conclude that God isn’t big enough to solve your problems, you’ll shift into full-time, hands on Me Mode. You’ll do everything you can think of to solve your own problem, and since your primary problem is your spouse who makes you miserable? Well, any guesses where that train of thought ends?
Look, let me save you some time. I’ve gone down both paths – I’ve chosen to trust in God, and I’ve flipped Him the bird and gone my own way. And lemme tell you - trusting in Him gets better results in the long run. Yes, it’s more uncomfortable, more painful and more confusing than you’d ever be if you went your own way. But if you’ll choose to trust in Him? To entrust every facet of your life – including your marriage – to Him?
You won’t regret it.
Isaiah 26:3 summarizes my point perfectly.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
God will keep you in perfect peace if you choose to trust in Him. And it’s only because you trust in Him that your mind will be steadfast. Grounded. And finally, after all the storms that have rocked your world?