Why I Decided to Fight for My Marriage
When you're dating your future spouse, you live in a world of "we'll get there". We'll have our time for a proposal, an engagement, showers, and parties, and a wedding. We'll have the rest of our lives to be married. Marriage is this glimmering, off-in-the-future, wonderful thing that you will someday achieve. I should know, Ross and I became friends when I was 14 years old, and permanence isn't really something you spend your time dwelling on in between Algebra 2 and chorus.
But nearly eight years later, when I was wrapping up college, I knew our time was coming, and it was beautiful. Marrying Ross is the best thing I've ever done and the most constant reminder of God's grace and His plan. However, when you make the transition from dating to married, you enter into a whole different world of "we'll get theres".
You see, we got married in the midst of the busiest and most unsteady season of our lives. We uprooted ourselves from our current community, city, family, and careers and moved across the country to a place where we knew no one and weren't even sure that we liked. For the past 2 plus years, it's been far too easy to say "we'll get to a place where we can rest/vacation/sleep/have meaningful conversation/walk the dog/go on a regular date night" etc.
When the stress of today becomes too much, the valuable pieces of our relationship that built it to the point of marriage get put on the back burner in hopes of someday being an easier season.
I don't know if you're married or if your early years of marriage were sweet and simple, but ours certainly have not been. For too long I said, it's not because of each other, it's because of our life circumstances, and I do believe that's the truth. I love my husband far more today than I did on our wedding day, but my definition of commitment has radically changed.
You See, even if life is the thing causing the stress, failing to manage it correctly in the context of your relationship can be equally damaging.
When Ross and I were in marriage counseling, our pastor and mentor who was marrying us said a line I will never forget: "Divorce doesn't happen because of one decision. It happens because of a million little decisions that go unnoticed."
Throughout the past 2 years and 8 months, I have learned the weight of that statement. While Ross and I fully believe in marriage and have never even toyed with the word divorce, we have definitely felt the impact of decisions that leave the other person empty, uncared for, and misunderstood. Decisions that are as small as a cutting word, a criticism before a compliment, or a promise to act that's left undone. And the saddest part is that it's far too easy to let these little mistakes become habits, and habits build a lifestyle.
In my experience, the more difficult a season of life, the easier it is to lash out on the person you love. It seems contradictory, but this person is also your safe place. After all, that's part of the reason you married them. They promised to love you in the good times and the bad; the times when you're emotionally healthy and a basket case. But, if you begin to make the person you love your punching bag when you're angry or the person you ignore because you're tired of playing nice with everyone else in your life, it can become a dangerous cycle.
It took the most intense level of emotional stress I have experienced to open my eyes to the fact that I don't want my marriage to be the punching bag. For too long, I allowed my relationship to be the place in which I disconnected while I was busy fighting for other things, but my marriage is the thing I want at the end of the day. So I had to fix it.
Two years ago, we probably thought someday was in a matter of months or a couple of years, but the truth is that we are never guaranteed some euphoric state of being with total rest on this side of heaven. I can't change every stressful circumstance that comes into our lives, but I can absolutely change the way I respond to them and choose the person I respond to them best with. So, what does this look like?
Here are actionable things I've focused on in the past 6 months to break the habits I spent too long building in my marriage:
- spending money on time with my husband first instead of time with my friends, whether that be a vacation or just a movie
- eating dinner at the table instead of in front of the TV
- putting away technology at night so I'm not tempted to work
- asking real questions about how the other person's day was, even if we've been working within 10 feet of each other all afternoon (couples who work from home will get this one)
- investing in our church together
- finding ways to let the things that don't matter go (my hardest challenge)
This list is neither complete nor perfect, but a little intentionality goes a long way after not enough has been present. It might seem silly to use a phrase like "fighting" for my marriage when it's not slipping away, but I believe that if we don't fight for it now, when things aren't dire, that's exactly what can happen.
After all, no one begins a marriage by anticipating it's end, but far too many people arrive at that destination by living with their eyes shut.
At the end of the day, I'm unwilling to let my relationship suffer for the sake of my business or other pursuits because those things will fade away, and my marriage shouldn't. If you've spent too long letting your spouse be the last thing on your to-do list, throw it out the window. It's just not worth it, and someday shouldn't be the benchmark for your marriage.