By Samuel Rainey
Today’s guest post is authored by my son, a marriage and relationship therapist, who has gained deep wisdom from his work, his own learning at home and from his suffering. It is a great honor to share Samuel’s insight with you. I look forward to hearing from you how God uses these words in your life and your relationship with God Himself.
Most people who have not done significant spiritual or relational work do not know how to do conflict well. Invariably, we will unconsciously adapt our conflict styles to what we were exposed to in our childhood homes. The saying “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” is true here.
How are we to know a different way of being without the help of someone else to show us another way or to another place? A hopeless marriage doesn’t have to mean the end of the relationship.
Marriage provides the divine context for taking another person to another place. It offers hope that I can live alongside someone who will help me to become a better person, and I can do the same for them. The reality is that once the newness wears off (which happens at different rates of time for different people), couples often lose sight of the purpose of marriage.
I often hear, “I just want to be happy and live in peace” when asking people what they desire in their marriages. Generally, this is in reaction to the growing disconnect and conflict that exists between husband and wife. However, when you don’t do the necessary maintenance and work, a marriage decays and begins to break down. This is true of the material world just as it is for relationships.
Cleaning up and fixing something that has been neglected for a long time takes more energy and effort than the time it would have taken to maintain. In relationships, if you do not spend the time proactively working and engaging the faulty issues in your marriage, when it comes time to “fix it” or “buy a new one” it’s going to feel overwhelming.
This overwhelming feeling coupled with the everyday needs and demands of life make it even more difficult to find the courage, energy, and hope to dig out of the mess. If you’re at this place of hopelessness in your marriage, seek out a counselor. If you’re afraid you’re on the road to hopelessness, here are some suggestions to work on:
- Do go on regular dates with your spouse.
- Do monthly budget meetings to review and plan financial concerns and needs.
- Do yearly/bi-yearly marriage enrichment activities (counseling, retreats, books, etc.).
- Do not turn on a “screen” (television, cellphone, computer/tablet) at least two nights per week.
- Do not blame your spouse for anything, ever. Take responsibility for your actions.
- Do not use the word “divorce” unless you are in the process of filing.
- Do not have an affair with work, alcohol, Facebook, video games, food, or the TV.
- Do practice non-sexual touch without it leading to sex.
- Do not hide behind your kids’ activities to avoid conflict.
- Do not use your kids to fulfill your loneliness.
Regardless of how hopeless it might feel, no relationship is beyond repair. As we learn in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” I have seen couples dealing with multiple layers of betrayal, lies, and brokenness work diligently on repairing their relationship.
When you married your spouse, they became the right one, don’t buy into the lie that there is someone better out there for you. If you’re willing to do the hard work, hope can be restored.
©2020 by Samuel Rainey. Samuel is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in the Nashville area. This post originally appeared on his blog, Five Minute Sherpa. You can also find him on Twitter. He and his wife reside in Franklin, Tenn, with their four children.