A good marriage is worth the fight.
I’ll preface this with the thought that of all the readers of this article, I would suspect that yours truly has had maybe more exposure than most to sheer numbers of marriages and marriage issues simply because of my role as a pastor.
When marriages go south for people in the faith community (or any community), we are often the point of contact in trying to get people some help.
Exposure to marriage issues doesn’t make one an expert any more than my parent’s terrific (and long lasting) marriage meant Erin and I should expect the same, in fact quite the contrary was true as we struggled for years.
But it was worth the fight. Not every marriage wins the fight, but we believe in redemption and have seen much of it in the lives of people.
The trick is in understanding what to fight ABOUT.
Many readers fall for the trap we did, that no one could understand our particular marriage issues because A. We were too complicated or B. It looked like a street fight between a taco and a hot dog. (Or C. “My spouse is a psycho, you don’t even know how crazy they are“.)
Most married people would have no problem asking for help earlier but no one really knows how bad things get when you try and deal with them all inside the walls of your own relationship. It’s nearly impossible to see the icebergs when life is already hard and it feels like everything is uphill. Throw kids and a challenging career (or covid) into the mix and “Houston, we have a problem!”.
That one principle alone (don’t fix your marriage INSIDE your marriage) could’ve saved our family a great deal of pain. Human pride always tries to cover things up until it’s too late or lines are crossed we can’t come back from. Aaaaand you don’t know what you don’t know…
Aaaaand you can’t fix another person. Marriage is 50/50, but a weird 50/50 that requires 100% from each of you. I would say all it takes is one partner to wreck it, but the first thing Divorce whispers is that it’s THEM not YOU!
Marriage was instituted by God and a sacred thing in my view. Any time humans try to operate outside their design and create a new way to find happiness I worry. It’s like the pot saying to the Potter “You don’t really know what you’re doing so I’m going to do this my way”. It rarely ends in happiness because it’s not HEALTHY.
Healthy people are happy people.
Some people are healthy physically but sick emotionally, mentally, relationally, or spiritually. We need all things working together according to design to become happy.
Also we say at Venue “Health is for Helping”, and that you’ll never find your purpose without helping someone find theirs. Purpose? We think our purpose is simple: Connect with God and people.
But connection is easy to break.
When my wife Pastor Erin pre-marriage counsels couples now, you might be surprised by what comes out of the mouth of the world’s nicest person:)
She looks all sweet, but having been through the marriage wars is not so easily distracted by non-issue issues. She knows an iceberg when she hears one (so to speak) and I’ve heard her stop someone and say “Why did you say THAT just now?”
The person blinks in surprise because their future spouse is probably not allowed to question them like that.
“No,” she’ll say, “You said _____. Why did you use that word? What does that word mean to you? Do you think you’re right to think that way?”
It’s always interesting counselling young future couples because there’s a tendency now (and always has been if our own memory serves us correctly) that “we stand a better chance than most because we are amazing. In fact Pastor, we may be able to help YOUR marriage during this counselling session!”
Three sentences later they find out that we did (somehow) know exactly what they were thinking because patterns repeat themselves ad nauseam, and humans are not nearly as complicated as we think we are.
The Bible says very clearly that most fights boil down to one thing: “I’m not getting what I want” (try the book of James the brother of Jesus). Well, what you want might be good for your marriage or it might not be.
If YOU are the referee you will be a poor one.
I could write fifty articles about marriage, but the point of this one is what my peace-loving wife told a young dating couple recently:
“You need to fight more now”
Why? Because she didn’t fight much in the beginning of our relationship. She tried to keep the peace. Add a few years, then you feel like the other person gets everything they want (I definitely did not:), because they speak up.
Until you speak up you can think any number of crazy thoughts, but once you actually say what your brain told you was so brilliant, the other person gets to weigh in by perhaps having the nerve to think your idea might not work?
We encourage every person at Venue to have an accountability partner who is not into feeling sorry for them, or believing them when they get a little “off” (we all do). In fact, our partners are under strict orders to turn someone’s marriage conflict back onto the person and say “Well, that may or may not be true, but how could YOU be more like Jesus right now?”
It hurts, but it’s worth the fight to get yourself to the place where you treat marriage like it’s a privilege and you’d better get your part right to the best of your ability.
Even if your feelings get hurt when you find out you’re really quite selfish like the rest of us…
A good marriage is worth the fight.