couplewalking

The most important thing in seventeen years

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by Sarah Markley

Sarah Markley speaks regularly for conferences, MOPs meetings and church groups. She also writes for (in)courage and A Deeper Story. Sarah has two daughters, a husband, a dog, and a cat, and lives in Southern California. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

“I could use a little HELP in here!” I raised my voice to a pitch that would reach from the girls’ back bedroom all the way out to the garage.

It’s not an easy bedtime, the Sunday night before the last week of school and on a particularly busy weekend. It goes beyond one-more-glass-of-water and moves toward tell-her-to-stop-doing-that-sound-with-her-mouth. Bunk beds breed many evenings of frustration among sisters.

“Well, I could use a little HELP out HERE!” my husband called back to me. Again. Frustration. I was just as tired as the girls, and when Mama’s tired, her nerves are as close to the surface as they can be.

I’m the one reading/kissing/praying with the kids who won’t stop arguing. I’m the one who needs a little emotional and parental support. He’s just closing down the house for the night, and by closing down the house, I mean checking his phone for TMZ updates.

I send an under-my-breath whatever in his general direction.

“Okay, girls.” I spend exactly three minutes breaking up the fight, two minutes kissing and praying (no reading tonight because it’s too late and Mama is D-O-N-E-done) and about 45 seconds finding the water bottle that’s rolled under the bed.

“See you in the morning,” I say as I turn out the light.

I walk toward the master bedroom and spend the next few minutes seething over the fact that yet again, he has told me that he would help me, and knowing how beyond exhausted I am, he decides something else is more important.

I make a decision to be angry that he spoke to me that way.

We meet in the door of our bedroom. He has, in fact, closed down the house and is ready to turn on Game of Thrones.

“You can’t talk to me like that,” I open with.

“Like what?” He’s disgusted that I’m even irritated at all.

And then we’re both mad that the other one is mad. It’s an infinite loop of marital crazy and no one wins at this kind of game. No one wins at this argument.

For the next twenty minutes we enter into a topsy-turvy conversation about tone of voice and respect and help and parenting and who does it best. All it serves to do is exhaust the both of us even further.

We collapse on the bed, and it isn’t the sinking-sighing collapse after a great day or a long weekend. It’s the collapsing of hearts and minds, and the fact that we fail to really see one another. After seventeen years and two energetic daughters, we really don’t see one another.

I’m convinced that if us married people told anyone how hard marriage is before we all said I DO, there might be a lot less wedding photographers and coordinators in business. Marriage is hard, hard work.

Of course, there are so many things we can do to shore things up. We can go to therapy, we can play more, take up a sport together, go on regular date nights, we can even stare into each other’s eyes for a full five minutes (try to do that without laughing, I dare you). We can do a lot of things that will help our relationships. And a lot of them work.

But if there is one thing I’ve learned after 17 years, it is that grace is the most important quotient in a marriage.

No one who is married is a stranger to difficulty. Every marriage goes through seasons, some harder than others, and every marriage goes through the rhythms of life as spouses grow and age. Being married is like hitting a moving target sometimes.

Grace.

It’s not the answer for everything, but it really helps. I think it can be as simple as that: grace.

I looked at him. He made me simultaneously angry and hopeless. Will it ever change?

“Let’s do this,” I say, not even knowing if it will work. “Let’s agree that we probably don’t understand each other’s point of view and that we’ll both work to change that.”

He pressed his lips together and nodded.

It is grace. Grace on my side. Grace on his. We open ourselves up to grace for the other, even when it hurts to do it.

We open our hearts up to forgiving the other, even if they don’t explicitly ask for it. We open our hearts up to heal, because we decide to let grace into the conversation. And we do this because we’ve decided to be partners for life.

And sometimes grace is the only thing I have.

What is one indispensable thing you have learned about marriage?

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Comments

  1. Sarah, thank you for being so honest and raw about marriage. Why is grace so hard to give to our husbands? It is something I struggle with daily especially lately when it seems like we function more like business partners than life partners.

  2. I sometimes say to people I have no idea what my husband and I argued about before kids. When you are stretched to the max, giving all day, the last thing you want to do is be patient and kind to another human being. You want to give in to selfishness, nurse bitter feelings, and blame. You are right that grace is the key to making it work, as hard is it is to muster up grace. My husband and I have made a commitment to be kind to one another. Sounds easier said than done, but helps a ton! Thanks for sharing.

