Marriage can be Hard Work

The recent revelation of the marital problems of Al and Tipper Gore has got me to thinking about the whole divorce phenomena and how much hard work is involved in marriage. This Shoebox cartoon speaks to the different ways that couples process problems in their marriages.. some want to calmly process the problems and come to a rational and unemotional conclusion.. others are noticeably angry and want some sort of justice.. I think that this is particularly true when betrayal is involved. Sad to think of all of devastation when couples decide to divide.

I ran across this Elizabeth Aston quote yesterday.. it speaks to where many couples are:
"Love has no place in a lawyer's office."
The decision to seek the counsel of a divorce lawyer is a telling one. It can be a wise decision if it is preceded by heartfelt efforts of relational problem solving with the help of a good counselor. Unfortunately though, things like abuse and years of unresolved relational problems lead a person directly to the lawyer's office.

This is the part of the post where I come up with "the answer".. unfortunately I have no answers for the pains involved in these situations. I did not pastor very long but the 3+ years that I did involved a bit of marriage counseling.. and the overwhelming message from those years is that people wait too long to get help.. by the time they came to see 'the pastor' they were ready to quit rather to do the (seemingly impossible) work of reconciliation.

And lest you think that I am simply on the outside looking in - you need to know that everyone struggles to have a healthy marriage. Since my wife Ann was disabled three years ago our marriage has gotten harder.. crisis has caused us both to ask difficult questions of each other.. it has (eventually) brought out many of the things floating around in our subconscious.. we have had very difficult conversations.. we have been forced to confront our fears and insecurities.. to get healthy we had to be uncomfortable at times.

Now, lest you think that I am judging folks like the Gores, I need to tell you that I have not been married 40 years.. I cannot, and will not, criticize them or others who have separated or divorced.. I have no right.. I have not walked in their shoes. But I will say this - if you are having problems in your marriage.. even small ones.. I suggest that you do everything you can to bring health to your marriage as early as you can.. time without intervention will not heal your marital wounds.. over time small problems usually get bigger.

So I am wondering - what kind of advice you might have for people struggling in their marriage? What things have worked to bring health to your relationships?


  1. That cartoon made me laugh out loud....

    I have tons of opinions on this. Marriage is really hard. I have only been married 5 1/2 years, but in that time I have dealt with a cross-cultural marriage and all of the things that come with that, I've dealt with living in a 3rd world country and illness and homesickness, I've dealt with traveling to my husband's country and really struggling with it, I've dealt with not being able to get pregnant. I think we've dealt with a lot. And we've both been poops sometimes, but one thing we always do is talk. Even if we don't like each other at the moment, we talk and we talk it through. We go on a date every week. We are intentional in making our marriage stronger. We don't look to each other as the source of our joy or our security or our comfort or even the main love of our lives. That always has to be Jesus. I think lots of the time marriages fail when the people have expectations of each other that they shouldn't have. I know that I have had expectations of my husband that I should not have had. And I have to repent and deal with it. He is going to disappoint me and hurt me sometimes, and I'm going to hurt and disappoint him sometimes. If you marry someone just so you can feel in love all of the time, then your marriage cannot last. I totally agree with you that its sad that when people come for counseling and they are already at the point of giving up, its too late. They should have asked for help way earlier. Thanks for your post Bob!

  2. Great post! Last year while walking on the beach in Destin, I had the pleasure of meeting a couple who had been married almost 50 years. I asked them "So, what is your secret". He spoke first, "We didn't divorce". She added "It's been hard, very hard at times in fact, but we stayed together." Divorce was not an option for this couple and they made it work. Both shared a deep faith in God. When the feelings of love wore thin during suffering, they had God's love and faithfulness carry them over the gaps, caverns and canyons of the marriage terrain. At one point in their marriage, he quit his job to care for her and there they were holding hands on the beach. Both of them were a beautiful testimony to the GREAT marriage.

    Michale in Kansas

    1. Divorce is not an option is best way to go for a mantra on marriage...unless of course, one has to protect oneself or children from violence, ...even if that is not supported strictly as grounds for divorce!!

  3. Having counseled believers within the church (most of them were, I am sure, some, hmmm, maybe not) over the last 30 years, the advice I share is that each person has to die daily, pick up the cross (Christ's not theirs) deny themselves, and follow HIM. We are to leave and then cleave to one another as not two units but one.

    Of course, that is easier to say and do. But, it is not ideal or unobtainable or Christ would not have told us in Luke 8.

    I think the reason that the divorce rate is so high in the church, the reason so many couples are unhappy is due to a lack of solid discipleship in the lives of believers that assist the believer in developing in their sanctification. Young people in the church and home are not prepared for what marriage is, a high precentage of people marry for the wrong reason (s) and we don't teach or prepare pepple how to be Christ-like in their lives. So people enter marriage with a faulty view, unbiblical reasons and expectations, as two ego-centric and sinful entities fighting it out for the top billing.

    We must teach husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and teach wives how to love their husbands (Titus 2) and to teach both partners what their roles and responsibilites are before God and in God's order.

    Two people who are mature in Christ, controlled or influenced by the Holy Spirit, who are obedient to the Holy Scriptures will definetly have problems throughout marrige; but they will have a basis, power, the Godhead, and Scripture to work through each and every issue.

    I only have 37 years married as of June 18th. The first year was bliss, followed by a number of years of heart-ache, frustration, anquish, and as we grew in Christ, submitted to His Word, developed in sanctification, committed ourselves to God and each other, we have had great years.

  4. One of the best things we do for our marriage is have coffee together first thing in the morning. It started years ago when our kids were little. We had no time to just talk--the kids always required "something" from us, and being parents of young'uns, we quickly forgot how to finish our sentences and complete our train of thought. So we came up with a plan. Have coffee together first thing in the morning when we felt most alert and alive. It was hard at first. We had to adjust our schedules and start getting up at 5 AM because our children were early risers--up by 6 or so. Now that one is away in college and the other is 14, we still get up at 5 every morning of the world and have our coffee together. And before hubby heads off to work, we always make a point of saying to each other, "Thank you for spending time with me; it's the best part of my day."

  5. Thanks all for sharing your stories and the lessons that you have learned from them. I love how you all have contributed such great wisdom from young and older marriages.


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