Why Marriage Doesn’t Just “Work Out”

I just saw someone else say on social media that their relationship, their marriage, just wasn’t working out. Not that there was abuse or infidelity which are different circumstances, but just, oh hey, this isn’t so great.
You want to know something?
Marriage doesn’t just “work out.”
There’s no magic to a good marriage. It’s not that some people are gifted with what it takes to stay married and be happy about it. Marriage doesn’t just work out because there are only happy feelings and happy days. That’s not real life and a marriage must sustain real life.
Marriage doesn’t just work out because you always agree or because hard times doesn’t come. Marriage works out because you learn to compromise, because you learn to lead and follow. Marriage works out because you turn toward each other in hard times and not away.

Why Your Marriage Matters

Today is our 8th anniversary. Don’t worry, I’m refraining from all the lovey-dovey stuff about how much I love being married and how awesome my husband is because you don’t really need to hear that. Admit it- you’d just roll your eyes.

Sometimes I feel broken looking at all the marriages that are failing. People that have just gotten married, people who have been married as long as we have, people who have been married for thirty years are all calling it quits.

This isn’t said in judgment. If that’s you, my heart goes out to you. I don’t know your situation and I know it takes two people to make a marriage work. And this isn’t for people who are in an abusive/horrific situation because that happens too. But most of the people I know don’t fall in that category. Most of them are just two very different, ultimately selfish people trying to build a life together.

I don’t have a one-two-three method for marriage happiness. That would be much simpler. I do, however, have a question.

What if your marriage matters?justin and lisa standing

If we’re asked, we know our marriages matters. We know what God says about marriage (Mark 10:7-9). We know that our children need our marriage. But we forget. In the midst of the day to day living- bills, jobs, kids, irritations- we forget that that our marriage makes a difference for everyone who knows us. Maybe you haven’t thought about that in a while. Maybe you’ve gotten distracted with thoughts of a better life, thoughts of chasing dreams that don’t include who takes out the trash. Marriage tells us a lot about ourselves; if you don’t like what marriage is exposing about you join the club.

Often we have the wrong viewpoint about marriage going into it. Marriage is often idolized, especially for younger females, as the do-all, be-all of life. If I can just get married, I’ll be happy.

No, you won’t. Marriage won’t make you happy. What you are already is magnified by a thousand when you get married. What’s in our hearts is what comes out.

The goal is to love and serve Jesus- not to get married. If God’s plan for you includes getting married, great! I don’t say that with a jaded heart. I sincerely love being married. But it will not make you happy.

So if I- a happily married woman- can look you in the eye and say that marriage isn’t the goal (and I would totally do that over some coffee if I could) then I think you should listen.

Because marriage is bigger than your happiness. I cringe when I hear people that just got engaged say that their fiance is going to make them happy. No, he or she probably isn’t. They can’t. Another person can’t make you happy. They can definitely contribute to making you miserable though. Choose carefully. Don’t settle for someone because you’re afraid there won’t be anyone else. It’s not worth it. You can live a fulfilling life as a single person serving Christ (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

You get married because the two of you can serve Jesus better together than apart. And then you choose each other every single day. You build a marriage one day at a time. Every time you decide to put that person first, every time you decide to follow God’s plan, every time you pick their favorite you build your marriage. When you tell the truth, when you making knowing each other a priority, when you choose them over yourself you build your marriage.

It takes time to build a marriage. It takes much less time to tear one down.

We should be protective of our marriages. It makes me shudder to think that ours could break. That all the shared memories and future dreams could be fractured and broken. It could happen but instead of letting that paralyze me I let it motivate me: motivate me to look at the eternal picture, motivate me every morning to choose my man.

Not just for myself. Our children need our marriage. Our families need our marriage. Our church needs our marriage. And your children, families, and churches need yours. Your marriage matters.

Maybe we can hold our marriages together not just for our kids forty years down the road but for our neighbors, friends and coworkers who don’t need the discouragement of another marriage collapsing. Maybe we could even do it in a way that makes our children want what we have when they are grown.


Oh, and the song below is a current favorite. It’s hard to find a good love song.

P.S. What I really want for our marriage and last year’s anniversary post.

