The Kind of Fight Every Marriage Needs to Have

This is the one where I’ve been married 19 years and turn 41 years old all in the same week.

This is the one where I tell you we didn’t get to this place in our marriage because we are lucky. We aren’t celebrating 988 weeks because we are blessed or holy or because we beat the odds.

We have been married for nearly two decades because we haven’t quit.

That’s not to say there haven’t been a few times we haven’t wanted to.

But we are fighting our way to a lifetime together.

DSC_2607

The other day I got an email, the kind l I dread reading.

The ones that say, “My husband is leaving me. He won’t go to counseling. He won’t try. We are Christians, we love God, just not each other any more.”

I don’t know how to answer heartbreaking words. I’m not a healer. Or even that good of a listener. But people reach out because they recognize a miracle marriage.

When I wrote this post about divorce in America a few weeks ago, many were shocked by the hard facts. How can 50% of all marriages–among Christians and non-Christians, even atheists-all end? How can the statistics be the same for believers and non-believers?

I don’t know. But I think the answer might be simple: Christians are human.

Christians fight. Christians are tempted and often give in to sin. Christians have emotional affairs. They look at pornography. They hold grudges. Christians stop trying.

I’m not excusing these choices. They are sinful and can destroy a marriage. But a marriage filled with forgiveness, fight and God can overcome even the worst humanity.

marriage

Our marriage has been filled with some pretty hard days. One of them was last week. We haven’t arrived into some heavenly level of married bliss. Some days, weeks, lo, months, we claw our way back to each other. We fight hell itself to see eye to eye and to keep loving.

When I look at the mosaic of our 19 years, there are a lot of broken, mismatched pieces. There are jagged rough edges. Up close and personal, it’s not that pretty. But when I step back, I see that we’re still creating and the picture only gets lovelier with time. We are still forgiving, we are still committed and I can see a glorious picture of redemption. It’s bits and pieces of both of us glued together with a lot of God.

I urge you today to fight. Sometimes we don’t have a choice and the sin of divorce is committed against us or it’s the only option for peace in a bad situation.

But that’s not the norm, many many marriages end simply because people stop trying.

Don’t be a statistic.

Happy anniversary, Terrell. Thank you for being a fighter. I love you.

Comments

  1. 1

    amber says

    Thank you for this post. A week ago, I wanted to walk away from my marriage of 14 years. Instead, I asked God to help me forgive and to restore our marriage to a better state. Miraculously, He is doing just that. We tore down some walls and I extended forgiveness. Marriage is hard work, but with God, I have hope that the big picture will one day look beautiful.

    • 1.1

      ANONYMOUS says

      My wife did walk away from our marriage after 23 years. But she did it in a “godly” way, or so she thought, because she only hired a lawyer and filed a legal separation document, thinking that was OK (she explained away the very direct verse in 1 Cor.7:10 which reads “a woman must not separate from her husband, but if she does…” as giving her permission). She did it to “force” her husband to be more the way she wanted him to be; there was no abuse, no affairs, no addictions (maybe to coffee)–just an unhappy woman who thought she could manipulate someone into being different. How wrong. After a year and no healing or desire on her part to return–she would be happy with an eternal separation, because then she would be in God’s good graces for not divorcing her husband)–I had no choice but to move on. I was already divorced emotionally, physically, spiritually–the only thing that remained was legally, a piece of paper. She was the one who did the divorcing. So for all who think a legal separation is a good strategic move to change someone into being a better spouse–unless you are in an abusive, adulterous or drugs/alcohol situation, don’t do it. It will not work.

      • 1.1.2

        SGP says

        There is far more to marriage than simply avoiding abuse, affairs, or addictions. There is the requirement for a man to; step up to his responsibility of being the spiritual head of his family; love his wife as Christ loves the Church, sacrificially and unconditionally; protect his wife from anything that could cause her physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual harm; and; prevent his wife from ever feeling her best option is separation.

        Failing in these responsibilities will lose a man the best gift God ever blessed him with.

