In marriage, like anything other relationship, “to be or not to be, that is the question”. And regardless of what you hear from others walking around you at church or at work, we are deciding this question in our minds and in our actions day in and day out. I am seeing more and more couples calling it quits after weathering 30 and 40 years of marriage. Usually, one partner has been over the relationship and the other is blindsided. The common complaint is one feels they are living as roommates and the roles that held them together in purpose are not longer working. Women sit in my office brokenhearted. And decidedly so. They are witnessing all they have lived: wife, mother, daughter and friend tossed aside in harrowing, gut-wrenching stories and as I listen to them, my own comforting thoughts about why this could never happen to me fly out my office window. I contemplate what I can do to not sit in their seat. And my conclusion is we can love well, but ultimately it is out of our control.
In Christian circles, we are taught that we have a great deal of control. I attended a wedding ceremony recently where the pastor spent 10 mintues on the vows and 20 mintues on why the couple should never consider divorce. Seriously. Like his rant would make a difference. From where I am it only intensifies the fallout that is coming. And believe me, the fallout is inevitable because the honeymoon illusion lifts like a fine mist and our true self is exposed. Some of us survive it and others do not.
First, quit asking what you could have done differently to love more fully. We cannot fully know or possess our spouse in hopes of preventing the divide. That type of overreach may result in the marriage’s demise. The roots within us go deeper than our interactions. Consider our development as a child, our family of origin, our day-in-and-day-out choices, our ability to give and receive love, and our continued development. We are bigger and deeper than can be seen before men. The truth is none of us have any idea what lies ahead. The marriage leap is just that, a leap of faith. And except by the grace of God, there go all of us.
Secondly, stop beating yourself up. Guilt and shame are not the path God has for you. The best step you can take is to take account and release the wrongs and weirdness you contributed to the relationship. God loves you as you are in your mess, and He has a path forward to meet your needs. Trust that as you have courage to step back and ask for truth, He will grow that in you.
Thirdly, take the high road if you can. The nastiness of he said, she said gets us lost in the weeds of a fight that is not productive and will steel your joy. It gives the other party power over you and it is not worth it. Pray for the freedom to forget what lies behind, apart from the good memories, and press on to what lies ahead. (Phil 3:13)
My prayer for you today, no matter what you are facing, is to give yourself the permission to cry your tears and pour out to God your hurt and anger. This may not be what you signed up for, but God longs to bring you to a healthy, bitter-free place. Like all woundings and losses, we must experience our feelings. Be confident God is not going to leave you there for He has promised, “weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Ps. 30:5
For other writings by Denise Broadwater, find her blog Life Lights atwww.denisebroadwater.com. She is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Charleston, SC. Her treatment experience encompasses anxiety, depression, life transitions, and family therapy.