Stay Married. Get Happy. {Part Two}

Part One of this set can be found here: Stay Married. Get Happy. {Part One}

So, if we’re married, we have to stay that way. Because God says so, because we promised to, and because we love our kids.

Does that mean we are doomed to misery for the rest of our lives?

What if we married a jerk?

What if we married (gasp) the WRONG PERSON?

Being committed to our marriages can be a frightening prospect. The idea of being trapped in a situation you can’t get out of may make you claustrophobic. The thought of being shackled, “for better or worse,” to a person who seems to be dishing out a whole lot of “worse” can trigger a fight or flight response.

The problem of course, is this: You married a sinner.

And so did they.

That’s why it’s so hard to stay in the game when things get hard … as truly hard as they always get in marriage.

I think we have a real problem, and it revolves around the fact that we assume we ought to be happy. We measure happy by how we feel *right now.* And we feel like if we’re not happy, the only thing to do is to make a trade–back out, find somone else, walk away from the situation.

Might I make a suggestion? Personal happiness is really based in your own soul. No one else can give it to you–or, truth be told, take it away from you. If you’re looking to someone else to make you happy, you’ve really given them way too much power, not to mention a burden much too big to bear. Happiness is based on contentment, and finding satisfaction with who you are and what you’ve been given in life, and is enriched by what you do for other people. You can’t blame your unhappiness on someone else.

The thing is, marriage is supposed to mirror the relationship between Christ and the church.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.~Eph. 5:31-32

So here’s a hard saying for ya: A bad marriage is a travesty, too. Deciding to stay in a difficult marriage is, therefore, only the first step; the second is to determine to do something to improve it.

We’ve walked through many a difficult season here. And I’m not talking about “he leaves his socks on the floor” difficult, I’m talking about difficult of the sort I *won’t* talk about in a public forum. Many women I know would tell you that the fact that they’re still married is a miracle, having passed through the fires of adultery, bankruptcy, chronic illnesses, addictions, mental disorders … the list goes on. They are my heroes. And most of them would tell you a secret: When they stayed put in their marriages, happy eventually came back around.

So how do you get happy if you’re in a “bad” marriage? I’m not a counselor, and I absolutely don’t have anywhere close to all the answers. But I’ve got almost twenty years of marriage, quite a bit of research, and lots of hours of listening to others under my belt, so here are a few ideas.

1. Hand your marriage over to God.

This one has to come first. Your Creator surely has some insight into both of you, and He can direct you, comfort you, and give you wisdom and perseverence when you think you can’t go on another day. Finding your refuge in Him and trusting Him to make up the areas lacking in your life is a great first step to getting happy.

2. Get some help.

Here’s a big one. Most churches have people available who can listen to you, pray for you, and help you work through issues in your life and marriage … even if your spouse isn’t willing to come along. There are also Christian counselors available outside of churches, and they can be very helpful.

Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

3. Confide in a friend.

You need someone to talk to who you can trust. Working through problems in your marriage takes time … pretty much forever. Ask the Lord to show you which of your friends has the maturity to be able to listen to your issues, pray with you, and give wise advice. A listening ear has gotten me through many a hard day; it’s amazing how much better I feel if someone only hears my story and commiserates with me, if only for a moment. And you need more than one friend, too! Here’s another truth: Your husband or wife can’t be everything to you. You, ma’am, *need* girl friends to spend time with, doing girl things! You, sir, need men to spend time with, doing man things! God designed us for relationships. He never intended us to put everything into one person, nor for one person to bear full responsibility for our well-being. Some time apart can definitely benefit our time together.

4. Own your part.

While everyone gives a verbal acknowledgement of the fact that yes, they recognize they’re partly to blame for the issues in their marriage, very few are willing to truly *own* that part, and take responsibility to do something about it. You can tell, because they say they know they’re partially responsible, and then proceed to spend the next hour talking about all the things the other person is doing wrong. I think part of the issue for me is that I feel like if I deal with the things I’m doing wrong, it somehow lets my husband off the hook for his part. Here’s the thing: who cares? Coming to grips with the fact that we are hurting our spouses through our behavior isn’t pleasant, but working through those issues and changing what needs to change is probably going to improve our lives in every area, and just might be a huge chunk of the reason we’re married to the exact person who would bring our problems most to the surface so we’d have to deal with them!

5. Offer forgiveness.

Coming to grips with our own issues and what we’ve contributed to the unhappiness of our marriages helps us toward this goal. I’ll never forget one morning I spent wrestling with God over an offense I truly felt was unforgiveable. I told Him over and over how mad and hurt I was, and how I didn’t see how it would be at all possible to move past it, and how unfair it was that I had to put up with such treatment. I told the Lord, “I cannot forgive him, and I shouldn’t have to.” So He led me to the story of the unforgiving servant. You remember; the one where a servant owed his master an incredibly ridiculous amount of money–some say it might have been the equivalent of around 4 billion dollars. After the servant is forgiven his enormous debt, he goes out rejoicing, only to be met by someone who owes him much, much less (perhaps $4,000.) This man he declares unforgiveable, even beginning to choke him. When the forgiving master hears of the servants behavior, he is not pleased …

 Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:32-35

Yeah, that’s pretty frightening. I was quite clearly reminded that the payback for unforgiveness is being handed over to the torturers. That, of course, is exactly what had happened–in my anger, I’d found myself plagued with nightmares, illness, and general despair and depression. Unforgiveness is not taken lightly by God. We have to determine to be forgiving.

6. Figure out who you are and what you need.

God designed each one of us for a purpose, and we have a strategic thing to do to bring His Kingdom to bear in our generation. Frustration comes when we aren’t doing what we’re called to! Spend some time with a pen and paper writing out your heart’s desires and some of your dreams. Choose something you could begin moving toward and DO IT! Finding our purpose in life brings deep happiness and makes us better friends, parents, people and spouses and goes a long way toward improving our marriages.

7. Put Scripture into practice.

The Word of God is powerful … sharper than a two-edged sword. Everything else is debatable; it might help, or might not. Make sure the counsel you’re receiving is Biblical, and follow it.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

      Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

      Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. ~ Ephesians 5:15-33 

So much truth is to be found in these verses. Honestly, I’d be willing to bet that a very large percentage of the trouble in most marriages would be seriously reduced if we–husbands and wives–were to follow the advice listed right there: be subject to one another. Husbands, love your wives. Wives, respect your husbands.

God created marriage; it was all His idea. Which is pretty crazy, if you think about it. He seems to delight in putting two extremely disparate people together, and it tends to look sometimes like a cat and dog tossed together in a dryer, as John and Stasi Eldredge said in their fabulous book on marriage, Love and War (extremely highly recommended, by the way.) And He has a vested interest in it, since it’s supposed to be a picture of Jesus’ relationship to His bride. He has a vested interest in you, too! And I believe that He wants you to know true happiness as you lay down your life to serve your family and the people around you.

Hang in there. Stay married. Get happy. Is it possible? I believe it is. And after all, if you don’t stick it out, you’ll never know.

 Read the other posts in 31 Days of Encouragement!

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4 Responses to Stay Married. Get Happy. {Part Two}

  1. Pingback: Stay Married. Get Happy. {Part One} | | Encouraging Hearts at HomeEncouraging Hearts at Home

  2. Pingback: 31 Days of Encouragement! Day One | | Encouraging Hearts at HomeEncouraging Hearts at Home

  3. Pingback: What Happens if you Stay Married and Get Happy | | Encouraging Hearts at HomeEncouraging Hearts at Home

  4. Holmanbunch says:

    Thanks.  Very needed.

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