        • 1.1.2.1

          John says

          There is far more to marriage than simply avoiding abuse, affairs, or addictions. There is the requirement for a woman to: Submit to your husband as unto the Lord (Eph 5:22) Respect your husband (Eph 5:33), fulfill his sexual needs (1Cr 7:3-4), ensure that sex is a frequent event (1 Cr 7:5), be dignified, sober and faithful (1Ti 3:11), self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive (Titus 2:5)

          Failing in these responsibilities will lose a woman the best gift God ever blessed her with.

          • 1.1.2.1.2

            ANONYMOUS says

            I’m sure John’s reply was simply a response to the prior entry which was very one-sided in the wife’s favor, basically saying a woman has a right to leave and separate if her husband doesn’t love her just like Christ, or live an almost sin-free life. Separation is prohibited in 1 Corinthians 7:10, it does not get any simpler than that, and many reinterpret the verse to suit their own agendas. Then they file a legal document in court (another act proscribed by 1 Corinthians 6) which they think allows them to stay out of sin, thinking it will force the other to change. THAT is the big sin here.

  2. 2

    Meagan says

    Love this and so true – married 10 years and have fought like heck for every year of it. And it has been the most worthwhile “fight” of my life, of both our lives. Your mosaic image reminded me of something that my husband presented at church one Sunday. That life (marriage) is often like the underside of a woven or stitched blanket. When you are in the moment, you see that underbelly, of missed stitches, pulled out yarn, nasty knots — yet still, when you flip it over, it’s a beautiful image on the other side. God is weaving that pattern and every so often you get a glimpse of what He is turning those “mistakes” and “errors” into. I love that imagery. He’s knitting from above, even when we can’t see what the final, amazing picture is going to be. (coming from someone who doesn’t knit or can’t sew a button, but I still get this :) ) Thank you for always sharing your amazing heart, Kristen.

  3. 3

    Hannah says

    Our pastor shared a little while ago that, according to recent research by the Barna Group, the divorce rate ISN’T the same for believers and nonbelievers. When the statistics say that the divorce rate for “Christians” is 50+%, they’re accounting for anybody who claims “Christian” as their religion (which we all know is a far greater number than actual, church-going, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving believers). He said he was greatly encouraged to hear that, as was I. I think there is great harm in the mentality of “everyone else is doing it.” Well, everyone ISN’T doing it!

    • 3.1

      says

      I’m not sure how a statistics group could break down who really is or who really isn’t a Christian. Sadly, among the recent divorces that I know of…people who I’ve interacted with and even three close friends…they were all church-going, Bible-believing people.

    • 3.2

      Heather says

      Sigh. I am so weary of the quibble over divorce statistics. I am not “greatly encouraged” to hear yet another reason why the stats are skewed and the divorce rate among Christians isn’t “that bad”. I tend to believe the stats are pretty accurate, but for the sake of discussion lets go with the skewed stats theory. What do we gain if the divorce rate among “real” Christians is only 25%? That is still a whole lot of hurting hearts. I don’t think people are divorcing because statistics say it is “normal”. I would bet it is because marriage is hard. We as a church are not very good at being vulnerable with one another, so we pretend our marriages are great even when it is so hard we want to quit ourselves. We send our young couples into marriage with the same Disney movie ideals as unbelievers and wonder why they get divorced. Marriage is hard, and until we as a church admit that openly and work to provide resources without judgement to hurting couples, the divorce rate will not get any lower.

      • 3.2.1

        Annette says

        If I have only my own life experiences to go by, the divorce rate is still too high among true Bible-believing Christians. :( I have known 3 pastors (2 of them youth pastors) who have walked away from their own marriages.

  4. 4

    says

    From my experience of mentoring women for over 10 years, I think the problem stems from the fact that older women are not teaching younger women to love and obey their husbands, be chaste, pure, keepers at home, etc. as the Bible {Titus 2:3-5} commands. I have witnessed marriages restored whose husbands were deep into porn, affairs, etc.through mentoring. The majority of women have no idea what submission looks like or what a healthy marriage looks like. I sure didn’t and it caused 23 years of a bad marriage. Learning from older woman how to be a wife changed my marriage dramatically. God’s ways work. The church has simply forgotten to follow them in many cases.