    • I don’t remember where I read it, maybe it was here, but I just read it this week. Marriage isn’t always 50/50. Sometimes it is 60/40 or 30/70. Sometimes someone “needs” more and the other should “give” more. And it changes everyday.

      • many years ago at a marriage retreat, the speaker said that it’s not 50-50…it should be 100-100. When we both give 100 percent for the other, then there is harmony.

    • I love the idea and practice of grace. And I totally get it. I have my own moments of this situation too. But I wanted to respond to this:

      When you are stretched to the max, giving all day, the last thing you want to do is be patient and kind to another human being.

      What if we simply decide NOT to let ourselves get stretched to the max, so that we have enough margin in our everyday to extend that kindness most especially to our spouse?

      Just a thought.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Sarah. It’s so true that we need to offer grace. For me it’s the calming down enough to remember that mid-conflict that is hard. It’s going from just wanting to get the feelings out in whatever hurtful ways they come out, to being able to identify the feelings and describe them in a way that I am taking ownership of them (like you said “I make a decision to be angry that he spoke to me that way.”) and also shares them honestly. But it takes practice, and patience with ourselves when it takes so much longer to do that than would be ideal. I love that phrase you used about “letting grace into the conversation” I want to try and remember that!

  4. Goes along with grace…”Always assume the best”. 25 years this month. This has gotten me through many times when I wanted to just react. Instead, I remember this and, as you said, give grace. Realizing he probably didn’t wake up this morning with the goal of ruining my day…
    Of course, it is also vitally important, if you are so inclined, to remember that Satan is the real enemy and you are both (hopefully) on the same side in the war for your marriage.

  5. After a massive marital crisis, I learned to treat my husband with the same manners I use with my coworkers. I can still be very direct and honest, and absolutely still have meltdowns, but I try hard to save energy for after 8pm. I had once said “Honey, I used up all my nice at work today.” and meant it. I had nothing left over for him.

    I love your writing and candor.

    • avatar
      Melanie says:

      That is so true. I’ve realized that I would never speak to my best friend the way I speak to my husband sometimes. It was a wake up call for me.

  6. I was told (many times, by many people) that marriage is hard. But I still did it:) I just don’t think I could have understood the difficulty before I jumped in and experienced it myself. On the other side of the fence, it just seems like “sure…it’s hard. But you LOVE this person. And he is AWESOME. So in some part of me I’ll always want to work for his/my/OUR good.”

    Which does not ring true when we are fighting at 11 pm, and have both been up since 5 am.

    Grace- I try to hang on to it with both hands. And offer it when I don’t think I can. Sometimes (most times) it is all I got.

  7. I’m with you on the most important thing. Grace. Definitely grace.

  8. Grace is utmost, but one of the most important thing I’ve learned is to celebrate my husband’s strengths. We are polar opposites. There are things that drive me crazy about his personality, and vise-versa.

    But if I realize that he has good qualities I do not possess, and vise-versa, we can begin to work as a team. Where he is strong, I am not. Where I am strong, he is not. Let’s use that.

    Instead of always making it a battle zone trying to change one another, we decided to work with each other. That has opened up positive dialogue and helped us get to know each other better, as well as appreciate the gifts we both possess.

    But, as always, we are still in process, even after 16 years. Still learning.

  9. It’s way harder to control myself when it comes to tongue biting than I ever thought it would be!

  10. I came to simplemom today to print off that great day planner pdf, but I really needed this even more today. Thanks!

  11. Thank you for this. I didn’t even realize that I needed it until I read it.

  12. avatar
    kathe h says:

    I’ve only been married for fours years, I know it’s not 17 years but I’ve learned a lot about marriage thus far. And grace is the best lesson and hardest lesson learned. But when you have it figured out you when to pick your battles and bow out gracefully.

  13. avatar
    Kimberly says:

    I believe learning how to truly forgive your spouse is the most important thing one has to learn in order to stay married. The truth is when you are so intimately involved/invested with someone (as you should be in a marriage), you give them the power to wound you more than anyone else possibly could. You have to learn to accept that they are limited/flawed just like you are (although likely in different ways) and forgive them. If you don’t, you start building a wall of separation between the two of you, destroying the intimacy and eroding the love you shared.

