Dying to Save Our Marriage

When we first got married, I was selfish. So was he. But neither one of us knew it. We were both Christians. We were both following Christ. We loved each other. We thought we were Christ-like. We were clueless.

I had some issues. So did he. I wanted all of his attention. He wanted to watch TV or play video games all of the time. I hated games. He didn’t care for chitchat. I wanted to tell him all about my day. He was bored by all of my rambling and wanted me to get to the point. The problem was there was no point. I just wanted to talk. He didn’t see the point. It was a vicious cycle.

Throughout our years of marriage, we had several epiphanies. One happened for me when we had been married for 3 1/2 years. I was listening to a song from Robin Hood (the one with Kevin Costner), because we were going to sing it together in a wedding. The song was called Everything I Do (I Do it for You). I was sad and lonely in our marriage because of the reasons stated above. Oh, yes, he was also a workaholic. I was lonely because I hardly ever saw him. He worked late every night that he didn’t go to the gym. I had a baby boy and stayed at home with him all the time. I really resented the fact that the few moments my husband was at home, he was watching TV or playing a video game. I never got any of his attention. And I wanted ALL of it! I felt like he wasn’t meeting my needs at all. I resented the long hours he put in at work, too. I knew that he was trying to get ahead. I knew that he was having problems at work. I knew that he was trying to prove himself in his very first real full-time job, and that it was very stressful. But that didn’t stop me from resenting the time he spent away from me and our son. I stuffed all of my feelings inside, so he didn’t know how I felt. But as I listened to that song, I was suddenly struck by the knowledge that everything Gary was doing, he was doing for me. I was absolutely dumbfounded. It didn’t feel like he was doing anything for me. I felt like he was just doing whatever he wanted to do. But the Lord revealed to me what was really in Gary’s heart. He was trying to do the best job he could at work, hoping to make more money for me and our family. He believed that if he worked long hours and showed his willingness to work and did the best work he could possibly do that he would get a raise and possibly be promoted, and we would make more money. I never saw it that way before. I wanted time with him more than I wanted more money, and I just couldn’t get past that. Money didn’t mean much to me, and I didn’t understand how important being a good provider was to him. But, ultimately, he really was working long hours for me, and the Lord made me see that. Even lifting weights at the gym was as much for me as it was for him. He wanted to look good for me and to stay healthy and fit for me. I had been too selfish and self-focused to realize that, in doing those things, he was trying to let me know how much he loved me.

I felt a little better about things after that. I appreciated his efforts more. But I still felt like he wasn’t meeting my deepest needs. I needed attention. I needed for him to ask me how I was doing. I needed for him to talk to me like a friend. But he didn’t know I needed those things. And I didn’t know how to tell him. I was putting so much of my time and energy into my children that I wasn’t taking care of myself. We had 5 more children in the next 8 1/2 years. I had six children 10 years old and under. And I was doing almost everything for them and all of the housekeeping. Besides that, I was tutoring other children and trying to homeschool my own that were of legal school age. I was also doing homeschool assessments every summer for 100 homeschool families. In between all of that, I had to take classes to keep my teaching license current. As if that wasn’t enough, I acted in a Christmas play and started singing in a quartet. I was a bona fide “Mommy Martyr” to quote Cindy Rushton. I thought the busier I was, the better I was.

About this time, he had an epiphany at a Promise Keepers conference. The speaker challenged the men to do one thing each day to improve their marriage. Gary thought, “I don’t need to worry about that. My marriage is just fine.” Then he said he felt like a spotlight shone on him, and he heard a voice saying, “Your marriage is just fine? Do you really believe that? Your wife is caught up in singing in a quartet and busy with that all the time, and you’re busy working all the time, and you barely see each other, and you think your marriage is just fine?” He said he looked around to see if everybody in the stadium was staring at him, because it felt like he had just been put on the spot. Nobody else seemed to notice anything unusual, so he wiped his brow and thought about what the Lord had just said to him. When he got home, he seemed really serious and said, “We need to talk.” I was in such a state of mind that my thought was, “Oh no, he came back worse than when he left.” I always wanted him to act happy and excited. I hated to see him depressed. When he got down, I got mad at him. But when we went to our room to talk, and he told me what happened during the conference, I knew God was helping us to get this communication thing going. We talked and decided that we needed to do more together. I ended up quitting the quartet. He tried to spend more time with me. We prayed together more often. He asked me to tell him what I was really thinking, how I was really feeling. I still had a hard time with that, because I was always afraid of making him mad. It wasn’t that I was “afraid”. I just hated for him to be mad, and I avoided causing him to be angry at all costs. I assumed that things would make him angry that I know now wouldn’t have. But my desire for him to be happy all the time was so strong that I avoided communicating with him things that I should have.

To make a long story short, we went through some perilous times together, with no one but each other, the Lord and our children to depend on. We had the stuffing knocked out of us. We went through devastating loss and humiliation. But we made it through it together. I found out some more of my issues. Like how I expected Gary to meet some of my needs that only God can meet. I found out during our time in Kansas City that I was wrong to insist that Gary be happy and jolly all the time. I was wrong to get angry at him for not being happy.

Most of all, I learned that I needed to die. I had to die to myself and my desires. I had to turn to God for every need. I had to love Gary and pray for him as if my life depended on it. Because it did! Whatever happened to him happened to me. I was told by a mentor that I should pray down blessings on Gary’s head even when I felt like I hated him. There were times…! I started praying for him in a less selfish way. I started seeing things from his perspective. The Lord helped me to put myself in his shoes and sense the frustration he felt at work. I was able to build him up and encourage him in his efforts, because I got my eyes off of myself and my needs and the things I thought he should be doing and onto what he was going through and how he was feeling. I became a help meet for him in a way that I had never been before. I saw for the first time how talented he really was at technical writing. I became proud of his ability and thanked God for it in Gary’s hearing. I praised his abilities and talents and encouraged him to stand up for himself at work, instead of wishing he would just be content and not rock the boat. I was on his side for the first time. I was in his corner. We were a team working together. I got myself out of the picture altogether. I wasn’t worrying about my needs. I was too focused on his to even think about mine. And as I did this, he gave me more attention. He wanted to hear what I had to say. He shared with me every detail of what he was going through. He started trusting me to take his side.

We both died in a lot of ways during our journey of fire. Many of our dreams died. Many of our concepts died. But in the kingdom of God, life comes out of death. And sometimes you have to die to live.

As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;

10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. 2 Cor. 6:9,10

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