My relationship with my wife started with a slight fairy-tale feel. As years rolled by without any major conflict, I began to think our marriage was immune to the problems others faced. I didn’t think I’d need help for my marriage.
We met as teenagers and got engaged at her high school prom. We even left our wedding in a white horse-drawn carriage while royal trumpeters proudly proclaimed something special had begun.
And something had.
For a while, it felt like everything we touched sparkled with pixie dust. We landed successful careers, bought a house before 25, we even had two kids—a boy and a girl—a few years later. The only thing missing was the white picket fence.
Unfortunately, we found out no one is immune.
And when we eventually did face a serious conflict, I didn’t know where to turn.
Everyone we knew looked up to us. How could the perfect couple, need help? Who would I even ask?
Who’s fighting for your marriage?
Just like ours, your marriage is under constant attack. From the moment any couple says “I Do,” forces try to pull them apart. For some, it’s the stressors at work. For others, it might be problems with children, parents, or some unresolved issues.
Even if we won the lottery and moved to a deserted island, our innate selfishness and sinful tendencies would eventually catch up to us.
So what do we do when conflict eventually finds us?
If you’re like me, you might find yourself paralyzed by pride, knowing something isn’t right but unable to ask for help.
We get married in public. We take special care to pick the right church, minister, bridesmaids and groomsmen and let the world witness our love. When troubles come, we do the opposite. We keep our challenges private and hide from those who love us most.
The people in our wedding are not only there to help us get married—they should also be the ones who help us stay married. I’ve found I can find help for my marriage is a few guaranteed places.
I find help for my marriage from …
It’s natural for our friends to come to our defense in times of need, but once we get married, the type of defense we require changes.
A friend who comforts by always agreeing you are right and your spouse is wrong, is not the kind of friend you need. Sometimes you are the one who is wrong. A good friend will help you see that.
Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
If two become one, you either both win or both lose.
Find friends who will help you fight for your marriage, even when you don’t want to.
Sometimes they may need to tell you things that are hard to hear, but that’s OK. As Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
Parents are often interested to learn about marital conflict, but be careful how much you divulge. It’s much easier for you to forgive and forget an offence with your spouse than it will be for your parents. Especially if they have limited contact with your spouse.
The best way for your parents to help you is for them to relay their own experiences. During times of peace, ask your parents to tell you their story. What did they struggle with as a young couple? How did they handle the challenges they faced? What do they wish they had done differently? Their wisdom and experience are invaluable. Learn as much from them as you can.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20).
While it’s common for people to seek counsel from a pastor before getting married, many avoid doing it afterward. Talking to your pastor doesn’t have to happen only when there is a crisis.
Schedule an annual checkup with your pastor, and have the courage to get real. For ongoing support, ask if your church has any marriage groups or events you could attend. If not, lead one yourself.
Our marriage benefited greatly from the relationships we formed with other couples at our church’s small group.
4. Other couples
No matter what your particular struggle, chances are someone else has been there.
Learn from those who have been in your shoes and found a way to succeed.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).
A friend of mine once said he considered counseling one step above going to the dentist. The dentist, he said, at least offers pain killers.
Unfortunately, this attitude has kept many from receiving help early, when problems are easier to manage. Counseling might cost some money, but divorce costs more. And not just financially.
If the thought of counseling has entered your mind, chances are you might benefit from talking to someone. To help you decide if counseling is right for you, read “Do You Need Counseling?”
One of the greatest investments you can make in your marriage is prayer. Prayer gives you a new perspective and helps you align your desires with God’s. Only God can change a heart (yours or your spouse’s). By praying, you are asking His help to do what only He can do.
If you would like help developing a habit of prayer, sign up for our 30 Day Prayer Challenge and receive prayer prompts delivered right to your inbox.
Often the difference between a fairy-tale marriage and one that’s a nightmare, is the number of people fighting for it. We originally thought we had to do it alone. Then I found out I could ask for help for my marriage.
Thankfully, a short six-week marriage group at our church showed us a different way. Over time, those relationships matured into lifelong friendships. Our kitchen table has seen many tears and many laughs. But perhaps the best part is knowing I have a team of people helping me fight for my marriage.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Carlos Santiago is a senior writer for FamilyLife and has written and contributed to numerous articles, e-books, and devotionals. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. Carlos and his wife, Tanya, live in Little Rock, Arkansas, with their two children.