  14. Grace sums everything up!

    If I had to add something that was a huge revelation to me, it’s that we can’t read each other’s minds. Sounds obvious, but I can’t assume I know what he’s thinking and respond as a result. Learning this one daily still.

  15. You have no idea how much I needed to hear these words this morning. (almost 3 years married, 10 month old baby, buying a new house, and it’s been one of *those* days, no, weeks).
    Thank you.

  16. Such a great reminder that some arguments can’t be talked out- they just have to be covered in grace. I’ve seen this in play in our 4 years, but hadn’t defined it so clearly. I’d say for us the most important things have been orienting our hearts towards the knowledge that marriage is more about our holiness than our happiness and that we are both sinners who will hurt each other. This has created a really safe place to confess sin to one another, which has brought us closer together than the years of near-perfect harmony we imagined when we said, “I do.”

  17. Thank you SO much for your honesty and wisdom. 4 years of marriage in, one toddler we never expected to have and some days I convince myself that I am the only one fighting these kinds of battles in my marriage. Just so grateful to hear your heart and wanted to say, “me too.” Grace is absolutely what I need to give and receive. Thanks for the reminder.

  18. We’ve only been married 14 years and when both of you are tired and overworked it’s so easy to get short with each other. I’ve found that every now & then it really helps to write a sweet note and leave it in an unexpected place. I’ll write a short note in soap on the bathroom mirror, or a love note tucked in the pocket of his coat. Your spouse enjoys feeling loved & appreciated even during the busy times, and it reaffirms the reason you are together.

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  19. We are celebrating our 19th anniversary this summer – seems like what I’m really in the process of learning is how to love my husband just as he is (and often it helps to think that he is still someone’s brother, son, etc.). Not to love or show affection when he is meeting all my expectations or whatever – just love him b/c he is an imperfect person just like me who needs to know he is valuable, and worth loving completely, and b/c I made a commitment to do so when we married.

  20. I think the thing that has stuck with me the most throughout our last 14 years is that my spouse is not my enemy. He may say hurtful things, not get it, not get me at times, he may even believe me when I say I don’t want anything for my birthday:), but he isn’t intentionally seeking ways to hurt me. He isn’t my enemy & I am not his. We are just 2 totally different people who have joined together to do life & he really can’t read my mind so I have learned that I need to tell him exactly what I mean & not speak in code or down play or whatever. I think the idea is intertwined in the grace you spoke of.

  21. I have learned to lower my expectations because sometimes I just set them too high. And, second, I had to learn that he really is not a mind reader.

  22. Sarah,

    I lOVE your phrase: “letting grace into the conversation.” My husband and I will be married 20 years this August. I realized about year 12 that I wasn’t going to change him. I could only change me and then funny how he would change as well with the shift in dynamics.

    I have learned to love my mother-in-law through my husband’s eyes. I am working on learning to love my husband through God’s eyes.

    We have decided that it’s ok to agree to disagree. If I had married my mirror-image, I would have run away a long time ago! We ALWAYS forgive each other. That’s God’s grace working in our marriage.

  23. Lots of good advice here – grace, not seing your spouse as the enemy etc. But reading this post made me so sad – because I completely sympathize with your side of the story. And I feel that it confirms what I’m really sad to say that I quite often feel – that women in general are much more generous and giving towards their partners. It makes me feel that women often get a bad deal, and that men are much more selfish in relationships. I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I do. Yes, we all have to compromise, and we all have good and bad qualities, but I feel that it often translates into women changing themselves and accepting their partners, while their partners just stay the same. And also that the woman more often initiate and take responsibility for improving the relationship, for the benefit of both, while the men just don’t and are very often even fighting against her commendable effort to improve things for both of them.

    I might be wrong, and I REALLY hope that I am. I’m sorry if this isn’t constructive. Would love to hear other peoples thoughts on this.

    • i hear what you are saying and i really think it depends upon the particular relationship. I think there are men who regularly “bend” in a discussion.

