Persevering in marriage is hard because we get married “for the better” not the worse.
Most people don’t get married thinking, “I can’t wait to “hang in there” with this person.”
Or “I can’t wait for that time when we’ll struggle with communication and spend hours in therapy and cry buckets of tears. Bring it on, baby!”
Most of us are aiming for a much different experience.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines perseverance as “the quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult.”
Even though we don’t like “to continue trying to do marriage when it’s difficult,” all relationships go through seasons that require waiting for change, growth or sunnier days.
In fact, some of the happiest strongest marriages have been curved out the ashes of long seasons of hardship and delay.
If waiting is a part of life and relationships, how then do we wait well? How can we persevere in marriage, when we want our “for better” today, not tomorrow?
There are many ways to approach the subject of perseverance in marriage, and in this post, I will show you how to persevere through asking two critical questions.
Two questions to ask yourself when you are persevering in marriage
1. What is God saying to me?
For the Christian, the God-perspective is everything. Knowing what God is asking of us in difficult seasons makes the difference between good waiting and well.. going off the rails.
I have just started studying the book of Haggai, one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible and I am learning a lot about godly perseverance (mostly God’s perseverance with us.)
The prophet Haggai comes into the scene when the Jewish people are rebuilding their lives after decades of being exiled in Babylon. Fifteen years earlier, the work of rebuilding the temple had began but stopped due opposition.
Haggai comes along and encourages the people to resume the work that had stalled earlier. And they listen, and the temple is complete within a short amount of time.
The events detailed in Haggai, which happened around 520 BC in Jerusalem, are part of God’s long, long, long history with humankind.
God is referred to in Daniel 7:9 as the “Ancient of days.” He is ageless, all powerful, and all knowing. He has chosen to engage and reveal His will and character to humankind over generations (aka He’s been around a long time.)
But when we are in a season of waiting and difficulties, one of the things that go out of the window is the appreciation of the grandness of God.
We lose our ability to see God as He is, not as our suffering tells us. Our problems begin to become the lens through which we see Him and His ability to move in our lives. Our issues start to define us and the type of outcome we can expect.
Which all makes persevering in marriage really really hard.
Like the Jewish people in Haggai’s times, our season of persevering can have us believe that “the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Haggai 1:2
We can lose focus of God’s intimate touch and His present direction as we consider our pain, loss, struggle, or opposition more important.
Are you waiting for your husband to speak your love language?
Are you facing a financial crisis?
Do you have difficult in-laws?
Are you feeling disrespected?
Are you working through his low libido?
Are you navigating sickness in marriage?
Who are you listening to in this season of your life? Who is shaping your expectations, your hopes?
Today, I encourage you to look at God’s historical faithfulness (in your life and through generations past as revealed in His Word) and and allow it to refocus and strengthen you.
Just because you are waiting on something, persevering through a hard season of marriage, doesn’t mean a loss of direction is given.
The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:3-5
When your present circumstances are painful and the future blurry, you can lean into God, the One who has always existed and holds everything together.
2. What is God saying about the situation?
Let’s talk about the practical side of persevering in marriage.
Pressing through difficult times will look different depending on the overall health and quality of the relationship.
For starters, persevering doesn’t mean putting up with mayhem and sin from a spouse. We don’t allow violation of our vows or general toxicity and call it persevering.
There’s a difference between persevering in our faith in God in marriage, (what we’ve looked at in #1,) and persevering with the circumstances of the marriage.
And that’s why it’s important to also ask ourselves, “what is God saying about the situation?” not just “What is God saying to me as His child?”
You see, there’s a difference.
No matter the season we are in, God is always calling us to peace and rest in Him. But that doesn’t mean He’s calling us to be at peace and rest with the condition of our marriage.God is always calling us to peace and rest in Him. But that doesn't mean He's calling us to be at peace and rest with the condition of our marriage.
Sometimes, in the process of persevering in faith (see #1) the best thing a spouse will do for her relationship is stir up some good trouble.
Let’s look at how to persevere in marriage when a relationship is disappointing, but mostly healthy.
In this marriage, there is a level of goodwill from both spouses.
An example, early in our marriage, my husband was a poor communicator, and he struggled to help around the house – two things that meant the world to me.
As a new couple learning to merge our lives, it felt like we walked into a never-ending hurricane. I cried endless tears and feared for our future. I wondered if I made a mistake getting married.
