All marriages go through periods where things just aren’t as they should be. It’s a natural occurrence in any relationship involving people. (I suppose that would include most marriages). The stress and pace of life causes tension in the best marriages. Even good marriages suffer at times.
Cheryl and I have had several of those times, usually due to external pressures we did not cause or invite. It could be my work — or hers — or family situations. Outside stress causes tension in the relationship. Things aren’t falling apart. We aren’t questioning our commitment to each other — but we both know things aren’t working as well as they should be. We are having more miscommunication, we are more tense in our reaction to each other, or we may just feel we are passing each other through our days, not connecting as well as we usually do. Thankfully, we’ve always been intentional during those times.
Those times are usually seasonal and they happen in most every marriage. That appears especially true in the earlier years of the marriage, but we shouldn’t be surprised if they happen later in a marriage either. When major changes in the marriage or in life occur, such as children moving out of the house, loss of job, or other serious trauma, marriages can struggle for a time. That’s normal.
Those periods can last a week, a few weeks, or a month or more. It isn’t that the couple doesn’t love each other, or even that they want out of the marriage, but that they just aren’t on the same page as much as they should be. The key in those times isn’t to panic, but to intentionally work to restore total health to the marriage.
Have you ever been there?
During these times the way a couple responds is critically important.
Here are 7 suggestions for those seasons of marriage:
Communicate – Keep talking, to each other and to God, even when it’s awkward to do so. Admit where you are in the marriage. Again, this may hurt for a time, but it’s better to be honest than to allow the marriage to fall apart or slip further from health.
Stay close – Keep doing things together. Sleep in the same bed. Find times to do special activities. Have regular date nights. Talk. This will help protect your heart from wandering.
Discipline yourself – There will be times when you are tempted to say the wrong things or treat your spouse unkindly. It will require discipline to do the right thing, and say the right thing, but it will help protect the marriage.
Get help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the best marriages need some at times. This may be counseling, meeting with Christian friends you trust, or doing a Bible study together, but it is important you invite someone to speak into your life.
Learn - There are always principles to strengthen your marriage that can be learned during these times. Cheryl and I have learned, for example, that during especially stressful periods that we have to be more intentional with our marriage. You may need to learn how to communicate better, how to handle conflict, or how to dream together again. This is a great season to do some of those things.
Be Patient - You’ll want change immediately, but relationships don’t work that way. Chances are it will take longer than you expect or want it to take to get through this period. Be patient.
Hang on - Renew your commitment to the marriage and each other. These seasons won’t last forever if you continue to work on your marriage. Be committed enough to your marriage to stick with it until this season passes. Every marriage can be restored and improved with two parties working together.
Keep in mind, I’m not talking about times of abuse, neglect, affairs, or severe marriage issues. I’m speaking of times when the marriage just isn’t as much fun anymore. This is also when both spouses still want the marriage to work and are willing to work at making the marriage better. If any of those more serious issues are occurring, get help immediately.
You might also read my post “Making Marriage Fun Again“.
Again, have you been there?
Help others out. How did your marriage survive through these stressful times?