Let’s be honest. If your life is intertwined with another human in any kind of relationship, you are not always going to see eye to eye.
You are also not always going to have your best foot forward and, I mean, there is some comfort in this. When we are dating (and especially if you don’t live together) we are constantly “on”. I don’t mean being fake I just mean there is built up anticipation to see each other and it’s just different and has a little more excitement than when you are living with someone and in close proximity to them day in and day out.
There is beauty in the dating period and there is beauty in marriage. There is comfort in knowing you're loved and you are able to have neutral days, you are able to settle into this comfortable way of being. Not complacent and disengaged, just comfortable.
I’ve talked multiple times in my marriage series that it’s the slow fade that gets a lot of marriages. The slow fade is more dangerous, in my eyes than infidelity.
Honestly, standing in the truth that everyone is responsible for taking extreme ownership for their own selves and their own decisions, I think sometimes the slow fade could lead to someone choosing infidelity. If not infidelity then falling “out of love” with someone. If not that then falling into this weird complacency where you become roommates and not this relationship that is set apart from all other relationships in our lives.
I think it’s normal to have some ebbs and flows in a marriage, I mean it’s a marathon. No couple could be on 24/7 for 90 years. So if you are feeling right now like things are just easy and comfortable, don’t freak out thinking maybe you are just roommates now. Or if you are at a high right now in your marriage, don’t wait for the other shoe to drop. Ride that out for as long as it will last.
What I want to speak into today is not the normal ebb and flows of marriage. But what to do when you are in a ‘valley’ so to speak and you feel like maybe you’ve been there for longer than it should have been or if you are feeling stuck.
I feel like Justin and I have a great relationship. We’ve been together for 15 years now. So when I say, "great", don’t hear always great. Just hear, when we add up the sum of our hills and valleys - we are still in a great place at the end of the day.
They say marriage is hard and it takes work to have a good relationship. But what does that even mean?
For a marriage to be truly great you have got to learn how to navigate the low waters together with some grace and some understanding.
You have got to learn to coach yourself through this part of a relationship. Because here’s what happens. We start to get into this lull of normal everyday things….some stressors pop up and we get a little short with one another. Then some passive-aggressive comments happen, then someone gets offended by a comment which sparks something that is maybe an ongoing issue in your relationship and maybe a full-blown fight happens or maybe it’s more of a situation where both people just kind of stuck. You will walk in a room your husband or partner is in and just grab what you need and walk out without acknowledging them or making eye contact.
And whether there is a big blow-up or this stewing happening what we do in these moments may be some of the most important things we do in and for our marriage period.
I’m going to briefly talk about 5 things I think through or ask myself when this happens or when we find ourselves in a low spot...and it’s feeling like it’s been lingering longer than it should.
Before I go through this list let me just say a couple of things.
- Never in any of what I am about to say is in favor of pushing something under the rug that needs to be discussed.
- Never am I talking about putting in this kind of effort after any kind of physical, sexual, emotional abuse.
- I’m not really talking about after infidelity...though I know plenty of marriages that have worked through that situation and came out on the other side. But that may not be the case for everyone.
- I need you to understand that In all things, I try to assume 100% ownership of where we are. I assume everything was my fault and that it’s up to me to fix it. Now, this is not coming from a victim mindset. This is not me saying I’m the worst and everything that’s wrong in our marriage is my fault. No. This is just me leaning into the fact that marriage is not 50/50, it’s 100/100.
So, by assuming all responsibility,I can work on bettering myself for Justin. Hopefully, he’s doing the same. This takes a while to get to this point. Like I said in the competition in marriage episode….we used to fight a lot because we used to compete a lot. We’ve gotten better but we are not immune to the fade. Just like you aren’t.
So, taking full responsibility puts the power into my hands to become a better wife. I am going to assume that he will do the same.
Why? Because marriage is a covenant, not a contract. Covenant says no matter what. Contract says, “If you do this then I will do that.” Covenant is a perpetual promise. Contract says, "Only if…"
So, if you are in the mindset that your marriage is contractual or if that’s what your marriage has looked like - then I invite you into a different way of thinking.
