When I first thought of writing this post, the mental title was How to Stay Married For Over Thirty Years Without Murdering Your Husband. However, the better part of discretion prevailed and you have a serious title… but as you read, think of the original title and you will understand where I’m coming from.
When I met my future husband, I was in my senior year of high school and he had gone to college, dropped a class and been drafted, spent two tours of duty in Vietnam, returned to college, and now was starting graduate school.
The union of these two lives could only have been a plan written by God! God seems to enjoy matching complete opposites, and every marriage starts with two flawed people in need of grace.
I had come through losing my father suddenly in my childhood, living with a mentally unstable stepfather, and experienced an increasing rift with my seven half-brothers and sisters as a result of my becoming a Christian (although I remained close to my mother).
My husband, on the outside seemed to come from a very stable home environment, but beneath the surface was a great deal of dysfunction. While not going into detail, his past resulted in great emotional wounding which continues to heal.
He had also already been diagnosed as manic depressive (which I believe is a much better name than bipolar disorder, as it is called today). His symptoms have been difficult to control since the basis of them is his severe environmental allergies which cause his brain to swell (resulting in a change of personality and at times the inability to think clearly).
So… God brought us together and healed all wounds and healed the bipolar disorder and we lived happily ever after. Ummmm… no.
To be completely honest… and I’m not telling tales out of school for my husband has talked of this… there were very, very difficult years. However, I have told people that my husband may be a project but he is “my project”.
What have I learned through the years that kept us together so long? Some of the lessons are…
First… One person in the marriage may be more flawed than the other but neither is perfect. As the “less flawed” person, I had to remember to not think of myself as superior to my husband because my challenges were not as severe as his.
Somewhere in the early years of marriage, I received great advice from an older wife and mother. She said I was to ask God to improve my husband but never try to take the place of the Holy Spirit in his life. For me that meant not nagging him and reminding him of his faults but to take them to God in prayer.
I can now laugh when I remember my reaction in those early years when Hubby would bring up my flaws. “Who, moi’?… How could you talk about my issues when yours are so much worse!!!!” Sigh… I’m glad God is forever patient with all of us.
Second… As I have looked back throughout the years, I realize how the challenges of my childhood prepared me with the experiences to be the perfect helpmeet to my husband (never perfect as a person, of course).
Our life is a journey in which the beginning, the middle, and the end are never a surprise to our Lord.
Third… We may come to a season in our marriage when we don’t love (or even like) our spouse very much. That doesn’t mean God cannot restore love. There were a few years in our marriage when my husband became very difficult to like due to the affect of manic depression on his personality.
In my experience, I told God if He wanted me to stay in the marriage then He was going to have to give me the love for my husband again. You know what? He did! The closer I got to our Lord, the more I actually felt love for my husband… in spite of circumstances at the time.
It also works for mothers and recalculate toddlers… and teenagers.
Fourth… God brings opposites together for a purpose. You know how the Word talks about “iron sharpens iron”?
Believe me, as two people become one person, a lot of sharp edges are made smooth… and sometimes it feels like He is using sandpaper on our flaws!
Fifth… Not every marriage will have severe tests and trials. Many will only deal with the little foxes nipping at their feet through the years. What is the easiest way to deal with them? Realize one can be right and still be wrong.
Learn that being right may not make you a winner at all. Sometimes it is just better to swallow your pride and not say anything! God knows who is right and who is wrong, but He also knows what it feels like to go to the Cross as a perfect person.
Sixth… Remember those attributes that drew you together in the first place. They are often there but buried deep within the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
Often, once we experience jobs, toddlers, bills to pay, sleep deprivation, job loss, prodigal children, etc…. it is easy to forget there was a reason we said “I do, forever and ever, amen”.
Seventh… Be very careful about complaining to others about your husband. If you have a mother, sister, or best friend with whom you can talk and know it will never go any further… and that they can see both sides of an argument… then perhaps ask for their wisdom.
As far as throwing out angry words to the world, you are only planting seeds you can never get back. Once you and your husband kiss and make up, the angry words will continue to take root where they landed.
It is extremely important to not complain about your husband to your children, even when it is obvious Daddy has a problem (as in our case), be careful what words you use. Children need to look up to their father to the best extent possible.
Even the smallest child can be told to pray for Mommy or Daddy and as they get older, having them pray without going into any detail teaches them to lean to God for answers.
My husband and son went through a difficult time in their relationship when my son was a teenager and my husband was experiencing a long bipolar incident. When they were angry at each other, I often told them to LET IT GO. Now that my son is grown up, he and his father enjoy an excellent relationship and I truly believe it was due to guarding the words they wanted to throw out to each other.
If there are serious concerns (especially where there is physical and mental abuse), you need to talk to someone like your pastor or a counselor. I mostly talked to God. He could always be trusted with my words… but I did seek counsel when necessary.
Eighth… Budget for fun! You only journey through life once and as the old saying goes, “This is not a dress rehearsal”.
For a long time I had a handwritten note to myself which said, These are my children’s Good Old Days. I’m glad that their memories not only contain the unavoidable challenges of our years but plenty of good times, too.
While we were still actively homeschooling, I read an alarming article about teenagers and young adults who had gone deeply into bad behavior once they “graduated” from homeschooling. The author was puzzled, many of these families didn’t own a TV and some didn’t even watch movies where the culture could influence them. So what did he find in common?
By far the greatest thread linking these families was the atmosphere in their home. Most came from very legalistic backgrounds where rules reigned and they had been “good kids” only out of fear.
He found that it didn’t matter if people were poor, if they owned or did not own a TV, if they were Unschoolers or Classically schooled, if they used real books or textbooks, or if they lived on a farm or in the city… that didn’t matter. What did? Did they enjoy being part of the family?
The homeschoolers who kept the course and entered their adult years holding onto their faith and a good relationship with their parents were those who were raised in a home with laughter, encouragement, sensible rules and boundaries, and where home was a pleasant place where they enjoyed spending time with their family. Husbands, too, love coming home to a house filled with love and grace.
Ninth… Staying together reaps great rewards! I can’t tell you how many times I have thanked God for His grace that kept us together through the very difficult years. Is it perfect now? Not at all… my husband’s depression-bipolar symptoms actually became severe enough that he had to go on Social Security Disability.
However, despite his challenges we have a good life together… not perfect but good. Both of our children bring us great joy, have married wonderful Christian spouses, and don’t get me started talking about my grandchildren.
On second thought, do you want to know about my grandchildren? Oh, right… this is about staying married without murdering your husband… which brings me to the final thought.
Tenth… Never expect from your spouse what only God can give. God is perfect, we are not. God is finite, we see everything “through a glass darkly”.
Our husband can never be the lone source of our joy, our peace, our comfort, our provision, or have any place in our life that only God can fill as we draw closer to Him.
Having said that… neither can we expect ourselves to become to our husband (or anyone else) what only God can be to them. For in our imperfection, only disappoint can be the result.
Bring your neediness to the Lord and He can make you whole.