There are some stories that are yours alone. Others are shared and those remain only partly told because the other part of the story belongs to someone else and it just isn’t for you to tell it. That’s how marriage is. I have friends who have heard those stories — because my husband knows I need to share them with trusted people and he has opened to that for my sake. I will share here that my marriage, like most marriages, has had its hills and valleys. We have endured trials together and we have regrettably imposed trials upon one another in various seasons.
You see, years ago, people took the idea of a vow seriously. The committed spoken words of, “I do” meant forever until death and it meant riding out serious highs and lows. It meant the lows. It meant sickness, poverty, brokenness, distance, growing pains, bad days, bad moods, PMS, stress, grief, house repairs, car repairs, crises with the children, long work hours and all other sorts of ills which beset marriages everywhere. God knows what fickle hearts we have and He knows we need a covenant to make us bound together. We marry and it is one of two covenant relationships in the whole known universe. The first is the covenant God makes with us. The second is marriage. I’m not sure if that knocks the wind out of you as it does me, but it gives me pause to be sure. In the marriage relationship a spiritually mysterious reality occurs: the two become one. Have you thought about that lately? Your husband is one with you. He’s not that guy who is on your nerves or not doing what you want or failing your expectations (though he may be any and all of those too). He is one with you.
And what happens as we walk down the road of marriage is that sometimes these men, they sin. They fail. They fall. They forget. They lose their way. They get lazy or distant or distracted or worse. Sometimes. And when they do we feel left and lonely. I am sure there may be some marriages where the woman reading this post says, “Nope, not me.” But, I’m telling you, I’ve sat over coffee or tea, or on the phone, or on a Facebook message, or in a Bible Study often enough to know there are plenty of women who have been disappointed at one point or another in their marriage. My grandparents — well, they are the grandparents I had since I was 12 years old when my mom remarried — on their 65th wedding anniversary, sitting together, winking and blowing well-aged kisses at one another, offered us children three things. One of them was that they would be glad to help us learn how to make marriage last. At that time I was dating my now husband, but had no idea how deeply I needed this sage advice. My grandmother said, “We had our hard years, but we made it through.” Hard years. Hard YEARS. I was in my early 20s and hard days seemed reasonable. Hard weeks, maybe, but Hard Years, that was just too much to consider. I left that time with my grandparents with a renewed appreciation for the love they seemed to so easily demonstrate for one another. It was a love wrought in the furnace of hard years — not just hard years, but the holding on through the hard years: holding on to one another, holding onto the commitment they had made and holding onto God.
Don’t get me wrong. There are occasions for separation when there is abuse going on in a marriage or when someone won’t agree to let go of addiction and the fallout of their choices are affecting the whole family. There are even times for divorce, like when someone has an affair and will not turn back to his spouse, repent and attempt to rebuild from the ashes of his destruction. But, in most of our cases, we aren’t dealing with those extremes. Most of us are talking about why our husbands don’t love us like the man on The Notebook or Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
So what can we count on when these men don’t live up to our expectations?
For one thing we can count out the idea that any human being will fulfill us. Yes, we are one with our husband, but he isn’t there to serve us and meet our unspoken needs — especially those needs which come from a broken heart or a broken past, those are just too big for human healing. God sized needs require a God sized answer: God Himself. Though our husbands may love and serve us, they will not fill us in the way that God is meant to do. We have to take our husbands out of the role of “rock” and go to the Rock Who is solid through everything because He has been here before the foundation of the earth and He made us and our husbands, and He holds us and our marriage in His care.
You can recount the past years of good memories and know that those were real. You can think back on why you fell in love in the first place and you can remember the goodness that has been in your marriage so far. This imperfect man (who married an imperfect woman) has made you laugh at some point, made you feel loved at some point and done many other things worth remembering — even if it consistently taking out the trash and going to work every day to bring home provision for his family. Remember vacations and shared joys. Recount the fond memories — refresh your memory — rekindle your love for this man.
We can count. We can count the little goodnesses around us and more importantly the goodness in our husbands. I am not talking Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky, close your eyes to your problems here. I am saying, when your husband feels unreliable or distant or is letting you down, you can still go hunting to find some qualities of the man you married deep within him — even now. You can find the image of God in him. You can search for three things every day. You can name them and thank God for them and you can even (take a breath) say them to him. You can compliment your husband, not because you want to make him do things your way, but because you love. And love is not always as much a feeling as it is an action of giving despite the return.
You can be accountable to a friend. Commit to her that you want to outgrow selfish expectations in your marriage. Share the pain of your grief over the missed moments and mistakes of your husband and if you dare, your own failings and fallings. Marriage is a two-way street. We aren’t the perfect wife with a husband falling short. We too have failed him — we have sought our own filling instead of seeking to fill our God-given role as helpmate and wife. Ask your friend to help you count the good and to hold you to complimenting your husband. Invite her to join you in celebrating the other half of your “oneness”covenant with you. This isn’t about pretending your husband is perfect. It is about drawing out what is wonderful in him so that you can balance expectation with celebration.
And you can lift your countenance to the One who calls Himself your beloved. You can say, with the Psalmist, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” Our hope is not in our husbands. Our hope is in God — thankfully. When our husbands fall short or disappoint us, we can find a greater support and a deeper love in God Who calls us to say of Him, ““I am my beloved’s and His desire is for me.” He says, He has loved you with an everlasting love and has drawn you with unfailing kindness. And take comfort in this when your husband fails you or you feel disappointed in him: Your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.