      And I do have to say, this is only one out of hundreds of arguments we have had. There are many times he “gives in” before i’m willing. our strengths and weaknesses are different. mine seem to lie in getting quickly to the heart of a problem. his strengths are elsewhere, but just as valid.

      hope this helps. thank you so much for your comment! =)

    • Thanks, M, for bringing this into the conversation. I don’t have anything to add because I’m wrestling with some of the same thoughts, but I appreciate your candor.

      • Thanks Nancy, that’s nice of you to say. I really want to be constructive instead of just complaining when it comes to this topic, also in my own relationship. But I feel like this often is the elefant in the room, you know? I know for sure I mess up in my own relationship aswell, and that my guy often has been the bigger person. But still, it often feels like I care more about the relationship, and invest more in making it work for the both of us, while he just kind of is there. He’s a nice, smart guy, not abusive in any way, and I believe he loves me and wants to be with me. I know (of) many women with similar situations.

        And apparently in general, often when relationships fall apart, the guy often feels that it comes out of the blue, while the woman feels like she’s been working herself to death for years trying to talk with him in a constuctive, positive way and make things work for the both of them. Again, I hope I’m wrong and that I’m just not seing all the ways my guy and other guys are investing in their relationships.

        • avatar
          A Guest says:

          “He’s a nice, smart guy, not abusive in any way, and I believe he loves me and wants to be with me.”

          Then start appreciating that about him. Every time he does something that you don’t have to do, even if it’s imperfect say “Thank you” in your mind or better yet to him. If you’re irritated with something you thought he forgot to do or simply did to a different standard, remember that he doesn’t have to be in your life. He volunteered for the job.Wipe that irritation way with a remembrance of something he just did for the house or you. (Easier said than done, I know –I’m still working on it.)

          I mentioned this down the line, but women are very prone to either subconsciously acting as martyrs or setting the behavior bar to unachievable levels or both. (They very occasionally go to the extreme of assuming they were marrying a mini-me whose sole purpose in life was to worship the ground they walk on.)

          Guys are not women (thank goodness) and “working on a relationship” quite often means something totally different to them then it will to you. (We’re in Mars vs. Venus territory here.) Look for and embrace the difference. :)

          • Hi, thanks for taking the time to offer some advice. :) Definitely I try to appreciate all the good things about him, I *believe* that I do tell him, and thank him quite often. He is a huge blessing in my life for sure. What I also try to do if there’s an argument or something is to focus on possible practical solutions instead of just complaining, or trying to be right or whatever.

            I’m sure lots of good can come from embracing our differences, both as women and men and as different individuals, but I’m not really sure how to. Since I actually feel that some of the differences result in me trying to create situations where we actually can work something out and express where we’re coming from and what we both want and need (in my opinion- embracing our differences), while he seems to often shy away from that. Obviously, I know that this is my side of this story and lots of things are great with the relationship.

            You’re definitely on to something with the martyr/perfectionist thing. I’m working on asking for what I want/need in an honest and respectful way, instead of seething with resentment and being the martyr if he doesn’t do what I wanted to but didn’t actually tell him. This applies to other people aswell. Facing up to the inner martyr is hard, but very empowering. Also, I have learned from him to be less of a perfectionist, although I’m by no means perfect. ;) No one thrives when the bar is set at perfect, I know that.

            Good luck everyone, and thanks to Sarah for the great post!

  24. Thank you so much for this beautiful article! This is a very wonderful reminder! Thanks to your post, I am really learning a lot of new and very important things especially for our marriage. Grace is just what we need. What a very timely reminder. :)

  25. Thank you for this word. So, so timely this morning as I made my mental list of “grievances” to discuss with my husband when he gets home from work. Grace is absolutely the #1 factor for us (though, obviously, I need constant reminders). And related, giving the benefit of the doubt…that he very likely did not deliberately mean to hurt, ignore, belittle, etc., like I often think he did.

  26. GRACE – so complicated, so simple, so imperative because with grace, we can see beyond the veil of frustration and realize that a marriage that invites GRACE in accepts the gifts and blessings of:
    Greatness
    Renewal
    Acceptance (of each other’s and our very own imperfections)
    (un)Conditional love
    Evolution

    After a late night marriage “discussion” of my own last night, this article is a God whisper to me today. Thank you for sharing and writing so beautifully. Your words warmed my heart and soul today.

