A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers ~ Ruth Graham
I received the message below from one of my readers.
“My dear friend, while I would like to bring my marriage to God, I no longer feel I have a marriage to bring at all. My husband and I do not talk, we bicker. We avoid one another and, quite simply put, do not like each other. We tolerate each other’s existence and suffer the toxicity of existing together for the sake of our children.
Now that right there, for the sake of our children, is a topic I would love you to dig into.”
She continues, “I know it’s not right or ideal. I know I am expected to say better, do better as a Christian, but I am plagued with regret. Why am I where I am? Why do I continue to exist where I am? Why am I not able to change where I am? What society says and expects, what my children need versus my wholeness, my peace and my joy. I exist as an iota of complete dissonance. I am not able to connect with my children, unless it is in the absence of my spouse. I do not want to go home just so that I don’t have to be in the same space. I am struggling to keep up appearances. And all this is affecting my connection with God.”
This is the case for a number of people who find themselves stuck or trapped in their marriages for the sake of their children. There is a struggle, a conflict or war between their beliefs and the realities. The belief is that marriage is permanent. One of the main Christian marriage principles is that God hates divorce, and many Christians believe they should stick at it because of this belief.
The reality for some, however, is that things are not good at all in their relationships. The love grew cold. There is silence for the sake of ‘peace’. The spouses have become strangers to each other, turning from lovers to roommates. They share a bed but with each back facing the other’s. Conversations are at a bare minimum, left to dealing with the basic needs. They no longer share their dreams and aspirations, no one knows what is going on in the other’s life. The silence is deafening were it not for the children, the only thing that keeps them glued together.
I came across the term parenting marriage recently. It is actually considered as an alternative to divorce. Parenting marriage is a non romantic union which is focused on spouses coming together to raise children. In essence, it is a partnership for the sake of the kids. It is argued that if you find yourself in such a scenario as my friend above, you may actually be practicing parenting marriage by default.
But I am not here to propagate for its consideration.
One may ask themselves if this is right, a parenting marriage, that is. Is it healthy to stay together for the sake of the children? Is it even good for those children? Are the children in such a relationship oblivious to their parents’ state of affairs? How do you encourage such a broken heart to go on, to live on?
Ultimately, a decision has to be made – whether to stay or leave. Let us consider the options.
Leave the marriage
When one is unhappy in a loveless or lonely marriage, there is a tendency to rationalize making certain decisions. One may consider that it is not fit for the children to be raised in an unhappy environment.
Children easily pick up when things are not good with their parents. Assumptions are made that the kids are too young to understand what’s going on. The truth is that they can tell when there is joy, sadness, tension, money issues, and so much more. Where a couple is unhappy, they can blame themselves for such unhappiness, stress, mental/emotional strain or otherwise. I have found myself in a scenario where my five year old son asked me why his father and I were not talking to each other nicely. I was embarrassed to say the least.
Others may argue that life is too short to stay in an unhappy situation. Also, that God would not intend for them to remain unhappy for the rest of their lives.
Stay in the marriage
If one considers to stay, they may be concerned that God would not be pleased with them if their children do not experience love and support from the couple being together. The couple may opt to stay because they fear divorce will have a negative effect on the children.
One may find him/herself asking what God truly says about a loveless marriage. This reminds me of Gary Thomas’ famous quote, ‘What if God designed marriage to make us holy and not to make us happy?’ It is hard to accept that whereas God has good plans for us, He does not guarantee our happiness. Indeed He is the author of marriage. His intention for marriage is permanence.
What to do?
It is possible for an unhappy marriage to turn to be a happy one. This may take time though. Are you willing to hold on and trust the process? Will you endure for the joy that is to come? God is able to turn around situations that don’t appear good at all and make them beautiful. There will be pain and tears in the process but it may be worth it. Obedience that leads to holiness is important in the eyes of the Lord.
1. Pray. It is difficult praying in difficult circumstances especially when one sees little or no hope in their situation. Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5.18
2. Don’t isolate yourself. You may feel all alone but you are not alone. Seek support from loved ones, counselors or spiritual leaders who will help you fight for your marriage. And let us not neglect our meeting together….Hebrews 10.25
3. Give yourself time. Take time to process your thoughts, weighing your decisions carefully. Do not rush into making any decision. And remember there is a time for everything, meaning there are different seasons in life. Accept them…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30.5
4. Your spouse is not responsible for your happiness. I remember the first time my husband told me those words. They were like a sting and they hurt. The truth though is that I had placed unrealistic expectations on him for my happiness at the time. Also, changing your spouse is impossible. Accept that. It’ll make your life easier. Only God can.
5. Assure your children of your commitment to them and to each other. Where there are children, it is important to provide the assurance to avoid the children taking up the faults of the marriage upon themselves.
6. Understand marriage God’s way. What does God desire for our marriages? Seek Him to better understand your spouse, who is His creation. It is hard to continue making effort especially when your spouse seems to be less bothered about working towards togetherness. Surrender your spouse to God. Work hard to keep divorce off the table. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Genesis 2.24
What do you think?
“The only way out is through” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson