Is your marriage broken today?
When you get married you think you know who you are. You’re confident in what you want out of life, and you’re sure that your spouse is it.
You walk down that aisle thinking to yourself, “here is the man who is going to complete me for the rest of my life.”
Sure, you sat through pre-marital counseling and the pastor warned you of all the problems that most couples encounter. But that will never happen to us, you think. We’re different. We really love each other.
Then you wed, and within a few months your dreams are shattered.
How could this man whom you loved so much have changed so much? How could he hurt you like that? How could he not understand?
That’s how I felt when I was first married. I was so positive that Keith and I were meant for each other. We were best friends. We prayed together. We knew each other inside and out.
But when we wed it was as if all of these expectations that we both had on each other collided. I thought he was only interested in me for one thing, and he thought I didn’t really love him because I wasn’t as interested in that one thing. And so we went, back and forth, each feeling totally broken. How could the person that I love most in the world–the person who was supposed to love me–hurt me this way?
I received an email not too long ago from a new bride struggling with different communication patterns with her husband. This is part of what she wrote (edited to remove any identifying details):
Before making dinner tonight I put on some cute lingerie, stuff that I know he likes. Meanwhile, he is occupied playing computer games. I come out to see what he wants to eat, he says something rudely sarcastic in response. I’m standing there, all dressed up and vulnerable for him, trying to serve him by getting him food….and that happens. I come back in a little bit and curl up on the sofa next to him and ask if we might talk so that things don’t go worse tonight. He doesn’t even look up, but plays his game and asks me why? because he says there’s nothing to
This is a normal routine. I calmly explain how I felt unloved by him not even caring that I was dressed up for him, and how his sarcasm made me feel. I explained that I am trying to serve him and didn’t understand his response. His reply was that I had sent him a couple links and he had read them (1 was a good bible-related post and the other one related to a marriage area we struggle with) and now he “wasn’t in the mood.” I asked why? and he wouldn’t tell me. He also continued saying demeaning things about who cared if i was dressed up.
Things did not end well. I came to our bedroom and prayed my heart out. It seems like I’m doing that every other day with tears streaming down my face. Struggling not to sob because he hates it when I cry. According to him tonight, “crying is a scientific fact that it’s a turn-off.” But I couldn’t stop it! I tried, and then I choke.
This woman is in pain. She feels so unloved. He won’t look up from his video games. He won’t respond when she is trying to be a “good wife” by making him dinner and putting on lingerie for him.
But at the same time, he’s probably feeling unloved, too. She sends him emails trying to help their marriage; he interprets it as criticism. He feels like he’s not good enough, and she’s mad at him for playing video games; he can’t handle the criticism so withdraws more. When she cries, he feels even more inadequate.
All these dreams of how they were perfect together, of how they fit together, of how they would love and honor each other–broken.
Are you broken today? Do you feel like your marriage–and your heart–are in pieces?
Brokenness is not a bad thing, in and of itself. It’s when we’re broken, when we realize that we can’t do things on our own, when we see that we aren’t perfect, that we’re hurting, that we turn to God.
And I think that’s when God is able to change us and to grow us.
I asked on my Facebook Page on the weekend what everyone’s hardest year of marriage was. The most common answer was year 1. That’s often when we’re squeezed and broken. When we feel so unloved and we’re hurting and choking and crying.
And yet, out of brokenness beauty grows.
God takes those broken pieces and creates something new–something beautiful. Something different.
Sometimes God needs to break it. He needs to break all of us to mold us.
I believe that this overwhelming feeling that we are not loved–this feeling that we are drowning because we’re hurting so much–is the feeling that drives us to our knees in desperation. And when we are desperate enough, when we want and need the pain to stop, I think God starts talking to us, and whispering things like:
Do you realize that only I can give you peace? That only I can give you joy? You can share those things with your spouse, but they ultimately come from me.
Do you realize that what I ask of you is that you love your husband? Do you realize that I put you on this earth to learn to love, not just to be loved? And perfect love is focused on the other person; it’s not focused on how we feel.
Do you realize that when you are weak, when you can’t do it yourself, then you finally let me in? And you can start to live in my power?
I am not saying that we should pursue brokenness; not at all. But I do know that it is often in my darkest moments, when I truly become vulnerable with God, and then with my husband, that God does His best work in me. And that is when I start to understand peace, and grace, in a new way.
Everyone is broken in marriage at some point.
Everyone goes through periods when our dreams are shattered, when our hearts are shattered, when we feel vulnerable and betrayed and unloved. But God does not waste those pieces. God does not waste anything.
And in our pain, He shows up. And He brings His glue. And He reworks our hearts, and our relationships, so that they look more like Him.
I am not saying that if your spouse has cheated on you that you should necessarily rejoice and stay put because of what God will do; that’s a deeper decision, and much more complicated. But often the brokenness we feel in marriage is not due to a huge infraction but rather just a difference of expectations.
Last week I attended the Allume conference for Christian women bloggers, and Ann Voskamp gave one of the keynotes. She was talking about how brokenness is not something to fear; it is instead the precondition for God working in our lives. We have to get to that point where our pride is in pieces, and where we honestly admit, “God, I can’t do this anymore. I need you. I am making a mess of things.”
When we say that, God shows up.
I was broken in my marriage. I still go through periods when I’m sad and struggling. But it is often from those periods where God starts to do real healing both in our relationship and in my heart.
So don’t fear the brokenness. Don’t fear the end of a dream. God will build something new, and something beautiful, if you let Him.