    • 4.2

      anonymous says

      I am one of those wives that fought for a marriage to a husband that has/had a porn addiction. We have survived.

      I agree women need to submit to their husbands, but I want to make sure that women do not submit to the point of allowing porn in their house. Husbands are required to respect their wives. That means they need to listen to you, especially when you are in distress.

      Porn is a horrible addiction that is distrying men in our church. Even when society says its acceptable it is not and it can destroy your family.

    • 4.3

      Elizabeth Smith says

      I’m 30 yrs old, I’ve been married for a little over 3 months now, but we have been together for over 4 years. I agree that older women need to teach younger women about the pains and struggles of marriage.. but I don’t agree so much on the “keepers at home” part.. what if the WIFE is the worker of the house hold, then the HUSBAND should be the keeper of the home, there are stay-at-home dads, and in these instances the dad should be the one cooking/cleaning and such. there’s no such thing as “women’s work” and in this instance your saying its strictly the woman’s job to “keep a home” The marriage is a partnership and along with the marriage comes joint ownership…and joint ownership means joint responsibility.

      • 4.3.1

        ES says

        I completely agree! Right now my husband is in seminary, so I work full time (and am also finishing my bachelors degree online). We have been married a little over 8 years (but have been together 13), and we have 1 child. I do not work 8 hours a day to come home and “keep the home.” My husband and I help each other. We BOTH raise our son; we BOTH clean the house and cook dinner. He told me once before starting seminary that he would love be a stay at home dad. At that time I was a stay at home mom, and some days would have gladly traded him places. Marriage and raising a family is A LOT of work. Not only for the woman, but the man as well. Over the last 8 years we have both grown and become more responsible. We are constantly learning what a good marriage is, and it’s not always sunshine and roses. I love my husband dearly, and even on days I feel frustrated or angry with him, and just don’t like him very much, I would never divorce him. No matter how hard our marriage ever is, divorce is just not an option. There was no line in our marriage vows saying “til death do us part, or until I get tired of being married to you.”

  5. 6

    Julie says

    Best advice I ever got for my marriage was “Don’t hang out with women who talk bad about their boyfriends or husbands. Just don’t.” Mentoring is essential but I’m not going to put the responsibility on anyone to mentor me… I made the decision to fill my life with positive marriage blogs (like this one!) that encourage me to keep fighting, keep forgiving, keep being the first to extend grace! It’s hard – but I hope when I’m 19(!) years in that I’m getting closer to seeing the beautiful image that is being created. :) And I make sure to do what I can to share that with the women in church but even more importantly with my daughters and daughter-in-law! I may be only 4 years in but I still have the wisdom of being older – LOL!

    Thanks for all your honesty and sharing!

  6. 7

    marky says

    We too have been fighting for 19 years..
    I loved this post because sometimes we do need to step back and look at the mosaic and not just the up close jagged edges.
    Thank you!

  7. 8

    says

    “Up close and personal, it’s not that pretty. But when I step back, I see that we’re still creating and the picture only get lovelier with time. We are still forgiving, we are still committed and I can see a glorious picture of redemption. It’s bits and pieces of both of us glued together with a lot of God.” Amen, sister.

    We took divorce off the table before we even started. 29 years later, the mosaic looks better than ever. Keep fighting. It’s worth it.

  8. 9

    Nicole Trujillo says

    Thank you for this post. Today is my and my husbands 9th anniversary. I really needed to read this :) At the end, when you said Happy Anniversary, I paused a minute because I felt God speaking to me through you, so again, Thank you so much.

