Unhappiness is a common issue when it comes to marriage. The thing they don’t talk about when you buy that fabulous wedding dress, exchange those heartfelt vows, and drive off into the sunset together is that there will be many times that this relationship will feel a lot more like work than play. Where emotions will fly high, misunderstandings will create gaps, and forgiveness will be required. Unhappiness is not unique in marriage, and if we are honest, we should expect to weather some tough seasons when we consider remaining faithful to loving one extraordinarily flawed human for a lifetime.
Acknowledging this big elephant in the room is important because our culture tells us that happiness is the way to a good life. Reality teaches us that life comes with many challenges, and almost anything worthwhile in your life requires that you fight for it. Consider getting an education. Learning to read, write, add, spell, subtract, and more is challenging, yet, we parents can agree that even if our kids are not blissful as they struggle to learn these skills, they should still keep at it until they achieve some sort of mastery. What about parenting? Lord knows if we as parents quit this job when our kids made us unhappy, committed sins against us, and got on our nerves, none of us would make it past the terrible twos! We stay with our kids, loving and growing with them because we know they are worth the struggle.
Somehow though, we see marriage as separate from these other clear pictures of how struggle brings us beauty. The romantic comedies of the ’90s have brainwashed us all to believe that we all have a perfect soul mate waiting for us that we can’t live without. They will complete us, and with them, at our side, our lives will feel joyous and easy forevermore.
This is a lie. And it’s one from the enemy of our souls. Falling in love is sweet, but staying in love is work. Staying. Forgiving. Learning. Growing. Fighting for your family. These things are so incredibly hard, but when we refuse to let our happiness tell us what our future should be and instead surrender our lives to our Creator and ask him to show us the way forward towards his joy and healing, that’s when the beauty unfolds in our stories.
I know this firsthand because I’ve wanted to let my unhappiness with my spouse lead me away from my marriage. I hoped that he would leave me. I justified my deep bitterness and cast so much blame on the man I told that I would love forever. As I see the error of my ways, I still have to work daily to choose radical grace and forgiveness rather than holding onto the hurt that wants to drive me away from my spouse. Letting go is a constant choice because I can’t rewrite 15 years of miscommunication. I can’t undo it, but I can move past it. I believe God is showing us a new way forward that will be filled with a joyous commitment to each other that goes beyond our momentary feelings.
So what do we do when we face those unhappy seasons?
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