Fighting to Stay Married

A post on steps that help maintain a healthy marriage.

I received a lot of advice in the months leading up to when I got married. I smiled when people asked probing questions about my readiness for marriage and took note of their polite nods and eyes that seemed to say “just wait” upon hearing my answers.

I don’t know what they wanted me to “wait for”… an admission that marriage might be too hard, that it won’t be the bliss I hoped it would be, that optimism is for the birds?

It’s not any of those things, but all that marriage entailed I realized later I wasn’t so clear on. I understood the seriousness of my vow to prioritize this person second only to God, and how values of loyalty, commitment, and promises kept are key foundational principles to marriage. But, I had no clue that I needed to fight for my marriage daily. I didn’t know how to fight when there wasn’t a crisis, which meant I was even more unprepared to fight when there was.

I learned that fighting for marriage is more than just applying conflict resolution skills or using the past as a looking glass into how your spouse became who they are. In fact, fighting for marriage has nothing to do with learning healthy ways to solve disagreements with a spouse. It’s about deciding that your partner is not the enemy (Ephesians 6:12), and making a decision about the type of spouse you’re going to be regardless of who your partner chooses to be.

Looking back, what we were most unprepared for in our marriage was the fact that there was more to fight for in our relationship. We weren’t so naive to think that every day was going to be sunshine and rainbows when we became one unit, but love had sustained us through everything prior to getting married, why would our marriage be any different?

But, it was different. Before I thought, “I love this person so much, I’ll always do what needs to be done”. Life with a partner requires compromise and sacrifice. It got harder to say, “ I’ll just do what needs to be done” because the onus was put on my actions to reflect my feelings. That kind of thinking was prime soil for seeds of resentment and bitterness to take root and blossom into full-blown strife (James 3:16).

Though the foundations of love were strong in my relationship (individual relationships with Christ,  friendship, and respect for each other), I was at a loss for why we seemed to pass each other like ships in the night. I didn’t have an answer for why I felt consumed by loneliness in those early months and why issues between us were so hard to resolve. There were external factors at play for sure: work challenges, moving to a new city and general adjustment to life as newlyweds, but it wasn’t just that.

Even though that early season of our life together was challenging, I am so glad that God isolated me so that I could seek Him for the answer.  It turned out that what was missing was a strategy to fight for my marriage, and I believe God was clear on what to do. I understood the application in three parts.

  1. Pray and ask God to deal with me first, to allow Him to change my heart’s response to my spouse and challenges in our marriage. (Psalm 51:10)

  2. Commit to being the person the Bible called me to be no matter how I felt, or how my husband responded to me or situations in our life together. (Matthew 10:37-38)

  3. Pray for my spouse and speak over his life things in keeping with the Word (ex/ for his ability to lead our family, favor at work, fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

I started to practice those things and my marriage began to change. It didn’t happen overnight, but I changed, and then I saw changes in my spouse. Tools to improve communication, conflict resolution skills and all that generally makes for a healthy relationship are necessary for creating a healthy marriage. However, I found that those things were only supplemental to what actually helped me fight for my marriage.  I see the fruits of what I’m fighting for each day and it motivates me to keep at it.

Is there anything you would add to the list to fight for marriage? I hope that you keep at it aswell.