How To Help Your Marriage Survive The Pressure

How’s your marriage?

Really?

I’ve been fortunate to be married to my wife Toni for over 22 years.  And we’re experiencing more joy and satisfaction in our marriage than we’ve ever had.

But we almost didn’t make it.

There’s a lot of pressure on marriages and families today. We’ve felt it. Intensely.

Life and leadership put a lot of strain on a marriage. Add kids and jobs into the mix and the pressure sometimes can get ultra intense.

I wish I could say I have an ideal marriage, but I can’t.

I wish I could say we never fight, but I can’t.

I wish I could say I’ve led my family perfectly, but that wouldn’t be true.

Recently at Connexus Church, where I serve, my wife Toni joined me and together we shared the message.  Although we’d talked about sharing the message on different subjects over the years, this was the first time we’d ever done it.

As part of a series on love, we talked as openly and transparently as we could about the very real struggles we faced. About seasons in which she didn’t think our marriage was going to make it, and about seasons were I wasn’t sure how we were going to get through.  You can watch the message above (or click here to see the series).

Like many couples, we started out strong, but the busy-ness of life, the pressure of ministry and our own baggage and issues interfered to the point where we both felt our marriage was broken.

We weren’t sure how to fix it, or whether it was reparable, but we both refused to believe God had given up on us or our family. So we pushed through.

I hope our story will encourage you like it encouraged many in our congregation.

I know

How tough leadership can be

How exhausting (and exhilarating) ministry is

How guys don’t like to do the things we tell other people to do

How easy it is to quit

But both Toni and I have come to a place where we are so thankful we didn’t quit.

Although we went through seasons where our emotions were painful and made us want to escape, our emotions eventually caught up to our obedience.

If you have time, you can listen to the full message above (Toni joins me at the 9 minute mark…so you can skip to the good part.)

But for your reference, here are the seven things we talk about in the message that helped us make it through.

While we’re hesitant to say we’ve got it figured out, we want to share them in the hopes they might help you like they helped us:

1. We had dates nights. We saw evenings with each other as investments, not expenses. Although we sometimes felt guilty for time away from the kids, we knew that one of the best gifts you can give your kids is a healthy marriage.

When it got really tough, I began to resent date nights because they would turn into ‘date arguments’, but I’m so glad we pushed through that. Prioritize your spouse. No matter what.

2. We prayed for our marriage. Again, I wish I was the hero. But I wasn’t. Even as a pastor, something inside me resisted praying out loud with my wife. We did manage to pray together, and we both believe with all our hearts that it is Christ who has kept our marriage together. A cord of three strands is indeed not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

3. We sought Christian counseling. You can see a pattern developing here, but it was easier for Toni to seek help than for me to do so. I’m sure it was pride. But good, Christian counselling, among other things, helped us to stop the cycle of blame and replace it with responsibility.

4.  When we hit impasses, we went to a third party. Having a handful of people (and a small group) you love and trust is a God-send, literally. We are grateful for our closest friends who prayed for us and helped us.

5. We took divorce off the table. This should probably be in 82 point font and underlined. Out of obedience, we refused to quit. I believe God wanted us to press through, so I did. And I kept thinking about the story I wanted God to write for my kids, family and ministry. Divorce was off the table.

6. We worked to build an authentic friendship. Sure, we were great friends when we got married, but many people go through a period for a decade or so where you so focus on the kids you almost have to reintroduce yourself when that season ends.  Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you’re friends. We’ve become great friends (again) and are really excited about the times ahead, now that our kids are getting older (21 and married, 17 and in high school).

7.  We put our obedience ahead of our emotions. Sometimes you have to do the right thing, even if you don’t feel like it. And eventually, our emotions caught up with our obedience. All the hard work and our trust in Christ paid off, and we are in a season where I think we’re reaping the harvest from the good seed we sowed in a tough season. We’re both incredibly thankful.

Toni and I share this in the hopes it encourages you.

While our marriage hasn’t been easy, it’s been so worth it.

We’re at a place where we had always hoped to be, but didn’t know how to get to.  And our emotions have caught up with our obedience.

What’s helped you? What are you learning? What remains as your biggest struggle?

  • cnieuwhof

    Thanks for sharing your struggles N&E. I truly hope it gets better. I think the first step might be to talk to someone with training and experience about your situation. I’d suggest a Christian counselor. He or she can help you deal with your issues and get you on the right track. And the other six steps I outlined in the post also helped us a lot too. But counseling might be a great place to begin.

  • N&E

    Thank you for this message. I see now that my emotions have to catch up to my obedience. It’s tough. The moment you think that everything is okay, something small happens to turn everything upside down. When things are at the end of the scale, you just feel like giving up. Because of our emotions, a word such as divorce crops up in your mind, even though this word has been taken off the table and excluded from our vocabulary. Sometimes you feel like you are the very reason that your spouse gets upset and that sometimes you are the only one causing emotional pain and stress. Then one thinks to oneself: “Why did we get married if all we are causing is pain and stress at some times in our life? What’s the point of upsetting the one you love with small issues that are sometimes not in your control or you inadvertently forget to mention something of minuscule importance?” Petty issues cause such an upset. Perhaps because there are underlying issues unresolved or not talked about? I sometimes don’t know what to do. Actually, I am newly married and I have no clue of what I am doing. I need some tips on how to control my emotions and to make it catch up to my obedience.