I have found that most people,especially couples, are unprepared to deal with the changes and difficulties that come throughout life. Because they don’t have a plan to help them stay together in rough waters, they often drift apart when the waters of life begin to crash over them. Some of the most common trials that face couples are pregnancy, the responsibilities of small children, the challenges of teenagers, financial stress, job loss, sickness, sickness of a child, aging, the empty nest, and the difficulties of caring for aging parents. These are events that are beyond our control. They require us to step up and face difficult realities and make significant adjustments in our plans and daily routines. Many times these circumstances bring long periods of stress, emotional ups and downs, and exhaustion. They also carry with them increased financial demands that frequently take away from time available to be together as one or both seek to earn more money to pay for this new challenge. It is in this environment that couples often begin to turn on each other, neglect each other, and begin to associate the stress with their mate. These are seasons in life that drive many couples to the divorce courts.
The reality is that divorce is not the best answer. Unless you are married to a habitual cheater or an abuser, divorce does not solve anything, it simply increases the pain.and adds new challenges. In our book, I Still Do, A Guide for the Marriage Journey, we devote a chapter to helping couples count the real cost of divorce. When couples get divorced, it has a negative effect on everyone in your circle of friends and family. The children will spend the rest of their lives trying to get over it. Every special day will be saddened by the reality that the family is broken and now everyone must try to determine how to include and relate to step parents and step children. Someone or both will have to move which will involve new schools, new neighbors, new friends, less contact with former close friends and family, new church, and maybe a new job. If financial stress was the driving force behind the decision to divorce, the result will be even less money and more bills since the divorce costs are high. Loneliness will now take a significant place in everyone’s heart.
The best plan is to work to stay together. After all, marriage is about two people promising to help each other through life. Here are a few helpful hints to help you stay together when the waters of life get rough:
- Refuse to play the blame game. In most cases, determining blame does not solve problems, it simply hurts feelings and creates emotional distance.
- Be ready to forgive and look for solutions.
- Be gracious. Under stress, none of us is at our best so give your mate the slack that you hope he/she will give you.
- Stop insisting that your mate respond to the stressful events the way you respond. Listen and ask questions to better understand their thought process and concerns. This brings closeness whereas insisting that your mate respond as you do brings conflict and distance in the relationship.
- Learn to work together to help each other through life. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up”.The Bible NIV version Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.
- Revoke the permission you might have given yourself to vent your anger and frustration on your mate. Determine to exercise self control and treat your mate the way you would like to be treated.
- Make a point of saying kind, complimentary things to your mate regularly.
- Dream about how good life will be once this has all been worked out.
- Pray for each other.
- Make time to be together without talking about the trouble.
- Make some light-hearted moments.
- Enjoy the children in your life. There is nothing like a child’s perspective to lift a troubled heart.
- Remember, God is with you and has a plan to help you through.
- Use this situation to examine your heart and look for opportunities to learn and grow.
My wife and I have been through many rough stretches of water and have learned the value of helping each other rather than turning on each other. I hope these things we have learned along the way will be helpful to you in your journey.