Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Low Points

The theme of marital low points is a difficult one. How do you approach it honestly, without whining, and without betraying that splendid gift of God who is your spouse?

The very first thing to bear in mind is that your spouse is God's. God expects you to love, honor and cherish him because (1) you promised to and (2) that's His child you are dealing with and you know how parents like their children to be treated, right? As much slack as you are expecting from God to forgive, improve, and patiently deal with your character weaknesses and quirks, you had better be willing to extend to your husband, or else! "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," right?

Yeah, right. I know. I know. But do it anyway.

The very next thing you need to bear in mind is that all those wonderful, beautiful and long-lived marriages you see around you? They've been where you are now: exactly in this pit of fear, despair, anger, resentment, and thinking the unthinkable at some point and they got over it. Let me repeat that for emphasis: they got over it. If you don't believe me, just ask them. Ask! Sure it looks easy...from the outside.

So now that we have so much stuff to bear in mind and I've stayed happily in the "2nd person" point of view: all that you, you, youing, it's time to get personal. How did I deal with my marital low point?

God Knows!

I kept prayer first and foremost in my marital difficulties. This helped in so many ways. I had the added graces available to me through prayer. I was calmer, clearer, and more yielding and patient. In addition, I didn't have to vent to friends and family to ease my burden because I was venting to God, Mary, and various saints who'd lived through it before me. Many of the details of our marriage were therefore kept out of the public view this way. Our reconciliation was not complicated by friends and family knowing too much. My husband and I didn't have to deal with excessive "exposure" or seek the added "forgiveness" of outsiders after exposing and forgiving ourselves.

This is very important for a man--that you remain loyal in this way. We women think we out emote men because we have such a greater ability to express our emotions outwardly. That's a debatable point. Consider this point: an unexpressed or inexpressible emotion is oftentimes that much more intense and personal. His emotional life is complicated by the very fact that it does not have as many outlets for expression and support as yours does. For many husbands, the wife is his only emotional support, so when you are at odds maritally, he has even less emotional wherewithal! Don't further stifle him by running to the P.A. system with every utterance and emotional blip he shares with you (as tempting and as temporarily satisfying as that many seem).

Fasting and Sacrifice

I keep straying from the "I" point of view. This next one is a hard one to open up publicly about because it is very old fashioned and personal. I fast. Although this spiritual practice will catch you flak from both liberal and conservative Christians alike (too fanatic! too self deprecating! too holier-than-thou!) I take to heart that verse (Mark 9:29) that says some things can only be exorcised through prayer and fasting. Of course, I don't believe that my husband or I are possessed, but some things do require that extra effort from us to overcome. Not to mention the fact that nothing alters your perspective faster than a fast.

I do it quietly and without fanfare, sometimes a meal, sometimes a day's worth of meals, sometimes from a food group (meat or bread), or a favorite beverage (coffee). I try to make it a sacrifice that no one else notices, and I offer it up for the sake of my husband. In combination with frequent prayer and frequent Confession of my sins and imperfections (not his!), fasting has kept me from despair in despairing circumstance.

Another kind of sacrifice is to do more for him when you are mad, rather than using it as an excuse to do less. This practice goes against the grain. Of course I want to stop doing anything for him when I am mad, but the opposite is more helpful. For example, he hates inside out clothes on the hanger. When times are good, I usually remember this and oblige his quirk. When times are bad, I remember it every time and more than that I resent every blasted article of clothing that manages to be inside out! Such is human nature. I could indulge the whim to leave things inside out, and (speaking from experience here) when I do, I only feel worse. When I conquer myself and purposefully make sure each and every article is right side out, I feel better. Eventually.

Or maybe after a few days after the fight is over.

Or theoretically, actually.

OK, fine, so maybe I just know it's the better way to be in the long run and I never do actually feel so great about it. Such is also human nature.

Real Advice from Real Friends

Your real friends are going to assume the best of both you and your spouse. If you've got a male basher for a friend, avoid her at all costs when trouble starts. Instead, ask for advice from the best people you know--especially those who have solid marriages of 20 plus years--in the most generic way possible. "What do you do when you are feeling disconnected?" "How do you two come together on a big disagreement?"

Consider the advice you receive, listen to the better part, and try it. Here's some advice I've written previously that I've used on myself. I can attest first hand that it works. Eventually (which brings me to my final point).

The Three and Three of Marriage

The Three and Three Follow-Up: All You Have to Do Is...

When Marriage Gets to "For Worse"

Hang On!

This is the most valuable piece of advice I can give you. Ultimately, hanging on is the only thing that will keep you together. If you don't stay together, you don't stay together. Simple. Just remember always: this will pass. You will come back together. If you can out tough the tough stuff, you'll be that much stronger together.

Hang in there. You'll be happy together again. Trust me. Trust God. Trust him.


  1. I think you just described the past year and a half of my life! We hit our low and we did many of these things... but most importantly we didn't bash, we didn't run out and tell anyone who had ears, we trusted God and we hung on. :) And now we are back on solid ground again.

    Great post. Great advice!

  2. What a beautiful post! You are such an encourager, and so wise!

    I love the image of God as your father-in-law: He is your husband's father, so you'd better treat your husband right!

    And it's so true about long-lived marriages, too; we think they've always been perfect, but they've simply learned how to live together and work things through.

    Keeping our focus on God and praying through the hard times (not just FOR the solutions to our hard times) really is the key.

    Thanks for participating again in Wifey Wednesday!

    Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

  3. @Laura Isn't it an amazing gift to suddenly and completely "get your marriage back"? From one moment to the next, suddenly we were on the right track again. Sometimes I wonder if God has an invisible button on us that pops out when we are "done" with our growth. You know? Like the turkey thingie that pops out when its cooked all the way?

  4. @Sheila Oh I wish I'd said it that clearly! You've got such a knack for getting right to it!