  27. During a recent crisis, we were reminded that God gives grace, even when all we can do is cry to Him for help. But you are right, we must decide to use what God has given. We prayed as if it all depended on God and worked as if it all depended on us and God has used that to bring our marriage to the best place it has been in the past 11 years!

  28. avatar
    Melanie says:

    The most important thing I’ve learned is that deep inside, underneath all his tough masculine exterior, is a little imperfect boy. He is flawed and in some ways, spiritually sick. I must treat him with patience and love, as I would a sick child. This is an extreme way of explaining it, but this is what it comes down to. Also, I absolutely cannot look to him for approval and to gain my self-esteem because he is not able to give it the way I need.

    • avatar
      A Guest says:

      “all his tough masculine exterior, is a little imperfect boy. ”

      I’d be very careful with this line of thinking. He is an imperfect *man*, not a boy. We can’t treat men as boys (even with the best of intentions) and then expect a full life partner.

      • avatar
        Melanie says:

        I agree. Maybe I should have worded it differently. All I meant is that he still has some maturing to do in certain areas, and I have to understand that’s what drives certain behaviors so I must not take everything personally or as a reflection of me.

        • avatar
          A Guest says:

          “I agree”

          I’m not sure agreeing on the Net is allowed. *grin* :)

          “All I meant is that he still has some maturing to do in certain areas, and I have to understand that’s what drives certain behaviors so I must not take everything personally or as a reflection of me.”

          When people are married young (we were), this is generally true. But it’s generally true of *both* spouses. I had a lot of growing up to do, too. I’m still working on it.

          To me, there’s no need to “understand” his behavior other than to make ensure he’s acting in a respectful manner towards you. The personal work is simply just not taking things personally or as a reflection of yourself.

          For instance, if he wants to hang out in his PJs until 3pm on Saturday with no plans, then that’s nothing to you. (Not thrilling, but not important.) Get up, get dressed, and have fabulous day anyway.

          On the other hand, if he’s consistently showing up to work in his PJs and/or mostly unemployed then that’s true immaturity. But there’s still no need to understand it because you won’t change it. The only question then is of situation and where your boundaries are.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with this, Melanie. But here’s the hardest part: you can care for him as you would a sick child, but it’s a permanent need for care… unlike a child who’ll grow up, and ultimately OUT of the house ;-) You can’t change him. You can care for him and hope it’ll do good… but you can’t change him. And no, he isn’t able to give back.

      Luckily for me, and my marriage, my hubby agreed to seek professional help and medication. He’s a completely different person these days… i’m actually still getting to know him. But we were, honestly, at the point that I told him “Either this stops, or I’m done.” …

  29. I think this is beautiful. It really shows the raw inner-workings of a marriage. I do agree that grace is exceedingly important. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) my husband is much better at giving it than I am. I work on it a lot, but sometimes I just get lazy because it’s easier to let him carry the burden. Of course that’s not okay… so I work at it.

  30. In 23 years I have learned that when I set aside my selfishness I can see that our differences are what makes us the couple that enjoys one another so much. Usually (99.9% of the time) my anger, frustration or disappointment grows from the idea that I want him to be just like me and do things the way I see is right. For instance, I jut went on a trip and about 15 minutes before the kids and I were leaving, he leaves and comes back 15 minutes later to wish us a good trip etc. Kisses all around… for an instant I wanted him to be the guy who pulls out his bible, prays for our safe journey and is all spiritual blah blah, not what he actually did which was fill up the car, check the engine and tires (how boring :) As I was driving away contemplating another moment in our marriage where he did not read my mind and do what I wanted but what he thought was best for us. As I softened to realize he helped more than I give credit for. My dad who is a counselor tells newly married people, “You will bring out what you think is the worst in your partner, that’s perfect because that supposed worst is the part you need to love the most.”

  31. I needed this today. I’m in the wrong in our current argument and I hope I can find the right words to explain Grace without further upsetting him. Thank You.

  32. avatar
    A Guest says:

    I admit that I don’t know what to make of this post.

    “And then we’re both mad that the other one is mad. It’s an infinite loop of marital crazy and no one wins at this kind of game. No one wins at this argument.”

    I think every married couple has had this argument. I know we have. The least unfruitful arguments come when everyone is exhausted.

