A dear childhood friend of mine and her husband recently celebrated their eleventh wedding anniversary. Below is the full written exchange between us about a difficult season she walked through in her marriage and also some advice from over a decade of marital experience:
Jenni: How have you guys walked through difficulties together? I recently remembered you sharing at Olive Garden one time how your husband had stopped regularly going to church for a while and how you walked through that time with a quiet strength…and how God was the One who worked on his heart, not any nagging from you, lol. I just recall the way you shared about it being really impactful! You kept honoring and loving him even in that kind of uncertain time. Anything else you want to add?
Allie: You remember that really well! You hit the mark! It was really hard. But I learned really where my relationship with God was and that I really wanted to get closer to Him. I feel like that was when I really started paying attention at church! It sounds weird, but I almost needed that time to myself with God. And I never had it on my heart to talk to my husband about it. So it may sound strange, but for a year we didn’t even acknowledge that he wasn’t going. I kept it to myself so much though that I never talked about it with anyone. I was embarrassed being a pastor’s kid and worship leader, and my husband wasn’t coming to church. Finally I talked to two very trustworthy, strong-in-the-Lord friends, and they were like, “We are going to pray for him.” I kid you not, within a couple weeks he came back. Did I handle that year perfectly? No! In addition to learning more about my relationship with God and where I was at, I turned to some of the wrong distractions as well.
Jenni: What other insights are you willing to share about how you walked through that time?
Allie: I love what you said about how God worked on his heart, it wasn’t me trying to change him. That would’ve made the situation much worse. Like I said, I wasn’t perfect, but I had to “die to self.” It was very much about him and what he was doing at that time (MBA, CFA, and working full time). I HAD to be his support, I was the only person who was. I had to listen when he was stressed, even though I was tired of hearing about it and I was going through stuff too, but he needed me. I did everything around the house. All of the cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, you name it! And I was also working full time and volunteering at church twice a week. So this is a crucial moment in lots of people’s relationships. Lots of couples are very busy but neither are willing to give up what they have going on to support the other. It’s not about you! If your spouse is pursuing this huge thing, and even though you may not be totally happy with how things are, you need to be their support, do not nag them (why didn’t you do the dishes, why don’t you pick up your clothes, why don’t you come to church…) and trust God. I also have had the opportunity to give advice to people who are going through my husband’s side of the story. I tell them I know you’re about to do something big, and it’s going to consume you, but don’t forget about taking the time to ask your spouse how their day was and listen to them talk for a while.
Jenni: Thank you for being willing to share from your heart and your experiences! Any other tips you would like to share from your eleven years of marriage?
Allie: Other advice I have from 11 years in marriage…
- Have fun!! Enjoy each other! That’s what you’re married for! Take the time to get to know each other and learn about marriage before having kids. Don’t rush things.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. MOST things in marriage that can get on your nerves aren’t actually worth your time and energy. Why are you focusing on your husband’s every little flaw? Do you want him to do that to you? Do you think that’s what God does? So he doesn’t load the dishwasher or fold laundry the way you like? Who cares! He’s doing it isn’t he? Not worth it. Pick your battles. Step back, take a moment to think before speaking and realize how silly being angry about certain things is. And if it is more serious to you, pray about it! Either God will help you speak to your husband in love about it, or God will work on him. Most of the time it’s the latter, give it to God, BE PATIENT, things don’t happen overnight, and watch your husband surprise you. When change happens in God’s timing instead of you trying to force it, it’s a beautiful thing.
- Experience and do things TOGETHER. I get that girls nights and girl trips are fun, but why aren’t you desiring that time with your husband? There’s nothing like experiencing new food, activities and places with your husband! That is my escape; that is my happy place. Traveling and trying new things with my husband.
- Be quick to say sorry. Every day you are needing to put yourself aside for marriage. Sometimes when you feel like you’re so right on a topic and you’re mad and arguing it may not be worth holding onto and sacrificing the peace in your home. Say the words “I’m sorry” and watch God work. It may open it up for a better more productive conversation.
- Be intimate. Intimacy (both physical and emotional) and vulnerability with your husband is beautiful. Do not neglect this.
- Last but not least, to sum it all up, be best friends and partners. Utilize what this relationship is all about. You’re doing life together. You’re doing things and experiencing things together. You’re helping each other, burdens aren’t just on one person. You’re sharing housework and responsibilities. In my house my husband does all of the cooking and grocery shopping. I do the dishes and cleaning. Figure out what works best for you guys, even if it breaks social norms. It’s not you and your mom and your husband, or you and your sister and your husband, it’s you and your husband! Making decisions together, laughing together, learning about each other and growing in your relationship every day. It’s so fun! Embrace it!
* * * * *