The storms of life eventually reach the shores of every marriage. Whether or not the storms of life are raging around you right now be assured, they will come. Justin and I (Megan) are facing quite a few storms right now. It’s not our own marriage that is being hit hard but the issues we are facing are directly affecting our marriage. While we could easily write a post about weathering storms within marriage this post is geared towards those outside influences that impact the way we relate to our spouse. Watching marriages of those we love fall apart. Seeing a loved one slip further into the grips of disease. Witnessing the devastating effects of poor life choices. How can we as married couples provide safe passage to one another in difficult times?
Here are the principles Justin and I are applying in our current situations and we hope they will be useful to you.
1. Don’t fear vulnerability.
Most likely whatever situation you are facing sucks. It’s got you upset, frustrated, angry, depressed or a combination of all that and more. Admit it and give voice to those emotions. Going through difficult times without truly admitting and facing what is going on inside your head and heart will undoubtedly bring more pain to your life. Vulnerability can be absolutely ugly at these times but it is also necessary. Vulnerability paves the way to greater connection and healing. By being vulnerable, your spouse is able to support you, understand you and compassionately care for you. Fear of vulnerability and showing your brokenness hinders the “one flesh” relationship God has designed in marriage. Allow yourself and your spouse to truly come together during these vulnerable times rather than grow distant.
2. Find an effective way of communicating.
Generally, when life is hard there are two common ways to react in regards to communication:
1. Sometimes retreat and withdrawal come knocking on the door when life gets overwhelming. The problem is that if you retreat and withdraw from your spouse you are shutting them out. Your spouse no longer has the ability to know you and provide a soft landing place for you. Maybe you do need some time to process things. Be encouraged that writing, music, art, long walks and the like can be part of the communicating process. Confess to your spouse that you have a lot going on in your mind and you are trying to process. Then don’t forget to make a point to follow up with your spouse. A spouse will generally grant room to deal with emotions but ultimately a marriage will grow stronger when we lean into each other in order to process and work out the difficulties of life together.
2. When emotions are running rampant in your heart they often spill out your mouth. The problem with this overrun mouth syndrome is that while it is directed at your spouse it’s rarely related to your spouse. The chore that didn’t get done or the misplaced keys are not the real issue. The small inconvenience seems so much larger due to the difficulties of life. If you tend to over-react to the small things during stressful times, come up with some easy out ideas. Perhaps you just need to tell your spouse that everything feels like a trigger today and you just need a moment to yourself. If dinner or household chores seem too much, find someone outside your family who can lend a hand. And yes, the truth is that maybe something just doesn’t get done. Ask for forgiveness when you mess up. Tattoo the words “I’m sorry” on your forehead but whatever it is breathe in and breathe out grace. You need it, your spouse needs it and your life will be better because of it.
Find some way to encourage one another with words of life. Notes, messages on mirrors or pillow cases, encouraging texts, the unspoken words of a long hug or passionate kiss. You have the unique ability as a spouse to speak life during difficult times, make the most of that opportunity.
We can’t tell you what this will be for you but find something everyday that makes you laugh. Trust us, you need this!
5. Pursue intimacy and connection.
Stress, exhaustion, depression and other symptoms of difficult times push sex to the back burner of life. This is understandable at times but is not appropriate for extended periods of time. Sex is designed to be restorative and healing and it’s the times we want it least that sex can surprise us the most. Make it a point to connect physically with your spouse whether you feel like it or not. Sure the warm up may need extended and it may not be the most explosive time you’ve ever had together, but then again, maybe it will. The important thing is that you make sex a priority as the hidden and mysterious nature of sex has the power to right wrongs and release us from deep insecurities.
6. Uphold each other in prayer.
Together or separately you need to uphold each other in prayer. We may never know the importance and the influence our prayers have but we can be assured they are heard by the God who created your spouse. God loves your spouse even more than you do so when you lift them in prayer, God hears and will work His will.
These are just a few ways to help provide a safe passage through life’s storms. Our marriages will encounter difficult and painful situations but God has given us a way to navigate them. Together.