Preface: I believe that one of the most dangerous lies we believe is that our problem is so ________ (fill in the blank) that no one else can possibly understand it or help us with it.
Armed with that lie, we isolate ourselves. When we isolate ourselves, we begin to believe the other lies that stream through our mind - the lies that tell us that we are truly alone, that other people do not care about us, and that it is up to us to walk through our issue alone.
I don't want you to be in that place. So I'm going to be super transparent. Today, I want to talk to those of you who are dealing with a marriage that sucks. You know what I'm talking about. It's the marriage that sucks the life out of you as you try to figure out how to fix it.
It's the marriage that sucks the joy out of your life as you struggle to pretend that things are at the very least okay.
I'm talking about the marriage that sucks your faith out of you, while you are crying out to God for relief.
You know the marriage I mean, it's the marriage, maybe YOUR marriage, that is sucking the health out of you - and the doctor is worried about what it's doing to your emotional health, your physical health.
I'm talking to you, the one whose marriage SUCKS.
(Generally, I try to write a bit more genteel-like. But there are two things that, in my opinion, must be met with just this word. In my opinion, broken marriages (relationships) and death, suck. Neither were part of God's original plan. We're not designed to manage them well.)
When we separated, Tom and I had been married for a bit more than 6 years. And 5 1/2 of those years sucked. For both of us. Oh, there were some good times, but mostly, the underlying sense that we both felt was the sucking away of ourselves as we attempted to maneuver the slime pit of our relationship.
We separated last autumn.
I don't recommend separation. But sometimes, it's the only tool left in the toolbelt. So I stepped out of the way, and God wielded it. Wow. That was HARD.
But you know what? It didn't suck. During the 8 months we were separated, God used that time to fill us both up again. Tom healed and worked on what God wanted him to work on. I healed and worked on what God wanted me to work on.
Tom moved home in April. Phew. God is good. Really good. Sometimes we just look at each other can't believe how much our marriage does NOT suck.
I have three things I did, when my marriage sucked, that I want to share with you. They helped me. And if your marriage sucks, maybe they'll help you too.
1. Give every major decision or conversation 24 hours (at LEAST) before acting on or discussing. 2 Kings 7:1 talks about "...this time tomorrow..." - let the topic rest for at least 24 hours.
During that time, pray. A lot. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you clarity, pray that you will be given a clean heart and settled spirit. For me, I had to leave, go back to the last place where I had felt truly at peace in order to connect with my clean heart and my settled (right) spirit. During that time of being away, in a place where I felt peaceful and safe, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I was filled with peace and surety and confidence. While actually separating was agonizingly difficult, I knew, deep in my soul, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. (As an aside, the process of 'this time tomorrow', for me, took about a year. I wasn't away all that time, but it took a LONG time. And that's a good thing.)
Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me... Psalm 51:10
2. Claim the promise that God is FOR your marriage.
Even in the midst of the turmoil of separation, I chose to believe that God's best for me was Tom. I prayed for my marriage to be healed, even demanding it of God. "God," I prayed, "You do not want us apart. You put us together. I'll do whatever it takes, Lord. Just FIX us!"
Granted, it didn't happen as fast as I wanted it to. Or in the way I'd expected. But God works in his own time and I chose to trust him, even when I didn't understand it. Will reconciliation happen for everyone? No. Both people have to be willing to work on a sucky marriage. But you can work on it, regardless of what your spouse does. And you can be SURE that you are right on target, praying for your marriage to be restored.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15
A brief note on #2. I read an amazing book when I was separated. Actually, I read it about ten times. Broken Heart on Hold is hands-down the best book out there for separated spouses. The most encouraging message I received from this book was to wait. Really wait. She makes the point that studies show that many times it can take years for both people to work through hurt and pain, and heal enough to be able to focus on the marriage again. Sadly, most of time, spouses have moved on and remarried and never get the chance to experience true reconciliation. Don't give up hope! Hang in there. Which brings me to #3...
3. Surround yourself with people who are FOR your marriage.
Yes, initially it's validating and comforting to hear people trash your spouse and tell you that you deserve to be happy. It feels good to think about moving on (away) from the pain and hurt of your sucky marriage.
The best gift you can give your marriage are friends who are for your marriage. Friends who encourage you to stick it out, hold fast, and do the work. I had two such friends in my life, and in their own way, they both held my feet to that fire of commitment, each encouraging me to stay the course and be true. Was it hard? Yes. Did it suck? No. It was life-giving, even as it was infuriating at times.
Become wise by walking with the wise;
By choosing to listen to those who pushed me to work for my marriage, I began to heal, believing that if they could get through their own marital struggles, that I could too.
I'm not sure who needs to hear this, but I felt strongly that I needed to write it. If you are struggling with a sucky marriage, please feel free to contact me personally (email Rosalyn), I'd love to encourage you in your journey.
And if you're a been-there-done-that, please, chime in with an 'Amen' or words of encouragement.
"We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well."
(1 Corinthians 10:24b MSG)