Guest post by Gina of GinaMPoirier.com.
When I vowed to stick with my husband Marc “for better or for worse,” I didn’t exactly know what I was signing up for.
We were both 23 at the time, optimistic and faithful that things would work out no matter what.
But as optimistic and faithful as we were, nothing prepared us how to go through the “for worse” times. That was something we had to discover as we went.
We had one of the more difficult seasons in our lives to work through earlier this year. It included saying goodbye to a dying grandparent, processing the shock of losing a friend in a motorcycle crash, continuing to have no progress as we wait in a years-long adoption process, discovering the loss of thousands of dollars after our bank account had been hacked, and having our home invaded, leading to loss of some valuable personal property along with a car.
I remember the feeling of dread that washed over me when I woke up in the morning during that time. I wished I could go back to sleep because being awake was a nightmare.
You’ve probably seen more than a few marriages hit their breaking point when processing a loss. It can be anything: battling cancer, losing a job, losing a loved one. For whatever reason, the relationship starts to crumble as husband and wife push each other away.
You’d think that you’d naturally connect with your spouse when you’re going through the same trials because at least each person would understand what the other was going through. But I don’t think it’s that simple.
With our recent trials fresh in my mind, I can see why couples drift. Yet we managed not only to stay close but to be drawn even closer together.
I learned a few things through this process. It didn’t just happen; it took intention to be emotionally intimate during our trials. Here’s what I will remember the next time we process a loss (which will certainly come).
Related post: How to Have Joy in Any Circumstance
Lean on God First
While it’s not wrong to go to your husband when you’re hurting, he’s not going to be the same pillar of strength that God is, especially if he’s hurting too. When you’re both in a vulnerable place, it makes it that much easier to hurt each other.
I did pour out my heart to Marc, but I spent a lot more time pouring out my heart to God in prayer, journaling and sometimes just sitting and crying. My husband wasn’t burdened with the responsibility of fixing me or making me feel better. We were able to walk side by side as we both worked out our feelings with God.
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him. – Psalm 62:1
Don’t Expect to Process Emotions in the Same Way
As I worked through my feelings, I expected that Marc would be working through the same things. Boy, was I wrong.
I was worried that maybe he wasn’t processing the way he “should” (like me), but was quickly reminded that we are just different. Different brains, different experiences, different personalities.
This can be hard because it might feel like your husband doesn’t understand you when you desperately when him to. But don’t judge him! This is why you need God and possibly some outside help (see below). I stopped worrying and just let him do it his way and me do it my way.
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy. – Proverbs 14:10
Be 100% Open and Honest (Respectfully)
While it’s good to rely on God and each process your feelings in your own way, that won’t make you stay close to one another. At one point, I tried to hide my feelings from Marc because I didn’t want to burden him.
That definitely backfired. I felt miserable and distant because I was essentially lying about how I was feeling.
I firmly believe that honesty is vital to a thriving marriage. When we don’t open up, we can’t be close.
Be respectful in your honesty, of course. When you’re both hurting, you’re especially vulnerable and sometimes the truth can hurt more than it would normally. But that’s all the more reason to open up. When you’re truly vulnerable is when you can be truly intimate.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:3–4
Spend Time Together
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in drama that you neglect to spend time together. We had some of our free time tied up in funerals and police investigations.
We’re in the habit of going on regular dates and connecting with each other every night. While we missed a few of these times, we still did them as much as we could.
Those moments, even just a few minutes in the evening, were like a breath of fresh air. It was in those spaces that we were able to open up, process together, pray together and sometimes just unwind.
Get Outside Help
I learned a long time ago that I need girlfriends. My husband is wonderful, but he just doesn’t get me the way other women do.
Conversations with my closest confidants during our trials helped me process my emotions. They prayed with me and helped me understand how to be close with God and my husband.
Recently I was also reminded what a blessing couple friends can be too. We went out to dinner with some friends one night a couple of months after the drama had settled down and basically unloaded everything on them as they patiently listened. It felt so good to have another sounding board beside one another.
While your husband should be your closest earthly relationship, it takes others to help keep that relationship strong.
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. – 1 Corinthians 12:24–26
I hope you find these tips to keep your marriage strong encouraging and helpful, no matter what you’re going through. What has helped your marriage during your trials?
Guest post by Gina of GinaMPoirier.com.
Gina is a happily married mom of three, stress management coach and writer who helps overwhelmed, exhausted moms find peace and purpose in the everyday. Check out free resources for Christian moms at ginampoirier.com.