One Word that Will Save Your Marriage
I am unsure about the length of time required to be an expert in a field. Or how long you must be a part of an organization or group to give credible advice. When it comes to marriage, I have found that when asked for instruction in holy matrimony, many people respond by saying they really don’t know anything. Even my Granny, the one who was married for seventy years, said she had no advice to pass along. Really?! After seventy years I would consider her an expert on the subject. Seventy. Years. She had wisdom to share.
If someone with seven decades experience in marriage did not feel qualified to give advice, then seven years certainly does not make me an expert. But hopefully I have learned at least one or two nuggets of wisdom to pass along.
One of the awesome works of God is that he takes broken, ordinary people and teaches them despite their flaws. My life is living proof of this, especially through my marriage. He has taught me lessons through my husband, one in particular of how God can bring order in chaos through a husband’s presence.
As March closed this seventh inning stretch for our marriage, I keep coming back to the importance of this practice: hanging in there. Simple concept. Challenging implementation. How often do we quit or throw away something that could be great simply because the grass looks a little greener somewhere else?
The “seven-year itch” phenomenon is accepted by many people. In theory, about every seven years people change and therefore want someone different to experience life with. Apparently, in the United States many marriages end just after seven years. More than that, debunking the “seven-year itch” myth, many marriages in the United States end after two, three or four years. I have certainly not conducted exhaustive research but whether the number is two, three, four, seven or twenty, many marriages lack this one word: commitment.
“Commitment” is not an attractive word. Its connotation is a little boring while also indicating difficulty. One definition according to Google is “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.” In other words, commitment isn’t always fun.
But what about the other side of commitment, like after you have stayed together through a trial and come out on the other side-stronger? I may not be an expert on marriage but after seven years I have had many opportunities to experience hanging in there through trials. And I have found that digging deep with everything you have is worth it. Every. Single. Time.
Before Stuart and I were married we participated in pre-marital counseling. During our first session, the preacher asked what we would miss most about being single. (I might also add that we just had our biggest fight to date as we were walking into this session. What a fantastic way to start pre-marital counseling.) My answer? Dating. I thought I would miss meeting new people, the excitement of getting to know someone, discovering common interests. I would miss the butterflies, the pursuit, and the fun. Commitment is not a word used when dating first begins. Dating is easy. It’s exciting. Who wouldn’t miss it?
But consider this: what if hard work is actually better than easy fun? Or better yet, what if hard work actually leads to intimacy? What if commitment, as challenging as it is, is far superior to throwing away the old in hopes of something new?
As I reflect on the past seven years, I remember so many sweet times, fun memories, travels, moves, graduations, friendships, adventures. I also remember pain, heartbreak, unknowns, feelings of helpless, arguments, and coming out on the other side. The one word that binds each of these events into something we call marriage? Commitment.
I certainly do not have this whole marriage thing figured out-not by a long shot. My husband gives grace upon grace every day. But I do know that if both people are committed to making it work, you can make it through anything. No matter where you are in this journey, whether you are newlyweds, have been married for thirty years, enjoy an excellent marriage, or are holding on by a thread, I encourage you with this. Hang. In. There.
I know there are impossible situations. We are not talking about abusive relationships or marriages where one party walks out. We are talking about the overwhelming majority who can in fact make it. It is possible because with God, all things are possible.
Despite my pre-conceived notions and my response to, “What will you miss most about being single,” I have actually found that I don’t miss dating like I thought I would. There is a season for it, yes. But there is nothing like the seasons that follow when two people are committed in marriage. There is a rich connection that comes when the walls come down, the gloves are off, you know and are fully known, and you have practiced commitment time and time again. Yep, I will take the hard work and the fruit that it produces over…well…over everything else.
Ultimately, this commitment is for Jesus and the church. Marriage is a picture of Christ and his bride. As Christians, we have the opportunity to show the world a real, in-the-flesh, day in and day out example of the love Christ has for us. This is our why. This is how we stay committed. This love is how we forgive actions that are impossible to forgive. This is how we accept forgiveness that is impossible to accept. This example is how we keep pressing on through good times and bad. This calling is the spark that keeps hope alive.
Wherever you are in the journey, find that spark. Hold onto that commitment. It’s worth it.
Because your marriage depends on it.