Is it healthy for one spouse to go the extra mile in marriage?
A few years ago, I heard a preacher talk about how to make marriage work. Specifically how sometimes, the more grounded spouse might be required to put in extra effort to keep a marriage growing.
The preacher was speaking from personal experience because for many years, her husband, who had been the more grounded of the two, carried the weight of their marriage.
Listening to her words reminded me of the frustrations of my own marriage when I was newly married.
I worried when my husband and I didn’t care for the same things with the same amount of passion. The fear led to major disagreements because I (felt like I) was carrying the weight of the relationship.
A lot of marriages sail the same waters.
Couples fight when they feel like one person is going the extra mile to keep a decent relationship while the other coasts along.
Today, I want to offer a fresh perspective.
But with a caveat: This post is for wives who are in well-adjusted marriages. Abuse, abandonment and adultery are never part of the marriage package. If you have these situations in your marriage, seek safety, get help (from mentors, pastors or authorities) and live within boundaries.
But for the couple going through regular marriage problems, it’s important to adjust our mindset.
Example: the wife who wants more conversation might be the one to initiate connection and conversation, for the most part. At least at the beginning or for a season of time.
The husband who wants order in their finances might be required to put in some extra effort.
Obviously, the easy thing is for the other spouse to change. But a lot of times, change takes time and effort and we can’t throw our marriage to the back burner until our spouse changes. (See When You Are the More Mature in Your Marriage)
So we choose to go the extra mile because we don’t want a stagnant marriage.
In his book When To Walk Away, Gary Thomas writes
When there’s a marital impasse, usually one spouse has to be willing to be the change agent – and then to be patient as they wait for the other spouse to follow.
So here are a few things I’ve had to accept in order to go the extra mile in my own marriage:
1. Even when marriage is hard, I am not the only one going the extra mile
Sometimes as couples, we fall into “martyr mode.”
Where we recognize our individual sacrifice but completely ignore where the person continually steps up.
For example in our marriage, I am the planner.
It’s easy to get lost in my little details and all the things “I make happen” and fail to see everything my husband does (especially because he carries his burdens and sacrifices with much more maturity and dignity!)
So in a sense and in most cases, it sometimes comes down to caring differently, not caring less.
2. I can do what is important to us
Strong couples dream together.
Still the person with more clarity and passion in an area steps out of the boat first.
I used to think that just because my husband and I share a common dream meant we have to devote the same amount of time and passion to get the dream or habit going.
But that’s not always a reasonable expectation.
Right now I have more free time than my husband; he works a full-time job. I work from home and I am charge of my schedule so I am able to devote more time to the things we care about.
In the past, I’d make a lot of noise (mostly mental) about his seeming absence, forgetting that he was doing other things in our partnership. Like keeping a roof over our head, paying the bills and loving Jesus together.
As I’ve gotten along in marriage, I’ve come to appreciate the power of teamwork and partnership. (See Teamwork in Marriage: How it Compares to Submission and Leadership)
Now I know that being a good team player means establishing what we care about as a couple and then moving on it. Even when it seems like I am the first one.
3. We are gifted differently
Sometimes it’s not that one spouse doesn’t want to do something or that they wouldn’t want to be a certain way.
It’s just they are wired differently. What the other spouse likes will never be a natural fit for them.
So as couples, we need to be grateful for our spouses, just as they are and be willing to extend the same grace we ourselves received. See Your Spouse Might Not Be Wrong. Just Different
4. How to make marriage work through “Iron sharpening iron”
Marriage teacher Mark Gungor says that marriage is like a mirror, placed in front of us to reflect the person we truly are. Not the person we wish we could be.
Someone said that “prayer changes things..and mostly me”.
In the end, going the extra mile is mostly about our growth. What a revelation this was for me! I thought when one spouse is wrong, the other spouse coasts along, waiting for their beloved to change.
But the truth is that for that marriage to survive, both people have to change. For the spouse waiting on transformation, she or he has to make accommodations, grow up, be brave, press into hope, develop more patience etc
James 1:3-4 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Disclaimer – Abuse, addiction, adultery is not part of a marriage package. If you are facing adulterous, addictive or abusive situations in marriage, seek safety, get help (from mentors, pastors or authorities) and live within boundaries.
Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash