By Dillon Schupp
Marriage is awesome.
It’s also incredibly challenging!
There is absolutely nothing easy about living with another person who not only thinks differently than you, but also does things differently than you, and likely has a much different set of likes and dislikes to boot.
Think about it:
One spouse is a planner. The other is spontaneous.
One spouse isn’t overly concerned with money. The other will pick up a penny on the ground and take it to the bank.
One spouse loves buffets. The other thinks buffets are gross and unsanitary.
One spouse loves to do. The other spouse loves to do nothing.
I could go on and on, but you probably get the point: just our basic wiring is practically guaranteed to create tension and conflict, which, if unresolved, tends to lead to either a cold and distant marriage or one that is marked by anger and late-night arguments.
Either way, the end, tragically, is often the same: divorce.
Couples that once couldn’t get enough of each other come to not being able to stand each other. Couples that said “Til death do us part” on their wedding day end up splitting apart. And couples that once couldn’t imagine being with anyone else now believe that the answer is in finding someone else, thinking “Perhaps I married the wrong one.”
If that’s you, you need to know this: your marriage doesn’t have to be over. In fact, your marriage- the one you have right now with your current spouse- can be better than you ever dreamed. It won’t be easy. It will take more effort than you can imagine.
But it is possible. And it’s actually your best shot, as, depending on the study you look at, somewhere between 67-80% of second marriages end in divorce.
Trying to find lasting love through a second marriage doesn’t put the odds in your favor.
The best shot you have is the one you’re in right now.
But it is going to require some changing, and here’s three significant ones that I believe will give your marriage the best shot at not just surviving, but thriving.
#1- Work on you.
You can’t control your spouse. You have to embrace that reality, and here’s why: Most folks with marriage difficulty believe their spouse is the problem.
That may very well be true.
However, the fact of the matter is that even if your spouse is 100% of the problem (which is rare, the other often contributes a little bit to the problem), you cannot make your spouse change.
Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
What you can do is work on you. Better yet, you can let the Holy Spirit work on you.
David prayed in Psalm 139:23 that God would search him. We need to pray the same prayer.
Because one of the keys to saving your marriage is changing your attitude towards your spouse- even if they are the problem.
Because even if your spouse is the problem, you can still have an attitude of humility, graciousness, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy towards them.
That may not make them better. But it will keep you from becoming bitter. And that immediately gives your marriage a better shot.
#2- Fight for your marriage instead of fighting with your spouse.
I’m not going to say there is never a time to fight. But if you’re going to fight, make it a fight for your marriage instead of a fight with your spouse.
That’s not just semantics. It’s a huge difference.
If I’m fighting with my wife, for instance, then the focus is on her problems, what she needs to do differently, how I’m offended, how I’m upset, and how I’m unhappy and how she has wronged me.
It’s easy for that to become very self-centered very quickly because it becomes a statement on what she needs to do for me.
That may cause her to feel guilty or, more likely, cause her to defend herself and return fire; but either way, it certainly won’t result in lasting change.
However, if I’m fighting for my marriage, the focus isn’t on what my wife is or is not doing.
The focus is on us as a couple.
The change is tremendous.
For instance: It’s one thing for me to say “I’m so tired of the fact you get home late from work. It makes me feel like you don’t even care about me, and you never have time for me. I’m hurt and upset and I deserve better, and you need to get home earlier.”
That’s going to go over like lemon juice in a paper cut.
On the other hand, I could approach it like this: “Sweetheart, I want us to have the best marriage possible because I love you deeply. However, that requires us to have quality time together, and I want to spend that time with you. I’m concerned that when you are late we don’t get that time together, and I feel like it is creating distance between us. It would mean a lot to me for you to be home earlier so that we could spend together.”
Same problem. Different approach.
Your spouse needs to feel like you are on their side and that you are with them.
They’ll never feel that way if they feel you think they are the enemy.
But if they believe you are on their team, that may just draw them back in. And that’s a win.
#3- Stop considering divorce.
Here’s a fact: there’s almost nothing that can’t be worked through if you don’t have another option.
The problem for many couples is that they treat divorce as an option.
I’m not saying there’s never a reason for divorce. But it’s important to note that when Jesus discussed divorce with the Pharisees, He indicated that- even when it was permitted- it is never commanded.
Even if you have biblical permission to divorce- unless you are physically in danger- I would urge you to not even put divorce on the table.
Because as long as getting out is an option, you don’t have enough skin in the game to make it work.
But when you remove that as an option, the mindset changes to “I’ll give it a try” to “Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, whatever lengths we have to go through, we will make this work.”
If I’m stuck on an island and there’s a chance a plane is coming around, I’ll probably wait for the plane to arrive- even if it’s a long period of time. I won’t go crazy trying to figure a way off because I know there’s a way out.
But if there’s no chance a plane is coming and I’ve got to find a way home, then I will try anything- even if it’s crazy- because I have no options. That forces me to work and think harder and get outside the box and try things I’m not comfortable with because there is no other way.
That change in mindset is huge.
And that mindset gives your marriage a chance not just to survive, but thrive.
By the way…we’d love to be a part of helping your marriage this month. LifeSpring Church, Crossroads Church of Benson, and Shine Community Church are all partnering together to bring you “New Marriage. Same Spouse.” each Sunday starting September 12 and running through October 3.
(As a side note: Yes- churches are working together because we can do far more together than we can apart!).
We’d love to see you at any of those locations and serve you and your spouse and help you discover the marriage you always wanted! Click on church names above for details.