Updated: Feb 15
Every marriage has its share of mountains. There is the thrill of ascending to the marital summit where ecstasy, stunning new realities and fulfillment are beyond expectation and description. At the peak, all the difficult steps, stumbles and trials are viewed as worth every risk. But there is also the reality that at some point there is going to be a time of descent. A perilous downhill journey sometimes filled with danger, discouragement and letdown. Ironically, getting down is always easier than getting up! It easy to stay positive on the mountaintop but how you respond in the valley often determines how quickly and effectively you are able to scale the next peak.
Like anyone else who has ever been married, I have experienced both bliss and blister. There have been times where I wondered if we would make it, times I wanted to jump ship and times where our relationship was so passionate, fresh and exhilarating that it seemed like an infusion of emotional adrenaline. In the valley, calling it “quits” often appears as the easiest way out but seldom is it the best.
Abandoning life’s most intimate relationship should be the last resort but many choose it as their first. Sure, there are certain biblical situations where divorce is permitted but that does not mean it is recommended. There are also cases of abuse where wives or children are put in dangers that warrant separation. Although many marital breakups come from these two factors, a large percentage of marriages deteriorate from a gradual procession of smaller issues that fester into relational infections. More so for maintenance than rescue, I regularly go to marriage counseling. [I recommend it for everyone.] My years of navigating through marital success and failure, have taught me a few simple lessons that work well when intentionally applied.
Get rid of your scorecard.Keeping tabs on past failures and hurts only builds resentment and leads to preconceived responses. Scorecards also facilitate the tendency to “dig up bones” and mention things that should be left underground. If a tally needs to be kept, it should never be a record of wrongs but only one that parades the positives.
Shift focus away from what you can get to what you can give.Intentionally meeting the needs of your spouse even when they are not meeting yours is always difficult but never without reward from God. Make sure you are doing this without ulterior motives or as a maneuver to get something in return. Pray and ask Christ to give you a selfless, servant’s spirit.
Give up your terrorist mentality and negotiate. Don’t be demanding and always expect to get your way! Healthy marriages are always built through compromise. The unwillingness to give in and surrender on the non-essentials is evidence of pride and arrogance. Not only will your spouse resist this behavior so will the Lord as proven by James 4:7.
Stop flying off the handle.Constantly being irritable, angry and explosive makes your spouse feel the need to be distantly elusive. They should never live in fear of you detonating. Proverbs 14:17 says a person quick to anger responds foolishly. Attack problems not people.
Commit to staying committed.Authentic love never gives in or up. It is without end. God promises that while people will fail authentic love will not. He designed it so it would have in its DNA an unbreakable quality that makes it unstoppable. So many marriages have marginal love, which is based on performance instead of persistence. Ask God to give you the kind of love that endures, sustains, forgives, finds good, is tolerant and constantly looks forward not backward.
Ruth Graham, the wife of iconic Christian leader Billy Graham, was once asked in a interview if she ever thought about divorcing her husband. She replied, “No, I’ve never thought of divorce in 35 years of marriage but I have thought of murder a few times.” We can all learn a lesson from Ruth about endurance and commitment. It’s a cornerstone of longevity.