Ours was a fairytale wedding. Madly in love, tears of joy streaming down our cheeks, we promised unwavering devotion to each other for better or worse.
When we were declared husband and wife, I thought my happily ever after was about to commence.
Only it didn’t.
It turned out that marriage was not what either of us expected. We brought into it two imperfect people who struggled to find our footing as we navigated old baggage, misunderstanding and conflict.
We said things we shouldn’t have said and each demanded our own way. We doused every argument with fire and allowed selfishness to seep into the fabric of our relationship.
And though we read all the books and prayed all the prayers, we nearly buckled under the weight of the perfect image we’d created for our relationship. After all, we were the quintessential Christian couple. We loved Jesus. We were supposed to be nailing this marriage thing.
Our fledgling marriage quickly spiraled downward. And within two years, as young and defeated adversaries, we stood at the edge of divorce ready to jump.
Sometimes I’m haunted by how close we came to walking away from our marriage. By the world’s standards of a happy marriage, no one would’ve blamed us. Because we were miserable and had grown apart in every sense of the word.
But we were given a gift of immeasurable value: truthful words spoken by faithful friends.
As we slowly revealed the impending devastation of our marriage to family and friends, we were met with one overwhelming response: not on our watch.
I logged countless nights sitting cross legged on the floor of my bedroom, forehead pressed against the mattress, sobbing as I poured out our troubles to my friend Kim. She listened for hours at a time, wisely coaching me to love my husband and walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord. She always reminded me that my behavior was my own responsibility and advised me to treat my husband with respect – regardless of how I felt about him.
When Dave lamented to Kim’s husband, Dan how unfortunate it was that our marriage was ending, Dan pointedly told him no, it wasn’t. He reminded Dave of the vows he made before God and family and clearly stated that he expected Dave to live up to the commitment he made.
Dave’s parents stepped in with unwavering encouragement and gentle admonition to keep our covenant before God. My mom, having been down the road of divorce, offered endless compassion and urged me to fight for my marriage knowing divorce would be far worse.
Other friends and family who knew our marriage was crumbling covered us in prayer and love but didn’t stop there. They weren’t afraid to hold us accountable to our vows and our own behavior.
Looking back, Dave and I marvel that no one … NO ONE … told us what we wanted to hear or let us off the hook of the commitment we made. In fact, we laugh today at the choice words we wanted to fire back when hard words were spoken to us in love.
We are grateful that after supporting us through the storms of our early marriage, key friends and family continued to walk with us for the next eighteen years, speaking Godly truth through seasons of trials and joy.
Real love has the courage to say hard things.
The world tries to tell you that happiness is simply a matter of putting yourself first. A true friend will remind you that selfishness is the cancer of relationships, especially marriage, and that love always puts others first.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
The world tries to tell you that a good marriage is full of romantic feelings. A true friend will remind you that feelings are fleeting and a good marriage is full of commitment and hard work.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
The world will tell you to run when the going gets tough. A true friend will remind you that your vows matter and encourage you to keep walking through the fire. Because there will be deeper love and great joy on the other side if you don’t give up.
If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. Numbers 30:2
Had we given up, we would’ve thrown away the most treasured relationship in each of our lives. We are by no means perfect, and neither is our marriage, but we are best friends. We are closer, stronger, more committed and far more in love now than we were twenty years ago as naive kids looking for a fairy tale.
I realize that there are grave issues that can lead a couple to divorce and not every marriage can be saved. But the most cited reasons for divorce are things like communication problems, arguing and unmet expectations. And studies have shown that most couples regret their divorce in the long run. Still our society is quick to usher couples down the path of divorce towards a mirage of happiness. This ought not be so.
Maybe you know someone who is struggling in their marriage. Have the courage to speak gentle truth over them. Always with tenderness and covered in prayer, wade into the weeds with that weary couple to encourage them in their marriage. Let truth drown out the lies that the world doles out about marriage and happiness. And point them to the Lord every step of the way.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6