By Hilary Kimes Bernstein, Contributing Writer
This past spring I had some difficult, tear-filled conversations with some of my closest friends. Without betraying confidences or revealing too much information, a common problem hit our marriages.
Unsure if it was just a stage of marriage, something that comes with middle age, a direct attack from Satan, or a common problem for parenting spouses, we all had a definite breakdown in communication and connection. It was heartbreaking. Hurt feelings abounded. Tears flowed freely. Angry words were spoken. Sleepless nights led to troubled days.
Looking for godly counsel
Many days, I know I desperately need what Titus 2: 3-5 advises:
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live … then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
I’ve been a wife and mother long enough to experience how marriage and motherhood lose the shiny sparkle of something new. There are times when I need help understanding how to love my husband and children. And I’m not alone.
Fortunately I have a lot of good relationships with godly women who are older and wiser than me. They’ve done a lot of living and have experienced much in their everyday lives. While listening to their stories, I’ve come to realize that just as Ecclesiastes 1:9 promises, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Common, but not often talked about
Every marriage experiences highs and lows. Every couple that strives for a lasting marriage must find a way to navigate through changes and stormy, uncertain times.
One common thread that every older wife has shared with me is that even though the difficult phases of marriage are so frustrating, they are to be expected. Sometimes there are particularly complicated seasons of marriage, but they will pass.
These inevitably trying times remind me of what’s promised in 1 Peter 1:6-7:
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
So what can a wife to do when faced with heart-rending difficulties that accompany marriage?
God is the only One who can and will make a difference in your marriage. Pray for your own heart. Ask God to reveal areas where you can improve. Pray for God to work in your husband’s heart and life. Keep praying every single day.
Confide in your closest, most trusted friends.
Choose your nearest and dearest friends and keep each other accountable. Pray for each other’s marriages. Help each other find ways to encourage your spouses and live out your marriage vows. If specific friends don’t come to mind, ask God for these kinds of deep friendships – and prepare yourself for the blessing of good, godly friends.
Find wise, godly counsel.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be content to gain the counsel of an older godly woman. Or maybe you should pursue counseling through your church.
Try a little tenderness.
As much as you’re feeling frustrated with your husband, show him grace. If he is unloving, turn the other cheek and love him in return. (For details, check out Matthew 5:39-45.) This is definitely difficult – but it’s what Christ commands. Remember the Golden Rule – to love others as you love yourself.
If you need help and can’t do it in your own strength, ask the Lord to help you love your spouse. Sincerely put some effort into your marriage and attempt to do nice things. Make a favorite meal, plan a special date for your husband, or try to open the door to communication by initiating non-threatening conversations. Smile. Continue to say “I love you” even when you don’t feel like it.
Have difficult conversations.
Some people thrive on conflict. Others avoid it like the plague.
If you naturally pick apart your spouse, stop. Remember, “a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof” (Proverbs 19:13). Pray for the Lord to show you when to open your mouth and when to keep it shut.
As 1 Peter 3:1-2 advises,
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
If you avoid difficult conversations, pray for the right timing and right words – and have them. Get your problems out in the open, but don’t expect instant resolution. If necessary, gently confront sin habits that affect your family. It can be such a sensitive conversation, so choose your words carefully and with grace. As Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
As you’re having these conversations, remember to use caution and discretion. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
Don’t give up.
Remember your marriage vows and honor them. Try to view your marriage as a way to help you become holier – not necessarily happier. It will be tough, but every refining process always is.
You are loved by your Heavenly Father and worth so much in His eyes. Even if it feels like your husband can’t or won’t love you the way you deserve, know that God does. Rest and find your meaning in His perfect love.
A happy ending
Fortunately, once my friends and I went through the steps of praying, having difficult conversations with our spouses, changing ourselves, and trying to mend our marriages, God brought much healing and reconciliation in each of our marriages.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that miscommunication and distance will never return to our marriages. And I know that some marriages have huge problems to overcome. But I do believe that God is able to work miracles in marriages.
When you face difficulties in your marriage, what helps you endure?