  9. 10

    says

    My wife and I have been together for 26 years and we’re still on our honeymoon. Sure, we’ve had out fights. Fights about jobs, about money, about all the worldly things people fight about – especially when we’re exhausted. But we haven’t fought to stay together. Not that our marriage is perfect, we have our hangups, but the one thing I see missing so often from discussions among Christians about this or that, especially in this day and age, is obedience. Our westernized cafeteria plan Christianity has made a lot of hey over loving everyone and everything and celebrating that God is Love, but we’ve forgotten the hard fact that our God is a jealous God and demands obedience. God is Love, but he is justice and truth. God can’t abide in a rebellious person. To God, divorce is anathema, though He does provide appropriate conditions to end a marriage. But that isn’t the obedience I’m talking about. Selfishness ends most marriages, and we’re not supposed to be selfish. We’re not supposed to commit the sins that lead to divorce in the first place. Living a Christlike life means putting your own wants and needs aside in favor of those of your partner. We are to love our spouses like Christ loved the Church and gave his life for it. Handing over the remote or turning down that night out with the boys, or girls, is small potatoes against giving up our lives. Do my wife and I do this perfectly? NO! But we try to do it all the time and that makes all the difference.

  10. 11

    Anna says

    I believe the reason that so many marriages are ending in divorce, is because the picture of marriage is the only living, working picture the world has of how Christ and the Church are suppose to work. How much more is Satan going to work at wrecking a marriage when it is a reflection of our perfect Lord and the Church of Christ? Want to be a witness for the world? Stay married a long time! Congrats on 19 years!

  11. 12

    TY says

    This morning I was wondering if I could do it – just give up, take the cash on hand and leave. Not forever. Just for awhile. So tired of fighting.

    Thank you for words of hope. Thank you for admitting that it’s hard. Thank you for showing us that God uses imperfection – because sometimes I look around and feel like I’m drowning in a sea full of people with perfect lives, perfectly following Christ, just waiting for the next dose of awesome to hit them.

    • 12.1

      Maria says

      TY–You are not alone in the struggle. Marriage IS hard. Wish you could look around and see our marriage. Our life is NOT perfect and we would certainly like some of the awesome to hit us….Praying for you today that you find hope and someone in your world to talk to.

    • 12.2

      Mary Lou says

      Don’t give up or in. We have been married forty four years and we still have hard spots…but it is more than worth the fight. We are each other’s best friend. Submission works both directions. Deferring to him as paid off in ways I can not explain…oh, so worth it. Don’t judge others marriage by what you see on the outside….things happen behind closed doors that others never know. Putting Christ first in our lives and having Him as the glue that holds us individually and corporately together is what makes it well worth the fight. We need to desire to do what He would have us do. Show a picture of Him and the church to the world. Not easy by any means but oh so worth it. Believe me there have been a hard spots and one happened a few months ago that I never ever thought would happen. Still wonder how his mind ever went there…..NONE of us are perfectly following Christ…don’t think that ever. We are all sinners saved by grace and will not be perfect till we see Him face to face. Take heart. Hold on to Him and each other.

  12. 13

    Nicole says

    I especially appreciate where you said, “We haven’t arrived into some heavenly level of married bliss. Some days, weeks, lo, months, we claw our way back to each other. We fight hell itself to see eye to eye and to keep loving.” It is very encouraging to know I am not in this “clawing my way through this” alone.

  13. 14

    says

    Marriage makes me think of the “long obedience in the same direction…” Even when you want the best for your marriage it doesn’t mean your partner will agree in thought or action. But you can Ramon married and faithful all tht while. It just requires a higher level of holiness. As the marriage book asks, so must we wonder – “what if marriage was for holiness and not happiness?” Some of us desperate need this perspective changer.

  14. 15

    Kendra says

    ‘But a marriage filled with forgiveness, fight and God can overcome even the worst humanity.’ Wow. So true. We are celebrating our 10th anniversary next month and it is certainly by grace and grace alone. We are defying generational odds and statistical odds. So thankful for His amazing grace. Thank you for being a fighter and for writing about it so honestly.

