Welcome back to the last installation of our “Confessions of a Marriage Blogger” series. Thanks to all of those who visited our blogs over the past few weeks Part 5, “I had a mistress” and Part 4 “Sex is not what we thought it was” and shared it. It’s become the highest hit post in the past-year-plus of blogging on marriage.
If you’ve missed any of the previous blogs in this series of “Confessions”check out Part 1 “We irritate each other”, Part 2: “Our kids are for sale”, and Part 3 “This is Not Who I Married!”.
Now back to breaking up the “Ken and Barbie” facade…
Part 6 We don’t stay married for the kids
Divorce sucks. (but I’ll get to that in a bit)
We can find a lot of reasons to do things. For example, I find reasons to go to Best Buy. What Toys-r-Us is to my son, Best Buy is to me. It’s my love for all things technology that keep me going back to look, dream, and occasionally buy. What is it that draws me back to it time after time? It’s a simple answer called “passion.” (It’s at this moment, Kip’s wedding song to Lafawnduh resonates in my head.)
But at some point, the feelings of “passion” do run out. I don’t feel “happy” and therefore, want to go looking for another store to help fulfill the passion of all things technical.
Ministering teens for over a decade gave me exposure to a marital question that, when getting married, I didn’t know existed. “Should people stay married for the sake of the kids?” It’s the assumption that if people do, they will inevitably remain miserable in their marriage. This mindset creates a carousal of insanity that will spin causing everyone to get sick of the ride because there is no progression happening.
What do we do when the fairy tale is over?
Falling in love is easy. Starting a fairy tale of idealistic relationships is quite simple. I fall in love EVERY time I go to Best Buy (with technology…not another woman). Staying in love is a whole other matter. It requires a particular set skills (insert a quote from “Taken”) — relationship skills. These skills are what develops depth in a relationship that will foster marital longevity and health. We learn relationship skills from a number of sources as we grow up. Unfortunately, from the earliest of ages, most people don’t have great role models or great examples of marriage. The divorce rate is proof enough that our marital sources of wisdom are lacking severely. Even if we did have great role models, we might choose a spouse who wasn’t so fortunate. If we don’t have adequate marital skills — knowing how to communicate, resolve conflict, recreate, co-parent, build on relationship strengths — our relationship with our spouse is going to struggle immensely.
It’s why Anne and I live out a simple TRUTH: Feelings follow actions. Actions do not follow feelings.
We make choices/actions that are the wise movements to make in our marriage and we’ve learned that the feelings will follow. If we start with our feelings, we never get to the actions. To many marriage operate on the “I don’t feel like it” mentality and need to act out of love instead of the “feeling” of love.
I still use the line that our “honeymoon hasn’t ended.” But in all truth, our life now looks nothing like the honeymoon season we had. Admittingly, our “honeymoon” phase ended early with the arrival of our daughter. We don’t blame her. (It’s not like she had a choice in the matter.) We planned it and we’re glad we did. Anne and I wanted kids early as to enjoy them in our youth and be young in our “empty nest” season. Add onto having children within the first two years, we took our first position, bought our first car, and bought a home. If you read the last blog, Part 5, “I had a mistress”, you’ll realize we had a marital concoction that had disastrous potential. Why did we do all of that in the first two-year? Perhaps we needed more stress in our lives. Perhaps we were young and didn’t know better. But regardless of our intentions, ignorance, or desire for less sleep, there is nothing we can change about our past.
I’ll make it personal: There’s nothing you can change about your past. Some of you reading this are consumed with trying to change that which is unchangeable. It reminds me of what Paul said in the Bible, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” We play the “what if” game. Regardless on how bad our eyes and how thick our glasses are, our hind-sight is 20/20. We see the past clearly. The regret of the past eats us away like a cancer. We then insert the pain of our past into the present and drain the joy out of our marriage. It becomes our focal point. It becomes our ideal. We start chasing after, not a new start, but a rekindling of what we think we should have had and/or what we think we deserve because we didn’t get it before. We end up running our marriage aground instead of see it as an opportunity for God to form an image He is seen in.
You come to a decision, for the time being, to stay married…just for your children. You want them to see a mom and dad at home. You think when, their gone, that’s when you’ll pull the divorce trigger. After all, it won’t affect them then. Right?