- This does not mean that the second we hit a low spot that me or him immediately jumps to taking full responsibility. It could take days or even weeks of this inner battle of wanting to hold out because you were ‘right’ or just stew because it feels kind of good to disengage and not put the energy in for a second.
- And hear me, most great marriages are safe here. Most marriages can handle the times when everything just feels off. There is grace and understanding there for that other person even when it’s not the most fun time. It reminds me of that grumpy old man sitting on the park bench holding an umbrella over his grumpy wife. This also reminds me of the quote that says this couple has been married for 50 years and had never once thought about divorce. Murder, yes, divorce never.
The power and greatness of a marriage can come when you can deal with whatever put you in this low place (keyword "deal" with) and the goal is really to spend less and less time sitting in that place because left to its own devices that place can breed resentment and victimize our spouse.
Okay so let’s walk through these 5 things I wrestle with when my husband I find ourselves in this place of unrest.
#1. Usually when we are arguing or we are on the verge of a fight. I try to picture my husband as my sons. This has been a huge eye-opener as to what comes out of my mouth. I picture my husband as my Graham, Noah, Wesley, or Tristan and I picture myself as their wife.
- How would I want my sons to be treated in their marriage? How would I want them to be spoken to? Sometimes you get mad because of something that happens that maybe was an accident or maybe something was said in a heated moment and you know, like to your core know, they didn’t mean it but it feels good to withhold grace - because lord knows we have never said something in the heat of the moment we didn’t mean. My heart softens when I picture my sons and their hearts and vulnerability when looking at my husband - who looks like them. It just reminds me of his humanity and reminds me of my own.
#2. I used to just be a fun little spitfire and Justin and I both tend to enter this arena when we get super mad. But more often than not I hold on to this quote I heard once.
"Hold your tongue until the Holy Spirit has your heart."
You can’t unsay something and they can’t unhear something. Usually, unmeant words said out of anger can linger in my soul for a while. Scripture says,
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" James 1:19
If you don’t practice this - then you know how hurtful someone can be or how hurtful your words can be. A lot of the times they just come out and your like...well that was super mean...but when you are heated you keep the front as if you meant it.
Proverbs 29:20 says, "There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. So your quick tongue… my quick tongue puts us lower than even a fool".
I just want to drive this point home. I looked up what a “fool” meant when we read it in scripture, sometimes the English work doesn’t translate exactly as it would in Hebrew.
In scripture, "fool" is often used for:
- a wicked or depraved person; one who acts contrary to sound wisdom in his moral deportment; one who follows his own inclinations, who prefers trifling and temporary pleasures to the service of God and eternal happiness.
- a person who is somewhat deficient in intellect, an idiot; or a person who acts absurdly; one who does not exercise his reason; one who pursues a course contrary to the dictates of wisdom.
- A weak Christian; a godly person who has much remaining sin and unbelief.
Ok. And it says there is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. And yall we feel that don’t we? Words are powerful. Withhold those knee-jerk comments when you are angry. Don't withhold the needed conversation but there is wisdom in keeping our mouths shut. Usually, when I can feel a physical reaction in myself when I get mad I know it’s better if I just keep my mouth shut and I know there are times where Justin decides to just press his lips together and chooses to not engage at that moment.
I think this is an important lesson to lead your family well both as wife and husband. It’s NORMAL and natural for us to have reactions. It’s normal to feel annoyed or angry or whatever else, but will you fly off the handle, spout every unkind word you could muster in a minute of anger, or will you work to keep them inside and recognize they have no place in your marriage?
If words want to come out then they need to be processed through the lens of my covenant to Justin and the Holy Spirit. Justin and I are verbal processors so this is easier said than done but we are better than we used to be.
#3 I ask myself. Is this distance (super small even) worth a divorce? We may be in a minor argument and for the sake of this piece of advice let's say he did something to upset me. Maybe I’m purposefully in a different room than him. What I want to have happened is for him to come in and apologize and 15 minutes goes by and he doesn’t. Usually those 15 minutes I’m pissed but then God does what he does and often times will soften my heart.
The question is,
“Is this distance/argument/ whatever worth a divorce?
At the moment, that seems absurd. We just had a small argument but I am very hyper-aware that it’s a slow fade.
