I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage and relationships lately. Specifically, the factors that can make or break one. You know, circumstances that lead up to that point in a relationship where nothing seems salvageable. I look around me every day and I see so many broken marriages and relationships. People who feel they have no choice but to walk away from the pain, simply unable to see any light at the end of a very dark tunnel. My heart aches for them in a way I can’t quite explain, I’m not sure why.
I guess I just feel so much of their pain. Despite not having gone through a break-up or divorce myself, I can only imagine how heart-breaking the process would be. And then I begin to wonder…. what are the events and circumstances that have led a couple to feel so hopeless, so desperate to get out? I wonder how two people could go from loving and supporting one another, to literally not being able to be in the same room together.
I know that life doesn’t always pan out the way we thought or hoped it would. I realise that people change and, I sure as heck know that for many it comes down to simply deserving better. Perhaps from as early as the start, it was a case of someone settling in the hopes that the person would change. Only for them to be faced with the hard reality: a marriage void of any real respect, love or happiness.
I always remember my dad’s advice to me as a young girl fresh out of school. He said “Don’t fall in love with someone’s potential, don’t fall in love with what you hope they will be someday. Fall in love with them for who they are now, who they have proven themselves to be in the present”. My dad wasn’t saying it’s wrong to believe in a person’s future and stand by them in their weak moments or believe that they will keep growing and fulfill their lifelong potential. He was simply saying that there is danger in not knowing the person you are committing to or, simply having faith that they will change. Especially when there are red flags and concerning character traits that are prevalent in the NOW. As a young woman who was prone to wanting to fix things and nurture what was so obviously broken, I can understand why this advice has always stuck with me and resonated with me so deeply. It made me rethink my relationship at the time and reevaluate our shared values and whether we were on the same page. I knew I was treading on dangerous ground and I needed to be wiser with who I invested my future in.
Perhaps for many, it was simply a case of doing just this, falling in love with what you hoped someone might someday become. Only they never lived up to your expectations, which only led to disappointment.
But what about the normal everyday people who have simply “fallen out of love” with one another, left each other behind somewhere along the way, the ones that never saw it coming? When did the relationship become so easy to give up? When was the turning point when husband said to wife “I don’t care enough about you any more to put your first.” or wife said to husband ” Do you even see me standing here? I can’t live with you anymore, not like this”? Was it overnight? Did something snap in one of them? Or was it a slow, degenerative process where neither of them barely noticed the signs?
I have a feeling it’s more often than not the latter. A slow painful process, but where one day they woke up and asked “How did we get here? Who are we anymore?”
It then got me been thinking about all the things I know I need, to thrive in my own marriage. I know I need to be able to trust my partner, first and foremost. I need to know that I can trust him with my heart, to make wise decisions with our finances and trust that he will always have his family’s interests at heart. I need him to make time for me and make me feel like I will always be his person, his first choice. I need him to touch me and show me affection, small gestures even, to make us feel connected. To make me feel attractive, irresistible even! Look I’m under no illusion that we are not the young hot lovers we might have been, but making the effort to connect physically has helped us to connect on a much deeper emotional and spiritual level, which has ultimately seen us through those seasons of “drought:” Pregnancies, new babies, demanding careers, work travel, seasons of adjusting to life with three kids etc….
I need him to talk to me and communicate his feelings so that we know we are on the same page, and so that I get to be part of what’s going on in his head and get a glimpse into his heart. I need him to be a good father and not be scared to get stuck in at bath time and clip their fingernails or make snacks. I need his support and encouragement, to tell me that I can do anything I put my mind to. I need him as my sounding board, which again comes down to trust, knowing that he will be able to give sound advice. I need him to put my needs before his own because when he does that, it’s so easy for me to do it return. I need him to believe in God with me so that when things do get tough, we have someone to catch us. I need to feel safe, secure, supported and LOVED!
And if these are the things that make my marriage thrive, I can only imagine that the opposite would be true for those that break. Women who, instead of being on the receiving end of love and affection, are pushed around or given the silent treatment. Instead of being encouraged, are told they will never amount to anything. Instead of being supported, are forced to carry the weight of everything on their shoulders. Instead of trust, they are put in a position where they question everything and feel taken advantage of. Instead of feeling like the number one thing on their husband’s priority list they hardly make the list at all. Instead of feeling appreciated and celebrated they are barely seen or acknowledged.
Without these things, I can easily see why marriages are ripped apart. I wonder how different things would be for me if I didn’t have a husband who understood me and wanted to see me thrive? Without my needs being met, I wonder how easy it would be for me to walk away. Would I realise I deserve better? Or would I stay out of guilt or feel trapped like so many do? I wonder too, if I stopped showing respect and love towards my husband, how long it would take before he lost his desire to invest in our relationship? How long would it be before he began to give up on us?
In saying all this, I think we need to remember that we are all broken and fallen and not perfect. We are all human. I think our expectations we have of each other can often be such a hindrance in our relationships. While we can’t tolerate bad behavior we need to learn to respond with grace and to forgive each other when we fail each other. I think if we were more gentle with each other when things got tough, we would be less likely to hold grudges and allow resentment to build.
I don’t have a perfect marriage. And I don’ say that lightly. We have had our fair share of challenges along the way. We have had to learn how to deal with conflict. We have had to learn to pick our battles. We have had to learn the hard way, that prioritizing each other over our kids is vital to a healthy marriage and that helping each other grow and having each other’s respect is probably the best thing we could ever do for our marriage. In the 12 years, we have been married, we have fought respectfully and said sorry more times than we can count. We have hurt each other, but never intentionally, and we have always come out stronger and surer that we belong together and that we have what it takes to see us through to the end.
I know that some of you may have needed to read this today. Some of you may have needed to be reminded that you deserve better and that it’s okay to walk away. Some of you needed to be reminded that marriage is a two-way street and that both parties are like plants and BOTH need to be watered to thrive! Some of you may need to hear this to remember who you are to each other and that your marriage is worth saving. That your marriage is a gift worth investing in.
Whatever the reason, I pray that you find the peace and happiness that you need to move forward with courage, grace, and humility. And that God is there to carry you through the times where you feel you can’t do it alone.
Thanks for reading!
Leigh ♥ xxxx