I loved him and he loved me (at least I believed that most of the time) but marriage was bringing out the worst in us.
As we navigated this long season of marriage, my husband continued to work hard to provide for us. He attended church and submitted himself to spiritual authority and post-marital counseling.
He came home every night. We stayed connected in other areas of life. Slowly (oh so slowly), he showed signs of change. I sensed he loved me and was in it for the long haul.
I was doing my own changing too, letting go of the idea that he was responsible for my happiness, learning better communication habits, organizing myself domestically, and trusting God in ways I hadn’t learned to do in the past.
We were in a disappointing marriage. Not a harmful marriage.
There was a level of goodwill from both of us, evidenced by our desire to positively engage on some level, pursuing of counsel, acceptance of change (however slow), and of each other.
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Most of the “persevere in your marriage” advice out there fits this type of marriage: Where spouses are unhappy but there is some kind of goodwill from both sides.
So how does persevering in such a marriage look like?
It might look like
- Going the extra mile for a season of time.
- Getting help and counseling from a pastor, mentor, coach, or trusted friend.
- Reading helpful books and resources
- Praying more than you complain
- Being bold enough to have hard conversations with your husband.
- Continuing to do the things that matter to your well-being, even if your husband won’t’ engage. For example, if your husband is chronically late for church or decides not to go to church, you go anyway.
- Creating boundaries as needed
It does not look like
- Telling your friends how horrible your husband is.
- Playing victim or martyr
- Self-diagnosing your marriage as abusive or toxic.
Please note: A lot of abuse in relationships takes place in cycles: A toxic marriage might have a “lull” where the abuser looks like he cares or has goodwill. I am not addressing that when I say “don’t self-diagnose.”
Here, I am talking to wives who are experiencing regular growth pains but who want an easier path to growth and change. They hope exaggerating the problem will call attention to the issue and force their spouse to change. But that doesn’t work. Overreacting to marriage problems adds layer of other issues, which makes growth and change even harder.
I am not a professional therapist and I do not provide diagnosis, therapy, counseling, treatment or mental care services on this website. Consult a licensed counselor for proper diagnosis and help.
Persevering in an harmful or overall unhealthy marriage
For the wife in a harmful marriage, persevering in marriage looks like persevering in faith (as discussed in #1.) And and as a result, having the courage to do what God wants her to do in the marriage.
I think many women (and Christians in general) get confused at this point because deep down, we have believed that having a strong faith or at least feeling the peace of God means things will work themselves out on the marriage end.
We hope our inner peace and faith will translate to peace and strength in the marriage. We expect the order we have on the inside will birth health with our spouse and in our marriage.
Indeed, marriages heal as we trust God. Great turnarounds happen as we wait and believe.
But for spouses in bad marriages where toxicity, abandonment, adultery, addiction, abuse are present, bold, often urgent, action is a part of persevering in faith.
In this case, you are persevering in faith, not enduring the condition of your marriage. You are holding your marriage to a higher standard.
If you are in an unhealthy marriage, persevering in faith might mean
- Leaving your marriage, even temporarily, when you feel unsafe
- Requiring him to sign up for a recovery programs
- Asking him to get accountability
- Calling an abuse hot-line or authorities where you feel unsafe
- Getting the help of a counselor
- Creating boundaries and enforcing them
Asking the following questions
- What is God asking of me today? (Here you are trying to figure out your next step, not the next three months, which makes take action easier.)
- If I don’t know what God is asking of me, who can I talk to to help me figure that out?
- What am I tolerating in my marriage that I wouldn’t tolerate in any other relationship?
- How am I shielding my spouse from the consequences of their behavior?
Persevering in marriage
Affiliate link. In their revolutionary book, Boundaries in Marriage, John Townsend and Henry Cloud write,
Things don’t change in a marriage until the spouse who is taking responsibility for a problem that is not theirs decides to say or do something about it.
The statement applies to both marriages of goodwill and marriages without goodwill (harmful marriages.)
The goal of this post was to help you see how to persevere in the faith (as you ask yourself, “What is God saying to me?”) and how to persevere in marriage (as you ask yourself, “What is God saying about the situation?’)
I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments. What can you add? What has helped you the most when you are in season of waiting in marriage? What other tip can you add? Let’s talk in comments!