When our marriages are struggling, it seems impossible to look past the hurt of today. Day after day it seems as though nothing good is happening. We are cycling through one emotion after the next: sad, angry, hurt, desperation, guilt, inadequacy, loneliness, etc. Seldom, if ever, do we get the pleasure of cycling through a positive emotion. If we are lucky enough to cycle through a positive emotion it is most likely short lived and we find our selves being slapped right back to reality!! It seems as though we will be stuck in this bad cycle forever, will it ever end!?!? I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY!!! Maybe we are in limbo because of our spouse’s mental illness or addiction, maybe one of us was unfaithful, or maybe our marriage is broken because of lack of attention. No matter why we are here today, one thing is for sure…..I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY!! I deserve to be treated better!!
Good meaning friends and family are probably advising us to accept what is coming and surrender to the divorce that is surely inevitable. They might say: “you would be justified in filing for divorce” or “you do not deserve to be treated this way” or “there is nothing left of your marriage anyway” or the most common “you deserve to be happy.” While we might be justified in all of our feelings, is it possible that we are misunderstanding the role that our suffering is playing in our life, marriage, and future?
The ultimate question might be “How long must I suffer? “
Ideally no one wants to suffer, but we must ask ourselves “If suffering is part of the human experience, how much must I endure?” The simple answer is “How ever long it takes.” On the surface that might seem cruel and unusual but I do not mean it to be. I mean it to be hopeful and up-lifting. No matter how much time it takes to heal our broken marriage, God is waiting to do just that for us. The problem is that we are driven to throw in the towel before God is through molding us into the marriage He desires.
So, what do we do in the mean time? Do we just give up and accept a miserable marriage or give up and accept a divorce? I would suggest that God wants us to “give in”. Give in to the plan that He has for us. Give in to the assumption that one day we will have a joyous marriage because God will not break His promise to us. Give in to the understanding that God will fix our marriage in His time and His way. Give in to the knowledge that we will suffer longer than we deem fair. Give in to the hope that today’s trials will make our marriage better.
I know what it is like to be drowning in a bad marriage, day after day. I am so sorry if you are having to endure the same, or something even remotely similar. I truly believe that God will save your marriage. I believe that my husband and I endured horrible things and prevailed so that you could see hope for your marriage. I believe that God will not break the promise He made to the both of you on your wedding day!
Being a Servant Spouse requires that we look past how terrible our marriage is and focus on how, with God’s help, we can be more sacrificial. When we are at a place in your marriage where we have One Foot Out the Door, this is not a small thing to ask. How do I look past how terrible our marriage is? How do I look past how bad I am being treated? You have got to be kidding! I already give way more to this marriage then my spouse, why is it up to me? Yes, we deserve better and more and God will deliver that to us, but first we must surrender ourselves and allow God to mold us and assist us in growing in virtue.
My husband and I are living proof that choosing to suffer “How ever long it takes” is well worth the wait. For more than a decade our marriage was in severe crisis. We tried counseling, changing jobs, living in separate bedrooms, prayer, fasting, etc. No one thing was the magical answer. When things were at their worst, I remember wanting to throw in the towel. But one day, in prayer I heard God say, “Have you given everything you possibly could to your marriage. When you meet me in heaven one day will you be able to say to me, ‘I did everything I possibly could to save my marriage’? ” I realized at that moment, no matter how bad things were, I could be better. I could be a better wife. I could be more virtuous, including being patient enough for God to save my marriage.
Being more sacrificial, growing in holiness and virtue, is the path to God saving our marriage. Turning it from horrible to wonderful.
Giving in as described above includes changing how we react to our spouse. How we react and respond to our spouse has the potential to tame or fuel an already bad situation.
Each day choose to respond to your spouse differently; choose to respond with virtues supplied by God and reject emotions supplied by Evil:
- Choose compassion instead of indifference
- Choose patience instead of frustration
- Choose trust instead of doubt
- Choose faith instead of fear
- Choose love instead of anger
Pray for God to help you grow in virtue and become a better spouse, despite how your spouse might be treating you.
After the revelation I mentioned above: that I could do better. I could be a better wife. I could be more virtuous, including being patient enough for God to save my marriage. I decided to ask God to help me grow in virtue. For me that meant praying a daily Rosary for a virtue that I needed to grow in, to be a better child of God. Each day I started the Rosary by praying for that specific virtue (instead of praying for God to change my husband, which is what I had been praying for). At the beginning of each month I selected a new virtue and that was the virtue that I prayed for the entire month. I started with patience, followed by humility, compassion, etc. I continued this for 18 months, not missing a day. At the end of the 18 months, I was able to see growth in myself in all of the virtues I had prayed for. Surprisingly, I also saw changes in my husband. He had become more loving and less angry. I could tolerate him better than before and although I could not say yet that I loved him again, I could see the possibility of loving him again.
Suggested Prayer by Melissa B.
Dear Lord, my God, creator and ruler of the universe. It is you that created me with all of my strengths and weaknesses. You know best the virtues that I struggle with. Help me to grow in virtue so that I can be a better spouse. Help me to suffer well and to carry the cross of my difficult marriage. Help me to react and engage with my spouse using your words and actions instead of my own. Bless and protect our marriage vows, especially during this trying time. Aid me in focusing on you and your will instead of the worldly views that tempt me every day. Today Lord, I am giving in so that you can deliver us from horrible to wonderful, in your time and in your way. By and through your grace I pray! Amen!