The Courage to Fight for a Marriage

By JMathis

So this year, I’m working on my marriage.

Honestly, this sounds about as appetizing to me as a root canal, or worse yet, an appointment with the “gyno doc”.

It’s just that it was one of those things that I never had to do before, and so, I never learned how to do it—much like parallel parking. For so long, married life was relatively smooth, effortless and easy, all to the tune of some cool, sultry bossa nova. Lazy weekends of sleeping in, taking naps, giggling, making pancakes, eating pancakes, goofing off, going out with friends, staying in and cuddling…days spent just loving and being loved. For close to six blissful years, our biggest problems were: Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel? Beach or a bike ride? Sushi or Thai?

Whenever I heard about people who had marital problems, I shrugged it off thinking, “It must be that she married the wrong guy.”

Then, the kid came.

A Category 5 hurricane shooting magical fairy dust, leaving lovesick victims and casualties in her wake. A Nor’easter that violently blankets the world with a deluge of snow, but whose pure beauty beckons you to make memorable snow angels in its aftermath.

Overnight, marriage became work. Not work like, “Hey, would you like for me to add an echinacea boost to your Berry Berry Yummo Smoothie Blast?” But more like work on a chain gang—drawn faces, raccoon eyes, orange jumpsuits sweatpants:

“That’s not how you sterilize a bottle!! What are you, an idiot?”

“I haven’t left the house in 3 weeks, and you’re planning a boys’ weekend?”

It was actually hard to remember that there once was a time where there was no fighting. Now, every minor thing was elevated to critical mass, with all guns blazing.

“Dirty diapers don’t go in the %^$#@* trash! They go in the Diaper Genie™!”

“If you keep letting her sleep in our bed, she’ll never leave!”

“She’s two. She doesn’t need to know what orange soda tastes like, you moron!”

These parenting fights started out as trivial, but they soon erupted into full-on doozies over the division of labor, finances, sex, free time, spirituality and child-rearing. Nothing was sacred; nothing was off limits.

I was forced to eat my words. Did I marry the wrong guy, or was I letting the perfect guy slip away from me?

We were watching our marriage careen out of control while simultaneously free falling into outer space, farther and farther away from each other. We tried to psychoanalyze ourselves and attempted to intellectualize solutions for our post-baby woes. Yet, we still couldn’t shake the feeling that we were trapped in a trippy David Bowie song, with no way out.

Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles, I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows
Ground control to major Tom, your circuits dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, major Tom?
Can you hear me, major Tom?
Can you hear me, major Tom?
Can you…
Here am I sitting in my tin can far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do

We hung on in this purgatory for quite sometime, not sure whether our marriage was just hitting a temporary rough patch, or whether this had become our “new normal”.

Whatever it was, we finally conceded that it was too big for us to handle. We put down our pride, and instead of continuing to talk ourselves into circles, we have started praying—even praying with the help of counselors and spiritual advisors. This time, though, we are praying differently than we have in the past. We’re praying for courage. Courage to fight for this marriage, rather than to give in to forces that aim to tear us apart. Courage to ask God for directions, and admit that we lost the map. Courage to find our deeper purpose as a married couple.

Finding out that we have a “deeper purpose” is turning out to be quite the pivotal turning point for us.

Luke 12:48 (New International Version)

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

I think for a long time, my husband and I fell into the lull of believing that we were just companions for each other—even best friends. Someone to stroll down Lincoln Road with on a balmy night, someone to catch a local folk band with at the Van Dyke, someone to grab a beer with at The Abbey to decompress over a hectic day. It didn’t really register that the way we complemented each other, was because we were specifically brought together for a much greater mission in life.

We’re starting to realize that we have been given much, much more upon the melding of our lives together. We’re beginning to understand that our destinies are tied up in one another, and those of our amazing daughter’s and her future children. We’re seeing that God needs us to stay intact, not just for each other, but for us to work together in unison in helping Him to reach out to the dying and the lost. We’re learning that putting God’s love before our own, spins us off into unknown territory that can often be scary and trying; however, with our combined faith, we’re finally learning to love at a supernatural level.

This year, I’m working on my marriage, because God is demanding more of me and my husband than to just be latte buddies. God needs him and me on the frontlines, showing love to widows, orphans, the homeless, the poor and to any and all in need of God’s restorative touch. We have been given to each other, to do even exponentially more for God than what we could ever achieve singularly, on our own. “From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

This Valentine’s Day, take a minute to pray for my marriage. I’ll be praying for yours. Let’s keep ourselves accountable and focused on our respective roles in the much, much bigger picture of mankind: the eternal love story of God’s life-saving, redemptive and transformative power to all of creation.

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