Anne and I have some great memories and great regrets. We’ve had some seasons of hardship and struggle. We don’t compare ourselves to others. We could compare our pain as well as our successes to other marriage. But in the end, we will end up either wanting someone else’s marriage or spend so much focusing on others marriages that we neglect our own.
When it boils down to it: We don’t stay married for the kids. Why? We think being married is worth much more.
If your life has been centered around the children, your marriage is going to greatly struggle when they’re gone.
If you’re assuming you’re going to pick up where your marriage left off when the first child was born, you’re in for a rude awakening.
If you’re staying married just for them, you’re giving them a shallow example of what marriage is really about.
If there is nothing deeper about your marriage than being the parents of your kids, it’s time to get some help.
I love Cammi and Ethan. I love being a dad. But as much as I love them, I love Anne all the more. They need me to love her more than I do them. They need to see in us that we are planning on them leaving at 18 years old. So, therefore, we operate our marriage to last beyond the empty nest.
If you’re staying married just for the kids, it’s time to “dig deep”. It’s the term we used to use in coaching when you’re dealing with a team that is feeling defeated by the present circumstances of the situation. You may feel like it’s a losing situation. But isn’t time to dig deep. It’s time to dig deep past what’s happened. It’s time to dig deep under the layers of bitterness.
You may feel your marriage isn’t salvageable…but dig deep.
You may have given up hope years ago…but dig deep.
It’s understandable why someone who is unhappy in their marriage might envision the future to be nothing more than a miserable extension of the past. Can I speak something simple with some horrible grammar? It ain’t necessary. Marriage is not a machine. It’s a living being where two lives have become one. Marriages can heal. YOUR MARRIAGE CAN HEAL! With vision and a desire to change and improve with the proper help, health can revitalize your marriage.
Today I want to give ya some hope.
1 – Patience isn’t only a virtue, it’s a necessity. Like gas in a car, patience is fuel for longevity. Romans 5:3-5 says “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.” Patience does exactly what the paraphrase says, it will forge your marriage into the tempered steel that prepares you for what lies ahead.
2 – Get practical…rekindle the love. As stated before, let your actions proceed feelings. We’ve relegated “love” to a shallow emotion experienced when times are good. Love never fails. Something I learned quite well as a boy. A fire, not tended to, will fade and go out. It must be fed. It must be stoked. It must be cared for. You may not feel like feeding it, but when love is fed, the feels follow and the love flourished. Do some practical and strategic actions that will help stoke the flames. Restart dating. Buy chocolates. Make a favorite meal. Get flowers. Go for a walk together. Get the kids to bed early and watch something together. Get naked with each other (I threw that in to lighten you up).
You know what your spouse likes. Get practical and get stoking!!
3 – Eject.
I’m a James Bond fan (BTW: Sean Connery was the best). 007 had, in his car, an ejector seat. If there was someone he didn’t want to have next to him while he was driving, he’d hit the red button on the shifter and boom…they’d be laying on the road behind him. Eject, not your spouse, but the mindset that you’ve been carrying that has been eating away at your joy. Eject doubt. Eject worry. Eject malice. Eject unforgiveness. Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK about these things.” Don’t entertain thoughts of leaving or even staying for the wrong reasons. Eject the mindset and embrace the truth and hope that Christ offers.
4 – Put the towel in the drawer. There’s an old term for quitting called “throwing in the towel.” Some managers will keep it handy in case the boxer they’re training gets into trouble and wants to stop the fight. Why stop? They don’t want their fighter to get hurt. Some of you have been hurting. Perhaps the hurts go back a long time. Do your marriage a favor. Put the “towel” away. By that I mean, do not make quoting an option. Don’t make it a choice. Get your butt off the mat one more time and fight for your marriage. I understand you’ve been picking yourself up of the mat for a long time. Don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Don’t give up. Keep fighting because with Christ’s help, “in due season“, it will be worth it.
Divorce sucks. It’s the nuclear bomb that hits. Like a nuke, it’s not the initial impact that is the most damaging. It’s the fallout and the collateral damage that lingers on for years that causes the most havoc.
Stop just surviving in your marriage. Stop saying “we are staying together for the kids” as your permission slip for giving upon your spouse.
It’s time to thrive.
It’s time to grow.
It’s time to forget “what lies behind and straining forward” together as one and live.
Thanks for letting me ramble…