  15. 16

    Liz says

    We have been married 17 years and I am 37 years old. My husband is 42. We have always made it a priority to talk together at the end of the day. Sometimes its boring stuff and not very interesting but we always share about our day and that has made a big difference. For us, its a huge part of staying connected to the other one. We also try to have fun together and do spontaneous things at times. Sure, its not always easy with 3 kids but its really important. When things are getting hard, we realise we haven’t done any spontaneous things for ourselves lately. Also, I think its vital that we pray together. sure we don’t always do it, but that is the biggest test of vulnerability with my spouse I have ever encountered. And the best marriage strengthener. If a heart connection with your spouse is the thing you focus on and aim for, then when it is falling apart, the heart connection is the first thing to get back with each other. That requires vulnerability and love and courage.

  16. 17

    Rhona says

    Thanks for this article. I am believer with a strong faith in God and a firm believe that divorce is anathema. When my husband and I married we agreed that divorce was not an option for our problems. For years we worked hard at it. About 15 years into our marriage, our daughter was molested by a neighbor. In the course of the investigation, it came out that my husband had been having online sex with the neighbor’s girlfriend. He was also accused of crimes against children which he did not commit. CPS ordered me to remove my husband from the home or they were going to take my children. For the sake of our children, I kicked him out of the house. I demanded that he give up the online sex and go to counseling with me before I would let him back into the house. Divorce was out. Three years later, he asked me for a divorce. I said no. At that point, I did everything I could think of do make our marriage work, and in some cases it got better. After 21 years of marriage, he was eligible for retirement, and we decided to move and start over. He sent me on ahead with our youngest child to find a permanent place to live. He was to join me in a few months. Long story short, he never came. He cut off my credit card, cut off my funds and refused to come and see us at the Christmas holidays. Shortly after, a friend reported to me that my husband had been seeing another woman and had seen my husband with the other woman. My husband was confronted by our friend, and my husband admitted it. Was it really wrong for me to file for a divorce at this point? Not only did he commit adultery, but abandoned me and my daughter. I will fight for marriage, but I think sometimes it is hopeless.

  17. 18

    JP says

    Thank you for this post. I’m currently on my second marriage (my first ended due to an affair on his part, though I’m proud to say I fought with everything I had to fix it). My second marriage is truly blessed by God. I am happier than I ever dreamed. I absolutely believe I found my soulmate. But there are still days that I wonder and doubt if I did the right thing; is this truly the man God wanted me with. Of course, those thoughts are usually because of a disagreement that we’ve had. Your post was exactly what I needed to put it all in perspective. One piece of the mosaic at a time. Thank you.

  18. 19

    says

    Statistics for divorce among Christians who “Attend church, believe the Bible and pray together on a regular basis” are 1 in 1561. Some statistics don’t tell the entire story (for example- are you a Christian because your parents were Christians – or because you are not a Buddhist – or does it go deeper than that.)

    Having said all of this – I have seen divorce for a variety of issues mentioned above as well as: Inability to submit (often due to sexual abuse at an early age that produces chronic mistrust), adultery, pornography, abuse of children – sexual, verbal or physical, emotional – etc. and more. Co-dependency with children, co-dependency with parents.

    Loved the point about older women teaching younger woman. At 52 I am now one of those women – helping the thirty-somethings and forty-somethings put various behaviors in perspective. What is a deal breaker and what simply needs to be negotiated or tolerated?

    Married to a great guy for 16 years and still “talking things out, working things out, apologizing, forgiving, loving, serving and learning and growing”. Nothing has the ability to mature you (in a good way) like marriage – if you will let it.

    We all need to understand that marriage requires work and tending – just like a garden. I am grateful for the man I married. For 16 years we have both worked to be better Christians and better spouses for one another and by God’s great grace – it is working!

