I remember our wedding day; I practically ran down the aisle, my poor father in tow, racing into my future husband’s arms. While Tim wiped away tears, I smiled so wide and big you would have thought I won the lottery. In my mind, I had. This amazing man picked me (and my two kids), and our life was going to be one delightful adventure after the next. At the time, the furthest thing from my mind was whether we’d be able to weather the storms life would throw at us.
Laying The Foundation
The first six years flew by in a breeze. We didn’t have to “make it work” because it wasn’t that difficult. There were romantic getaways and shared dreams, giggles and tickle fights, and a growing family. We started a church and had a baby; we bought a home and moved to suburbia. Our family of five thrived. Life was abundant with service, ministry and blessings.
Sure, a few obstacles came our way, but our confidence in each other was high.
When The Storms Hit
And then, life got REAL – as in really hard. Tragedy, drama and human weakness at its finest bombarded us. Our fragile foundation rocked and rolled like the San Andreas Fault.
My parents were both suddenly taken by fatal disease. Tim injured his back and faced permanent nerve damage and paralysis, leading to a spinal surgery followed by a long and painful recovery. Our constant battle with infertility wove itself through every story, miscarriage after miscarriage. Add a blended family with teenagers to the mix and, for two years straight, we fought to keep our heads above water.
Maybe marriage wasn’t so easy. Maybe it took work – hard work.
Choosing To Love When It’s Hard
Fortunately, I married a persistent man who never, ever gives up. Week after week, he showed up at the counselor by my side, ready to tackle the broken parts of him and us and me. Even when I was drowning in sorrow and weary, he never let go of my hand.
While I wish certain outcomes were different, because I sure miss my mom and dad (and the tribe of 12 babies I won’t meet until eternity), I don’t regret the journey it’s forced us to travel. Pain brings out our best and worst traits. My husband has seen me unraveled and paralyzed with fear, and yet he continues to love me. I have seen him blustering and red in frustration, and yet I get up and choose only him every day.
Working Through The Pain
After nine years together, our marriage is probably like many of yours – sometimes effortless and occasionally the hardest work I’ve ever done. But I believe the hard work is the foundational adjustment we need to make us better in the long run.
So many people believe that experiencing emotional pain is a reason to bail out on a marriage. They run, they hide and they cope. I was a master at this. But with a skyrocketing divorce rate in this country, I don’t really think this strategy is working out too well for most of us.
What if the pain we experience is not something to run from but simply a relational trigger to lean into, like a red flashing light indicating there is an issue that needs your attention? When the water heater leaks in your house, you call in a plumber and invest time and money to find a solution. You don’t sell the house; you repair the glitch and make your home stronger. Why would we treat marriage any differently?
Pain is not something to avoid. Pain will make a marriage better if you let it do its work. Adversity overcome together creates the glue of a relationship. Pain forced us to restructure our boundaries, to surrender to one another sacrificially and to leave our selfish natures behind for something better – a relationship built on rock and not sand.
Every day I have to decide to face the trials of life with my best friend at my side or go it alone. Will I pick the friend I have fought for and who fights for me on a daily basis, or erroneously believe my happiness is the only thing that matters?
I’m so glad we didn’t give up when things got hard, because the greatest joy was reached only by moving forward together. Yes, my husband drives me crazy, but he also fills me with unspeakable joy. He holds my hand and whispers prayers when I need encouragement, he points me back to God when my faith wavers, and he makes me laugh through my tears. I can only hope I will choose to fall in love over and over with this same man for the rest of my life. I want more than anything to focus on the good and not dwell on the bad, celebrating the smallest victories and offering forgiveness quickly.
Your marriage will need to be remodeled many times over the years. It’s not a one-and-done decision. You will need to continually choose your spouse on a daily basis and make tweaks along the way to improve communication. You’ll have to put a lot into your marriage to get things right, but it may be the best investment you will ever make.
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