What I Really Want for Our Marriage

Sometimes it seems that all days are long. I sit feeding the baby before putting him in bed, letting the book close in my lap, while Curious George plays in the kitchen where the older boys eat a snack. His strong legs lift the ottoman off the rug and run the vacuum across it.
Not because I asked. Because it needed vacuumed.
He sacrifices his time and resources for our well-being. He works his days because he loves it and to keep us in this home where we play and learn. He rarely asks for anything- occasionally some new sunglasses to put around his shaved head or a sandwich when he comes home for lunch.
He’s mine. I said “yes” the day he asked me to marry him. That day when we were still teenagers and only knew we wanted to do life together. I was barely out of my teens the day we said “I do” in a simple ceremony in December.
We moved easily into life together. Homework because I was still in school, dinners that we cooked together in our tiny apartment where we didn’t have curtains. We watched movies on the air mattress in front of the TV on Friday nights and slept until 11 the next morning in the cozy bed that had been handed down for generations.
We disagreed. We still do. Two different people moving together through life are bound to. But I went into each day with him with one resolve- to give him more.
More grace when he messes up. More benefit of the doubt when I feel offended. More respect than I give to another. He’s been the best of things to me and I want to give him my best. 
It’s easiest to give him my worst.
To save the soft answers for the woman at church that hurts my feelings. To keep the patience for the children on a good day or for the slow, grumbling cashier at the store. To consider the emotions of a stranger that cares nothing for me while making assumptions about his intentions. 
I want to save my best for him. I want to nurture a love that’s holding hands walking into the restaurant or the hospital, into riches or want. I want to give more to this one whose story is intertwined with mine and not to others who only play a secondary role. 
Because one motivation is out of love and the other is to be impressive. He knows me too well to be impressed; he sees my best and my worst. I can think that those who don’t know me well are impressed with me. Maybe they are sometimes. 

The impressions are fake. They don’t see me when I’m tired and the kids have been up all night and I’ve not had any coffee. They don’t see me roll my eyes or raise my voice or apologize for sarcastic answers. 
He does. He chooses me anyway. 

And every morning I choose him. 

How To Be a Better Wife

One of my deepest fears is that my husband or one of my boys will die. I doubt I’m alone in that. To love is to be vulnerable. And not just vulnerable to the loss of that person but also to their actions. You cannot experience the benefits of love without the vulnerability that it demands. 

Marriage is a deep commitment. It’s a bond that strengthens and develops (at least with two people who are seeking to serve Jesus) over time. My husband is my best friend. He is my favorite person and I love to have him around. But we’re not just husband and wife. First we are Christians and knowing that changes my marriage. 

Marriage isn’t eternal even though it’s supposed to be to the death. (Matthew 22:30) My husband could die. (Perish the thought as he was in the air when I wrote this.) My husband could walk away from Jesus and our family. I can’t imagine the totally separate and terrible pain of those but it wouldn’t be the end.

Being a wife is a role that God has given me; it’s designed into this life that I live now. But it’s not who I am. I am a daughter of God.

This husband is not just mine. He belongs to God first and I am here to help him. I am here to cheer him on and I have to release him to do his work. Sometimes it means he’s not home as much as I would like. My attitude makes a big difference with his traveling and his work and his work at church. I can make him miserable or I can send him on to do God’s work for him regardless of the cost to me. (My husband prioritizes our family well but this is still a fact of life.) 
I do not expect my husband to make me happy. That is not his job. He is as incapable of making me happy as I am incapable of making him happy. That is between my heart and God. I must go to God for many things that it would easier to expect of my husband. Easier for me to expect but impossible for him to perform. 

I don’t get my worth from my husband. My husband thinks well of me; he believes in my talents and abilities. But if he were to walk away from our marriage and tell me that I was worthless and ugly and useless it wouldn’t make those things true. Nothing would have changed. Yes, those words would hurt my heart but they would not be true. My worth comes from what God says about me and He says that Jesus went to the cross for me. That’s all I need to know. 

That means I can free my husband from the responsibility of making me feel valuable or important. He doesn’t have to make me happy. I can get all of that from God and be free to give myself to him and this marriage and our family.

Because he’s not just mine and I’m not just a wife. There is a fine line between prioritizing my husband as my most important person and expecting him to be my everything. Knowing that makes me a better wife. 

The Evening Dance

Every night my husband and I practice a dance. It’s not ballroom dance or anything so elegant as that. It’s the dance of getting our children in bed and our nightly ritual started. It’s the dance where we sway back and forth, one doing this task and the other the next. The dance where sometimes we both try to lead at the same time and someone gets their toes stepped on. It’s a dance that we seem to get better at over the years although from day to day it seems we are just muddling through. We learn by repetition. Doing the same thing over and over every single night. Tucking our babies in safe and protected and loved seems to be a routine that teaches us as much as it means to them. 

