Some stories are yours alone. Shared stories remain only partly told because the other part of the story belongs to someone else. To tell their story would be to betray them. Marriage puts us in one of those situations. I have friends who have heard our stories — because my husband knows I need to share with trusted people and he has allowed that for my sake.
Our marriage, like yours, has had its hills and valleys. We have endured trials together and we have regrettably imposed trials upon one another in various seasons.
FOR BETTER OR WORSE
Years ago people took the idea of a vow seriously. The committed spoken words of, “I do” meant forever until death. We signed up to ride out serious highs and lows. Marriage meant going through sickness, poverty, brokenness, distance, growing pains, bad days, bad moods, PMS, stress, grief, house repairs, car repairs, crises with the children, long work hours and all other sorts of ills which beset marriages everywhere.
God knows what fickle hearts we have. He decided we needed a covenant to bind us together. Marriage is one of two covenant relationships in the whole known universe. The first is the covenant God makes with us. I’m not sure if that knocks the wind out of you as it does me, but it gives me pause to be sure.
A spiritually mysterious reality occurs between a wife and husband: two become one. Have you thought about that lately? Your husband is one with you. He’s not that guy who is on your nerves, not doing what you want or failing your expectations (though he may be any and all of those too). He is one with you.
As we walk down the road of marriage, sometimes these men, they sin. They fail and fall. Our husbands forget. They lose their way. They get lazy or distant or distracted or worse. And when they do we feel left and lonely.
I am sure there may be some marriages where the woman reading this post says, “Nope, not me.” But, I’m telling you, I’ve sat over coffee or tea, on the phone, on Facebook messenger, or in Bible Study often enough to know there are plenty of women who have been disappointed at one point or another in their marriage.
EXPECT HARD YEARS
On their 65th wedding anniversary, my grandparents sat together, winking and blowing well-aged kisses at one another. They offered us grandchildren three things. One of them was that they would be glad to help us learn how to make marriage last.
At that time I was dating my now husband. I had no idea how deeply I needed this sage advice. My grandmother said, “We had our hard years, but we made it through.” Hard years. Hard YEARS. I was in my early 20s and hard days seemed reasonable. Hard weeks, maybe, but hard years, that was just too much to consider.
I left that time with my grandparents with a renewed appreciation for the love they seemed to so easily demonstrate for one another. It was a love wrought in the furnace of hard years — not just the time that had passed, but the holding on through the hardships. They had learned the art of holding on to one another, holding onto the commitment they had made and holding onto God.
Don’t get me wrong. There are occasions for separation when there is abuse going on in a marriage or when someone won’t agree to let go of addiction and the fallout of their choices are affecting the whole family. There are even times for divorce, like when someone has an affair and will not turn back to his spouse, repent and attempt to rebuild from the ashes of his destruction. In most of our cases, we aren’t dealing with those extremes. Most of us are talking about why our husbands don’t love us like the husband in “The Notebook” or Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
So what can we count on when these men don’t live up to our expectations?
DON’T COUNT ON HIM
For one thing we can count out the idea that any human being will fulfill us. Though we are one with our husband, he isn’t there to serve us and meet our unspoken needs — especially those needs which come from a broken heart or a broken past, those are just too big for human healing. God sized needs require a God sized answer: God Himself.
Though our husbands may love and serve us, they will not fill the God shaped hole in our heart. We have stop making our husbands our “rock” and go to the Rock Who is solid through everything. Only One has been here before the foundation of the earth. He holds us and our marriage in His care.
RECOUNT THE GOOD
You can recount the past years of good memories and treasure them as real. Think back on why you fell in love in the first place. Remember the goodness that has been in your marriage so far. This imperfect man (who married an imperfect woman) has made you laugh at some point, made you feel loved and done many other things worth remembering — even if it consistently taking out the trash and going to work every day to bring home provision for his family. Remember vacations and shared joys. Recount the fond memories — refresh your memory — rekindle your love for this man.
We can count the little goodnesses around us and more importantly the goodness in our husbands. I am not talking Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky, close your eyes to your problems here. Even when your husband feels unreliable, distant or is letting you down, you can still go hunting to find some qualities of the man you married deep within him. You can find the image of God in him.
Search for three positive things every day. Name them and thank God for them. Then, (take a breath) say them to him. Don’t fall into complimenting your husband because you want to make him do things your way. Compliment because you love him. Love is not always a function of feelings. Love means giving despite the return.
You can be accountable to a friend. Commit to her that you want to outgrow selfish expectations in your marriage. Share the pain of your grief over the missed moments and mistakes of your husband and if you dare, your own failings and fallings.
Marriage is a two-way street. We aren’t the perfect wife with a husband falling short. We too have failed him — we have sought our own filling instead of seeking to fill our God-given role as helpmate and wife.
Ask your friend to help you count the good and to hold you to complimenting your husband. Invite her to join you in celebrating the other half of your “oneness”covenant with you. This isn’t about pretending your husband is perfect. It is about drawing out what is wonderful in him so that you can balance expectation with celebration.
LIFT YOUR COUNTENANCE
And you can lift your countenance to the One who calls Himself your beloved. You can say, with the Psalmist, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”
Our hope is not in our husbands. Our hope is in God — thankfully. When our husbands fall short or disappoint us, we can find a greater support and a deeper love in God Who calls us to say of Him, ““I am my beloved’s and His desire is for me.”
God says, He has loved you with an everlasting love and has drawn you with unfailing kindness. Take comfort in this when your husband fails you or you feel disappointed in him: Your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
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This post was first published in 2013. I have since revisited and refined it to make it hit the mark – right where we all need it. I pray it ministers to your marriage today.