Have you ever looked at the couples around you and decided they have a brilliant marriage, while yours is just plain hard work (I know I have)?
Have you ever felt like you really need some input from others, but you are too ashamed to admit how difficult you are finding your marriage? (Yep, I can tick that box too…)
Perhaps you haven’t admitted to your partner – or even yourself – that you are beginning to give up on your marriage.
But you may have begun to daydream about a ‘perfect’ person that you’d really rather spend your life with.
If any of the above resonates with you, please realise that you are not alone! Marriage is hard work and we all face difficulties over the years. It can be tempting to take what seems to be the ‘easy way out’ and yet the emotional fallout of divorce is far from easy.
Part of the beauty (but also pain) of marriage is living in such close proximity with another. Experiencing love and acceptance, we let our guards down and allow ourselves to be who we truly are. This means that our partners get to see the best (and the worst) of us. There needs to be bucket loads of patience and grace in the way we interact with one another in the moments when the not-so-pretty sides of each of us appear.
Unfortunately, as the years go by we can become lazy. While we may have made a real effort in the first few years, we now expect our partners to accept and love us – however we behave. They are married to us, so they have to, right? But it has to work both ways, and we can often become less than patient with them. Habits that were originally endearing are now just plain annoying – and we make sure our partners know it!
It may be that you’ve tried to talk about particular sticking points in your marriage, and yet, after a short amount of effort from both of you, the old ways of acting and responding re-surface. And so, inwardly you shut down, thinking the only two choices are to either accept this is the way it is always going to be – or to jump ship.
For the first fifteen years or so of our marriage, my husband and I were apart a lot of the time. He worked incredibly long hours in the music industry. So I would find I just had to get on with life. But this meant I had my own ways of doing things, and while I looked forward all week to the little bit of time he got off, when it came, it wasn’t long before he was beginning to annoy me! The frustration of waiting all week only to be confronted with an overly wrung out husband, ensured many of his days off were hugely disappointing.
I would pick myself up and carry on as the next week started, but once or twice a year I would completely lose it and exclaim that I couldn’t carry on in the marriage as it was…
The sad thing is, so many of us believe the lie that no one else is struggling like we are. We didn’t get help when we should have, because we didn’t want to admit to anyone else how bad things had got. We were ashamed, and also believed that people would think badly of us.
When things came to a head, we discovered those around were actually really supportive and loving. We also found that, having seen our rather public but thankfully brief separation, other couples began seeking us out to share their difficulties. We had done things the hard way, and had to start from scratch, visiting counsellors to begin talking properly and deeply with one another again. But these couples found that simply talking to others, who gently said it was okay to admit their struggles, helped them enormously.
If you know you really need to be honest about where your marriage is at, I would encourage you to agree together to share with some close friends or family who you both find to be supportive. Taking that first step is hard – but so worth it! There are also many great resources these days: Care for the Family produces books, DVDs and events you can attend.
It can be so easy to concentrate on the bad times but we need to remember and celebrate the good times too, holding on to the belief that we will experience them again.
We can so often fall victim to the ‘grass is greener on the other side’ mentality. However many men and women who have turned their backs on their marriages have found out too late that it really isn’t. It is worth putting the effort into our marriages, even when it seems like too much hard work.
Start by carving out some time to really speak honestly, agreeing together the weakest areas in your marriage that you may need help with. Try not to be defensive through this process – yes your partner may well have hurt you deeply (and I don’t want to belittle that), but you may have done the same to them and each person needs to be open to changing attitudes and behaviour.
As someone who had almost given up on the marriage to my teenage sweetheart, but found happiness, joy and a sense of purpose with him again, I know that marriages can be turned around – however bad things seem.