  19. 20

    Mary says

    We’ve been married 32 years. We just decided when we got married that divorce was completely off the table. That makes it a lot easier to commit to working through every thing since we have given ourselves no way out! :)

  20. 21

    Kathryn B says

    I read you every day but rarely comment. I HAD to comment on this one. We celebrated 20 years this past May.. We’ve been together through my parents divorce, his father’s death, pornography (him), emotional affair (me), minor infertility, 2 miscarriages, a work accident that resulted in a partial foot amputation and the death of a child. ESPeCIALLY after the last one, we just promised each other, and God, AGAIN that we would keep fighting. It’s not always easy. It IS eternally important.

  21. 22

    Happily Married Atheist says

    “How can the statistics be the same for believers and non-believers?”

    They aren’t.

    Atheists have lower divorce rates than Christians.

  22. 23

    says

    When we married, my husband insisted we remove the word “divorce” from our vocabulary. The declaration wasn’t magic, but it did state in no uncertain terms, that divorce was not an option. From that place of symbolic safety, we rest in the confidence that even if things get ugly, and they have, no one’s walking. Just yesterday we had a fight over (always) something trivial. He left grumpy and didn’t want to speak to me. As I prayed for God to help us move past this bump in the road, I was also able to pray, “Thank you, Lord, that we will get past this, and it will be good again.” It’s been this way for almost 29 years. I’m thankful for that, too. :)

  23. 24

    says

    I love this. My spouse and I filed for divorce, but at the 11th hour, we decided to give it another try. We have been married for 4.5 years. Marriage is the hardest job I have ever had. This blog is a blessing and congrats to you all!

  24. 25

    says

    Love this. We just hit 20 years a couple of months ago, and there are still days I want to give up and walk away. Years of drugs and alcohol and a lot of shoulda/woulda/coulda take a heavy toll, and it is more often than not only by God’s strength that I can stay true to our vows. “For better or for worse.”

  25. 26

    blynn says

    One month after we celebrated 10 yrs my ex-husband came out to me that he was homosexual. He said he had known for a long time. I immediately went to my pastor and I told him the problem and explained I wanted a divorce. My pastor told me that in my case if he was not willing to attempt to seek help that I had done everything I could do. My child is the one who suffers the most as he doesn’t understand why daddy likes boys or wears girl things. Its the hardest thing in the world to coparent with someone who is so obviously living in sin and teaching my son its OK. I am all about being kind to others because we should be but accepting that lifestyle is not. I wish I had had someone to look up to or talk to then. Sigh… 3 years now and just now have Christian counsel for the last 8 months that has helped tremendously. Each divorce is different but none are pretty and I hate that it ever happens but some are forced upon them. God Bless.

  26. 27

    says

    Wonderful post. Marriage is like shoveling snow in a snowstorm. If you want to stay on the path you just have to keep shoveling. I’ve been married for 35 years and still, through it all, it’s well worth the fight to keep your love true and your friendship strong.

  27. 28

    Fran says

    I truly believe everything Kristen has said here. I am 26 years into a second marriage (there was fault on both sides in my first marriage of 5 years) and in today’s culture you have to rock the norms to stay married and fight for your marriage. It is truly worth the fight. I will say that it cannot be on the back of the husband or wife alone. No-one can/should bear the burden alone to keep the peace. It is a hard lesson to learn the balance of being an obedient wife as the bible teaches and one who respects herself.
    On a dose of levity (which is unfortunately a reality in many Christian homes) a friend of ours describes her first marriage by saying that they divorced on grounds of religious differences….he believed he was God (was religious to a fault) and she didn’t.

  28. 29

    suzie says

    I’m and atheist and I’m never going to get a divorce. I also love people and want to leave the earth a better place because I was in it. I can believe in Christ no easier than I can believe in the Easter Bunny. But I believe in love and kindness. I enjoy your blog, but was surprised that you were surprised that atheist and christians have the same divorce rate. I am not a bad person who can’t make a marriage work because I don’t have God in my life. I have the miracle of gratitude in my heart and that is what makes our marriage work. I am grateful to have my husband and I don’t take him for granted. Yes I have to work hard for that, and it has nothing to do with religion and “God” doesn’t make me or my marriage stronger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>