    “I walk toward the master bedroom and spend the next few minutes seething over the fact that yet again, he has told me that he would help me, and knowing how beyond exhausted I am, he decides something else is more important.”

    This is the base issue, isn’t it, in how you’re feeling? I so,you’re right to feel upset. If this is a consistent behavior pattern then it needs to be discussed, just not when you’re so tired you can’t see straight. He’s a man with 2 daughters, not a boy who can play on the Net when he feels like it. He’s breaking his promises and that’s serious business.

    Grace to me really isn’t agreeing to disagree, which appears to be “the ending” of this situation. Grace is having the patience to wait for a good time discuss on the situation. Then, if nothing changes, make a decision on how to act next.

    For instance, if you’ve had several calm discussions and nothing improves then one way to handle it simply assume that all child rearing duties are yours, regardless of how you feel or what he’s promised. Then consider reducing work loads and simplifying your life (including “decluttering” bedtime routines so you’ve got that energy. Off load absolutely anything he’s willing to do for the family (including work extra hours) so that you have more free time and energy.

    Grace is also acting in the above manner or any course of action you’ve decided about the situation without bitterness. Women, unfortunately, tend to be more prone to falling in the bad habit of acting either entitled to the perfect man/marriage or as martyrs or both. Grace is fully accepting that you married this man and had 2 of his children. What you do for your children and him needs to be given without expectation of return. (I’m not condoning abuse/neglect, by the way. I’m saying absent those, stop expecting that work done=everyone showers me with love and support. )

    That’s what “grace” means to me – accepting everyone’s imperfect nature while calmly working to correct what can be corrected and letting go of what can’t.

    • I’m glad you brought up this point. Really, really enjoyed the article but I don’t think grace means that we continue to allow bad behavior. Grace isn’t being a doormat.

      I cannot believe how closely this article follows frustrations in my own marriage. What I’ve been learning is how to better communicate. The solution isn’t, sure, watch TV and putz around on your phone while I do everything. It’s talking to understand your husband’s perspective (perhaps he needs time to decompress and you could work together to find a more appropriate time – not during the most stressful part of the day/evening) and then sharing your needs as well as how you feel when he does it (evenings are really stressful because we have dinner, dishes, baths, homework, etc., etc. I need your support in doing A, B, C. When you are watching television while I’m doing all of these things, it makes me resentful and that isn’t healthy for our relationship.)

      We are very different people and I am trying to seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. It’s HARD. :-)

  33. I’m coming up on 30 years in December & what I have learned is if you liked him at one point then you can like him again. It just takes like so many have said hard work, really learning to understand where your spouse is coming from, a willingness to change and a strong desire to not want to throw out the old for the new. In our society today people don’t like to work hard, want their needs ALWAYS met and don’t’ understand the importance of a deep, meaningful, committed relationship. People need to realize that we are on this world to change for the better and what better way to help us change then be married (its a close call between that and having kids)

  34. This is so true. There are times to sit and talk through issues and work on problems for sure. But the bottom line is that we are human and we will fail one another. Grace. We are all in need of it! Yes, you may have had a “right” to be frustrated. And yes, you may need to talk about habit patterns and working together. But love does cover a multitude of sins. And nothing is accomplished in the heat of the moment or by yelling at each other. Grace forgives and is willing to start over.

  35. Thank you. After 12 years of marriage I really was at a point where I needed to hear that. I will keep trying and Grace will be my daily goal. Thank you again.

  36. ‘I love this. I love totally agree that marriage is WORK. Just like anything in like you need to work at it in order for it to be good. Great post!

  37. I read a book by Gary Thomas called Sacred Marriage. The key concept that resonated in my life was, “marriage was created [by God] to make us holy, not happy”.
    I am so thankful for my husband. We are similar in many ways but different in others. The biggest way marriage has changed me is by showing me how selfish I truly am. I am not naturally a servant at heart – I like to be served – and my husband is the opposite. I never want to take advantage of my gracious and giving spouse so I strive, through prayer and Gods grace, for a servants heart.