We’re both tired by then. Me from working with them and the house and anything else all day and him from work and transitioning home. Children are amazingly exhausting. Some days bedtime can’t come soon enough and other days we put it off drinking in the joy that small children can exhibit over the smallest thing. 

The best part of the dance comes when we hit our groove. When we each give all instead of holding back because we’re tired and we’ve done it before a million times. The best part is when we both help the other person even if it’s the things we prefer not to do. We dance this beautiful routine that others might never notice, not to impress but to serve. The dance of sacrifice, of dying to self. The dance that does all the work some nights because he’s still at work or I’m sick. The dance that reminds the partner at home that someone is missing. It’s a repeat of all that marriage means in just a brief half hour. 

It’s the repeat: the daily done over and over in small ways, in consecrated ways. It’s the touch of the hand to the back when you squeeze by each other in the bathroom. It’s the question of what they’ve read that day that they want to discuss and then the eye roll because no one can actually hear over the water and the play and the childish conversations carried on at full volume. It’s the promise of being alone in just a few minutes in peace and quiet. It’s the prayer for patience for yourself and the other for the time needed to put them in bed. 

Jesus is in this dance, this daily melding of a marriage. It takes more than our hearts contain to learn these steps. This making of two souls into one seems best formed when doing the repeated work. Dates and trips and getaways are nice but they can’t sustain the weight of life. Only the giving of self to another in the moments of work and frustration can do that. The moments of not repeating the petty annoyances because it will only burden the other person. The moments of seeing the need and filling it even though you would rather be served. 

That dance builds a marriage, little by little, every day.  We get to practice it every night. 

Mind and Marriage

Sometimes thoughts pop into my mind and I let them slide away instead of grabbing onto them. One of the most noticeable one for me is the “what if Micah didn’t have IVA? What if I could just feed him pizza when Justin’s office goes to Pizza Hut for a birthday lunch? What if we could all grab an ice cream cone on the way home from church? Imagine if he could just eat the chicken nuggets!” That’s the most thinking that I’ve ever done along that line because it does no good. All the thinking, wishing, hoping in the world won’t change the fact that Micah has IVA. Why torture myself by even considering it? 

Now I don’t expect that your five-year-old has IVA but don’t write me off yet. Maybe you are considering what life would be like if you had married someone else. If you weren’t attached to this person that shares your home.  If you had married someone who was your soulmate. Maybe you’re not so sure about your choice anymore. Now unlike Micah’s IVA you could change this but you shouldn’t. 

The problems in your marriage are at least partly settled in you. If you leave this spouse and go on to another one you take all of those problems with you; you won’t have solved anything. A different man might not have the same problems your husband does but he will have problems. He might not be any easier to live with. You can’t know. 

You don’t want to do that because God says not to. (Obviously I’m not talking about abuse or rampant, unrepented infidelity.) God commands that marriages are for a lifetime; He joined you together (Mark 10:7-9). You are in direct disobedience to God when you seek that route for something easier. Do the work where you are. 

Maybe you didn’t marry your soulmate. Maybe none of us did. Can you find that topic in the Bible? I think our culture made it up because we love fairy tales. Maybe you think did marry your soulmate but your soulmate is still an imperfect person just like you are. Forget the soulmate nonsense. (I’m such a romantic, aren’t I?)

Look at the person you married. That is your man. That is God’s will for your life even if it wasn’t the choice you should have made at the time. You can’t go back and fix that but you can choose what you do now. Look at that man and choose him. Choose him with his problems. Choose him with those annoying habits. Choose to love him. Choose to accept him. 

When those thoughts come up that you should have married someone else, let them glance off your mind and go right on. Remind yourself (yes, I’m saying talk back to yourself. You know you’re crazy already) that it’s not true. You are where God wants you. God is doing something in your life and in your husband’s life. Remind yourself that another person would not solve the problems but only create new ones. 

You can’t control what thoughts pop up but you can control what you do with them. You don’t have to constantly fantasize about being with someone else. You don’t have to admire what other members of the opposite sex look like or what house you could live in. That brain is yours. You be in charge of it. 

Six Heart Problems Exposed by Marriage

My husband and I married young. I was 20, days away from turning 21, and Justin was 21. I still had a year of college left and my husband started work at his first post-college job four days after our wedding. The adjustment to marriage was overall a small one for us but there were sticky heart issues that I needed to face.

Friends, today I am also guest posting about marriage at Phylicia Delta! Head on over to read more!