I would literally ask myself,
"In 5 years, if we were getting a divorce, would I look back to this moment in time that seemed pointless but know it was actually the start of our slow fade. The start of our disconnect. The start of our lack of conversation. The start of resentment?"
This puts the argument into perspective because nothing is worth that to me. Not my ego, not winning this moment, whether I’m right or wrong, and not worth the wait of an apology either. Usually, this is where Jesus becomes Lord. This is where every fiber of my being wants to stew and build resentment and hang on to what is fair but when Jesus is Lord of your life he dictates how you live your life. If I ruled my life I would stay in there until I was mad enough and stormed out for round 2. Which happens because I have to fight to keep myself out of that title of King or Lord of my own life.
Full submission to Jesus’ Lordship and my covenant with Justin looks like walking out and apologizing and having a conversation about why XYZ was hurtful or whatever may be the conflict. It looks like stopping the crazy thought cycle of villainizing my husband and to start affirming who he is.
I picture the road to divorce like the laying of a brick wall.
You start with laying that first layer that you don’t notice because you can still see each other. Then the next layer gets built and you don’t really start to notice until those bricks are so high that it’s making it hard to see the other person at all. Then when we get to that point we see the issue of the cemented bricks that we’ve collectively laid but sometimes those bricks are to hard to knock down, so a divorce happens.
So when I ask that question “Is this distance worth a divorce?”.
What I’m really saying is “Is this worth laying a brick down?”
It NEVER is (outside of the parameters we talked about at the beginning). So when I’m convicted that this situation is laying a brick between us I have to knock it down before it solidifies. Justin needs to be doing the same. We both are constantly playing defense.
#4 I’m going to recommend counseling before the end. I feel like counseling gets tacked on to the end of the lists as the last resort a lot of times but really there is such power in counseling before you are holding on by a thread. If I felt like Justin and I couldn’t get out of a slump we were in, I would 100% be all for counseling. Dax Shepherd and Kristin Bell are very open about their weekly counseling and how amazing it is for them. They are the cutest couple and I’m so glad they are so transparent about their continued journey with counseling because I mean you guys what is counseling? It’s literally just an unbiased space for you to talk about your relationship and to gain tools to be better for one another. Why have we turned this into a taboo topic and it means our marriage is falling apart if we go to counseling. Probably like I said...counseling is always offered as the last resort.
#5. Talk to a trusted friend. We talked about this with Selena Frederick in the See-Through Marriage Episode on my Podcast. We talked about how important it is to have allies in your marriage not adversaries.
- An adversary in marriage would look like someone that defaults to agreeing to your side of the story. If you have a person that you know you can vent to and they are 100% of the time in agreement with you and “help” by offering a night out with margaritas, she may be a friend, but she’s not a marriage ally. She may love your marriage and your husband, but you need someone who will really listen to your story, your over-exaggeration, your emotion, your hurt, your desire, etc. and then share what she’s hearing and what blindspots she is seeing. She may offer to pray over your marriage. She will encourage you to go have a conversation with your husband, etc.
Listen, sometimes we just need a night out with margaritas. But if that’s always the solution - that’s not your girl when you are doing the hard HEART work of a covenant relationship or marriage. We all need a marriage ally and we all need to be that to someone.
#1 Think of your husband/partner as your child.
#2 Hold your tongue until the holy spirit has your heart
#3 Ask yourself, “Is this distance worth a divorce?” Is this worth laying down a brick?
#5 Talk to a trusted friend.
It is important to be constantly in pursuit of your spouse for so many reasons. There is a reason great relationships take a lot of work. And it’s because great relationships work to be selfless in times selfishness feels better. It’s because they choose no matter what when it would be easier to choose “only if”.
I hope this encourages you today wherever you are at in your relationship to not leave it up to the other person to make your relationship good. Work through that internal battle as if your marriage depends on you. Then the times where you are losing the fight with your inner battle hopefully your husband is working and winning his. This is how we can keep knocking down bricks instead of building them higher due to anger and ego. This is how we can find our way back to grace after conflict in our marriages.
I look forward to walking alongside you to help you find your grit while completely covering you in grace.