  38. Yes, grace. Grace to see that the way he winds down may just be as valid as yours. Its so easy to be a martyr (I am an expert) and how many times have I gotten upset because he was playing on his phone while I closed up the house and got the kids to bed? But really, there’s a bit of the martyr still there even mentioning it. Its hard to get over ourselves, isn’t it? :-)

  39. Thanks for this post–we went to bed angry last night (oops) after a fight about…being tired on a non-payday Friday with a toddler who doesn’t understand how to relax. :) Your article helped me take a step back. A teacher I know once said that she controlled her temper with her own kids by imagining she was in the middle of a classroom evaluation. It helped to keep her from saying things she would regret. I’ve decided to try the same thing with my husband. Not that anyone is grading me, but just to keep in the back of my head, “would I want anyone else to hear me talk like this?” If not, I’m clearly not saying anything constructive.

  40. Oh Sarah.
    I know this entire thing.
    I could FEEL it. The tension. The frustration. The mounting anger.
    The meeting in the doorway.
    The mad at you for being mad at me.
    AGH.
    But yes, Grace. Grace in heaping doses.
    Too bad it’s easier to scoop out anything but.

  41. What really works for me when I’m on the brink of arguing with my husband is to remember that he does a whole lot too, and secondly, to assume that he has the same intentions, even if he may do it differently than me.

  42. I loved this post. There’s so much realness and yet so much wisdom.

    I think you’re right on here. The thing I’ve learned is to never lose the connected-ness.

    Once you start to feel like you’re simply existing in the same house together, it’s easy for the little things (like resenting the lack of kid help) to build into big mountains that are hard to climb over. It’s easy to give in to the everyday temptations until you find you’ve become someone you don’t want to be.

    And like you said, I think the way to stay connected is by implementing grace- that unconditional favor. It’s the caring and the loving and the forgiving that happens no matter what comes up.

  43. This is just pure truth, here. Marriage is way harder than I could have dreamed. It’s such a rough-around-the-edges kind of conversation, though, isn’t it? No one wants to talk about their marriage issues (in a serious way). It’s such an important conversation, though, so that we don’t feel so alone in our struggles. It’s sad that there is such shame surrounding the idea of not being “happily married” every second of your married life.

    I recently had my tenth anniversary (in May) and wrote a post about our story – how we had been secretly going to marriage counseling for the last 4 months, having reached our breaking point and not knowing what else to do. This was a real shocker to all of our friends and family, but the response to my post overall was astoundingly positive and commiserative. People want to hear of the struggles and the hardships – it normalizes them and makes them surmountable. It gives people hope.

    Thank-you for writing this – I’m just waving hallelujah and amen over here. Loved it. Bless you, dear one!

    Here’s my post – http://redandhoney.com/2013/05/new-kind-of-sexy/

  44. The most important thing I have learned in 12 years of marriage is that apparently I am NOT always right. Yes, it took 12 years for me to learn that.

  45. avatar
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this!! My husband and I often say that we are only still married because of the Grace of God in our lives because even though we really do genuinely like each other and have good intentions towards each other, we have a way of really mucking things up. It’s nice to hear other people be so honest about their own marriage too. I think one of our societies deepest problems is that we think that everyone else must have a really good marriage, and we are either married to a screw up, or we are one ourselves. It’s wonderful to hear that it isn’t just us!

  46. Thank you for being real and honest. As a single person wanting to get married, it’s important to hear things like this to confirm that marriage is real and not a fairy tale. :) It’s great, but takes work, and God needs to be in the middle of it.

  47. I know where you’re coming from but I disagree wholeheartedly. If he really did promise to help you then he needs to keep his word. You’re perpetuating his problems and yours by not being honest and communicating about what you really need from each other. No matter how tired you are you need to treat each other with love and respect. You got mad at him for talking to you like he did but he LITERALLY mimic-ed you. If you don’t want to be talked to that way then don’t talk to him that way. Hold him responsible for his promises and let him do the same to you. If he is not pulling his weight then its YOUR fault. You need to stop playing the victim and actually work to get things done together. If you’re overwhelmed, FIX it. I am all for forgiveness and grace. That is not what you’re talking about. You are saying “well I’m going to be the better person by just leaving this on my plate and living with my frustration. I’ll just forgive him for what I think he did wrong and move on.” Well sorry to tell you, hes doing the same thing because him AND YOU are both wrong. You are just running away from your problems and not working as a team.

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