It seems like it was just yesterday...I remember leaving the house to go see a movie with a friend. My wife and I had just been in another fight (yes, about the same things...over....and...over....and...over again. The same fight we'd been having for 11 years.) I got in the car (visually frustrated), my friend asked if I was okay...then those words came out of my mouth. "I want a divorce!" (My friend told me later it was the worst movie he'd ever seen because all he was thinking about was my dissolving marriage that was facing doom).
I couldn't believe we had gotten there...12 years earlier, I was getting ready to marry "my best friend", "my soul mate"...now, I felt like Ron Burgandy after Veronica Corningstone told him he had bad hair (sorry for the Anchorman reference.) How did the love of my life become my enemy?
To add insult to injury...I was a youth pastor, and I helped families navigate these types of things for crying out loud! People were coming to me for advice on marriage and how to raise great kids. I was a business man in the community, we owned two coffee shops and I would get asked to speaking engagements to talk about the balance of a healthy life (God, family, and work)...I was a hero everywhere else except my home.
It's been 4 years since that night...I was failing at the one thing I publicly vowed, I wouldn't fail at. I write this, because I have had countless conversations with couples who have been there or sadly who are there and don't know what to do, they are stuck...I write this to say, ITS NEVER TO LATE TO RECONCILE!! I write this to say, THERE'S HOPE...YOU CAN GET THROUGH IT! I do realize not every relationship or circumstance is the same...in the previous sentence, I'm not referring to any situation of abuse. I'm speaking to couples who have, "grown apart", become "hard hearted", don't like each other anymore, are holding grudges, who think the grass is greener on the other side, etc...
I am so glad we worked toward reconciling our differences...our marriage is better now then it's ever been...we actually like each other and I am so grateful, we have worked at working it through. Along the way we've learned a ton...here are a few things that have been helpful for us...perhaps they will be for you? (or your "friend" who needs help...) :D
1. One of my favorite writers is a pastor named Tim Keller (#mancrush). He wrote a tremendous article on marriage called, "You never marry the right person." Here's the link to it;
The idea that there is a perfect soul mate out there that will meet all of your needs is ludicrous. You are selfish and prideful and so is your spouse...when you can admit that, I think that is a good starting point to work through your frustrations with each other. You want the grass to start being greener...then start working on your own lawn, not coveting your neighbors. There is just no such thing as a perfect marriage.
2. Focus on your strengths. What do you like about each other. One of the things I started doing when we'd get in a fight (although sometimes the timing isn't helpful), is I'd ask, "Well...what do you like about me?" The truth is, you got married to your spouse for a reason...remember that? Do you remember that one time when you actually liked your spouse? :D That one time, when you guys would actually laugh with each other, go on walks, play cards, go to movies, concerts, or make out with passion? Remember those days?! One of the things you can do to rekindle that is to FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS...not spend hours reminding each other of what you suck at. So tonight...tell each other, 5 things you really like about each other. You'll be glad you did.
3. Don't let your heart get hard. My heart was getting hard toward my wife...I got to a point that, "I didn't care." and nothing anyone would say mattered. I knew I had made vows, I knew that I was a pastor who was supposed to lead by example, we had 4 kids together...but I didn't care. My heart was hard! Please friends, don't let your heart grow hard...and if it is, there is still hope...figure out a way to let it soften (hint; it won't soften if your spouse changes to the way you want them to change...your hard heart hasn't grown that way because of your spouse, it's grown that way because you are selfish and prideful and no one will ever perfectly meet all of your needs...go re-read the article in number 1 above...so get over yourself and let your heart grow soft again toward your spouse.) When couples come to me who are nearing divorce...one of them typically has a hard heart, and the other one is desperately hoping that this "counseling" appointment will work. Two things I've noted over the years...the first, is that the person with the hard heart is only coming to see me so they can say, "I tried counseling, but it didn't work!" Truth is, that person doesn't want counseling, they want to check a box to tell the divorce court they tried and now have irreconcilable differences. The second thing I've noted over the years is that marriages don't typically end because of one event...they typically end because of 1000's of emotional paper cuts, year after year, after year...once the heart gets hard, it's difficult to let it soften...but it can soften, there is always hope!!
4. Submit to each other. In all of the weddings I officiate and pre-marriage counseling sessions I have with couples, this is one of the first things I tell them...be sure you are submitting to each other. Do you care as much about your spouses needs and wants as you do your own? For some reason, the idea that only wives are to submit to their husbands has become the biggest load of crapajawea (yep, made that word up) I have ever heard...if you are a bible reader, look it up. The verse right before that verse is, "Submit, one to another..." Some other words for submit (because Americans hate the word submit) are; comply, accept, yield, consent. But it has to be mutual, if it's not mutual, then you don't have a partner and it will take both of you to reconcile your hurts...do we care for our spouse as much as we care about ourselves?
5. Go to a marriage conference, get a vacation on the calendar...Do something, where you can get away and work on your marriage, JUST THE TWO OF YOU! Take a long car ride, borrow a friends cabin...Like I said in number 3 above, you are probably experiencing the results of 1000's of paper cuts over several months and years...it's going to take some time to heal your hurts/pains/anger toward each other and it won't happen over night...I'm not sure the marriage conference or the vacation will be the one thing that renews your marriage, but it sure is a start...so what are you waiting for? Get something on the calendar where you can get away and be together with no distractions (yes, this means you may have to give up some social media for a few hours, but you can do it...you will survive 48 hours without social media!) Your marriage is worth it.
We are a few days away from Easter...it's a day of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus (that's a whole other post)...my hope for you is that you will find resurrection in your marriage. It's never too late to reconcile, there's hope...you can get through it. It takes work...but it's worth it.