This is Day 28 in the series “31 Days: What You Should Know Before An Affair“
When I walked down the aisle at the age of twenty-one, I would’ve told you marriage was not going to be hard—not for me—not for us. We were perfect for each other, and I was sure I was riding off into the sunset with my prince charming. We loved God and each other, and I was convinced that would be enough, come what way.
No one could’ve talked me out of this view. And sadly, nothing was further from the truth.
After experiencing divorce, and now being remarried for almost fifteen years, I now know marriage is hard work, no matter how much you love God or each other.
Marriage is two broken people coming together in imperfect relationship, which will inevitably deliver obstacles and challenges. That’s why it is so important to surrender our unrealistic expectations and recognize that by virtue of being an imperfect relationship, marriage will be work.
The good news is, we get to decide if, when, and how to do the work.
In my experience, an affair begins because one or both spouses decide, gradually over time, not to do the work. They stop asking questions, stop serving, stop risking, stop relating, stop caring, stop hoping, stop believing. They stop fighting, stop engaging, stop giving, and they just plain refuse to do the work anymore. It’s just easier not to try.
It’s easier to choose selfishness and entitlement, to refuse to accept responsibility for our own behavior, and to blame each other instead. Over time we become wounded, feel marginalized, disrespected and unloved.
And once we are hurt, it becomes easier not to risk being known. We protect ourselves from further injury or pain by shutting down. And instead, we feed our resentment, grow our anger, hide from each other, and refuse to explain or expose our needs. It becomes easier to objectify our spouse and convince ourselves they are not for us.
We resign ourselves to the lie that our marriage will never get any better. Some people live in this shut-down place for years, trudging along like marriage is some sort of earthly punishment, in which they deserve to suffer and die a slow death inside.
And this is the place where affairs are born. Our hearts are ripe for the high of a new connection, which we think will medicate the painful void and loneliness inside. We convince ourselves our marriage was a mistake, and justify and rationalize the affair.
But the problem has never been the marriage. The real problem is our own selves.
We are the problem.
We quit doing the work.
The tragedy is that whether it is an affair, or any other relationship, we take ourselves with us wherever we go. And unless we face our issues, our pain, our past, and our faults, the very problems that surfaced in our marriage, will surface in the elsewhere, because we are the common denominator. We are the ourselves wherever we are.
“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make…I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse…Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance…What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
Much of the work of marriage, and any relationship really, is the choice to be intentional—to face our own weaknesses and choose to notice their strengths. To choose humble hearts, out-repent one another, and surrender to the way God wants to make us more like Him in the process.
The work of marriage is also prioritizing the marriage above all other relationships, keeping no secrets, guarding and protecting its sacredness, and making plans and goals together to connect and serve each other well. It has to be something to which we wholeheartedly commit, without compromise—all in for the long haul, whatever it takes.
Marriage is work.
And with patience, communication, and a lot of grace, it can be some of our most satisfying work ever—believing we are for each other instead of against each another, and together fighting hard to create something which is intimate, satisfying, and real.
What have you found to be the hardest work of marriage?
What tips could you offer to make the work of marriage great?
Listen to Day 29 HERE
Throughout this series, if you have a question or a struggle and want me to address it or write on it in this series, please send me an email (jacque at jacquewatkins dot com) or a voicemail (green button on right sidebar) and I will do my best to incorporate it into this series. It will make me so happy to have feedback from you and to write what it is you might need. I can’t wait to hear from you.