Saturday, October 23, 2010

Through the Wringer: When Marriage Gets to "For Worse"

REWIND WEEKEND: As I am off on retreat this weekend, I thought I would rerun some of the marriage posts. We can all use a refresher course on being sweet, after all. (Me included and me especially!)

The caveat I shouldn't have to make: This advice is for the average woman married to the average man. If you really, truly feel you are in an abusive relationship, please see a rabbi, see a priest, see a shrink.

If you have been married long enough, you know that every marriage will reach the breaking point. You and your spouse will be broken. If you aren't married yet or are still in the honeymoon stage, you may not understand. If you are long enough married or if your marriage tragically did not survive this, you know exactly what I mean.

If you are in the midst of the "for worse" part of marriage, do not despair. I do not mean the word broken in the sense of shattered or picking up the pieces. I mean broken in the way that a horse is broken: your own will must be broken before you will accept your Master's yoke. Since marriage is a vocation, a life's work through which you will become sanctified, God will use your marriage and your spouse to make you holy.

You must break. It will hurt. You will be tempted to despair. Remember, in those times, that God has you in the palm of His hands. The agony of the moment is merely the Master's fire, burning away the impurities to make you pure and gold.

Hang in there and hang on.


Not only are you imperfect. Your spouse is imperfect. It takes a humble heart to love an imperfect person. You have to swallow your pride and all those feelings of vindication, righteousness, and fear. You must give him the benefit of the doubt. You must extend forgiveness when things are said in the heat of the moment. You must allow him room to be wrong and maybe not even wrong so much as you must allow him to not be you.

We can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that our way of doing things is the right and only way of doing things. Your spouse has something to teach you: perhaps it is a better way; perhaps it is merely a different way; perhaps it is merely practice in letting go that you really need to learn. Not only are you not in charge, you are never in charge! God is. If not being able to turn over control is an issue in your marriage, you can bet it's an issue in your life, too. Let God do His job, too. In the language of preschoolers: He is The Boss of you!

Not only do you need to let your spouse be wrong, you must also let him be right. Sometimes he is right and you are in the wrong. When he says he is hurt or he is pointing out a flaw in you APOLOGIZE AND SHUT UP. Don't let your defensiveness, explanations and justifications obliterate your apology. Let it stand on its own and do the work of healing. It takes humility to be wrong and truly sorry. You are imperfect, remember. Who else will point this out to you other than your spouse? You will be amazed at what can happen in your marriage if you make a practice of accepting God's grace of humility and meaning it when you say, "You are right. I am wrong. I really am sorry."


In the midst of "For Worse" you will have a lot of temptations: temptations to say hurtful words, to despair, to wallow in unproductive emotions, to leave. To combat these you must pray. Pray for your spouse, for your marriage, and for yourself. If you don't already do this, do this. Live your life in prayer. Be a prayer--a person who prays. Give each moment to God, especially those painful ones. If you don't already know how to offer up your suffering to God, tell Him, "I don't know how to offer it up, but I am." He'll do it for you.
Instead of telling your spouse all those terrible things you want to say, tell your Father. Wallow in those emotions with Him. If they are justified, He will do something about them. If they are not, He'll do something about you. It's a win/win. Your spouse won't hear as many hurtful words from your mouth and God will take care of the root causes generating them.

Most importantly pray with your spouse every single day. If you are both praying intensely there may be times when you will sob uncontrollably in prayer. Go ahead. There may be times when your spouse does. Don't let that stop you. Don't stop the prayer to discuss it. Let it be. Not everything has to be analyzed by your brain. Sometimes God is doing all the work that needs doing and that is especially true during prayer. The rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet are two excellent prayers to do daily with your spouse. Pick something that involves you for at least 10 minutes or more and something that focuses you on something other than yourself. Most importantly, pick the prayer together. And if your spouse does not want to pray with you yet, pray that God plant a desire in his heart to do so!

One of the most important things about prayer is that it leads to an increase in humility (see above). As you bend your knee to Someone greater than yourself, you become better versed in knowing that you are not the ultimate being in your little universe. Regularly bringing yourself down to size in your heart and mind through a good prayer life will help make a little more room in there for your spouse to live.

Remember: This too shall pass...

Every storm of marriage will pass. Although some are like hurricanes that linger for days or even months, if you and your spouse can keep to your commitment, your marriage will be better than it has ever been after the sun breaks through again. Hang on. Hope. Pray.

Divorce is easy. Marriage is hard. Divorce is a matter of paperwork. Marriage is a matter of "dying to self" and that is hard, hard, hard.

Yet so worth it!

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  1. Great post like I said on Twitter :)

  2. Divorce is easy. Marriage is hard. Divorce is a matter of paperwork. Marriage is a matter of "dying to self" and that is hard, hard, hard.

    Yet so worth it!

    I am thankfully in a easier marriage (this time). Or I'm in ignorant bliss LOL
    BUT this is a great point! Very good post.