Understand the seasons of marriage

Since we all know what to expect with each season of the calendar year, we can prepare ahead.  However, when it comes to the seasons of a marriage, most of us are completely ignorant!  In our ignorance, we are easily caught off guard. We haven’t adequately prepared.  So, let’s be intentional about preparing for each season.  As Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit…”

So, let me offer a little insight into the seasons of a marriage, now that I’ve seen some seasons come and go 🙂   The first season is an exciting sprint to the altar.  We are giddy with excitement and anticipation.  As a bride, we are the center of attention.  The world revolves around us.  We feel like the princess in a fairy tale.  We love this season.  It feels like summer, when everything is in full bloom and the sun warms your skin.

However, once we return from the honeymoon, and life goes back to “normal”, we can feel let down.  It’s not all about me anymore!  Often, husbands feel like they’ve won the prize and get to relax now.  Sometimes the romance falls away.  We plug along, but it’s beginning to feel like fall.  The leaves are falling off the trees.  If we don’t pay attention, our marriage can become stripped of its vitality.

Then, children enter the picture.  We’re so excited, just like we enjoy the first snowfall of the winter.  It’s beautiful.   Sometimes this “winter season” is wonderful, but often we pay too much attention to the children and little or no attention to our marriage during this time.  If we don’t intentionally nurture our marriage, Satan sneaks in to cause trouble just like a cold draft sneaks under a poorly sealed door. 

Ah, but then there’s spring.  If we’ve made it through those challenging winter months, and if we’ve been nurturing the relationship with our husband, our marriage begins to really bloom again!  The kids are growing up or are already out on their own, and you have some free time available.  You now have time for shared hobbies, shared adventures, shared pursuit of ministry opportunities, shared smiles with the grandchildren.  Spring is a wonderful reward for paying attention to your marriage during the other seasons.  It might include a little rain now and then, but hey, the rain helps bring new life.

If facing marriage difficulties…

It’s so very easy to sink into self-pity, despair or flat-out depression when you become disappointed in your marriage.  It happens when your husband doesn’t have the same perspective as you, or when he doesn’t meet your expectations, or when he does something hurtful. 

However, you do have a choice in how you’re going to view this challenge in your marriage.  You can choose to feel sorry for yourself and become consumed with resentment and hopelessness….or you can choose to do much more productive things!  You can choose to make the most of your hardship by….

1. Praying without ceasing for God to intervene in the situation. (read Luke 18:1-8) 

2. Seeking guidance from God on what possible actions you should take.  Sometimes God may want you to extend grace, realizing that your husband will never be perfect, just as you will never be perfect. Other times, God may want you to courageously establish boundaries with your husband, especially if he is sinning against you.  Consult the Lord for guidance through His Word and through listening prayer. (read Psalm 32:8)

3. Asking God what He wants you to learn through this situation so that you grow in character and faith. (read Romans 5:3-5).  Is he trying to teach you patience?  Is he trying to teach you how to communicate your frustration in a more respectful way when your husband upsets you?  God is always trying to mature us!

4. Seeking God through Bible-reading and worship so that you can experience his comfort at a new and deeper level than you ever knew was possible!  (Psalm 34:18)

How to talk about your husband

It’s actually a really awesome thing when you talk about your husband in public!  Well, it’s really awesome if what you’re sharing is complimentary!  In fact, it’s one of the kindest things you can do for your husband.  Men are wired to crave respect and affirmation.  That’s why God instructs wives in Ephesians 5:33 to respect their husbands.  I saw my husband begin glowing (in a masculine sort of way!) when I affirmed him in front of his friends or our family members.

However, there is a flip side to this business of speaking publicly about your man.  My husband always told me one of the very worst things a wife can do is to disclose some of her husband’s failures, character deficiencies or mistakes in front of other people.  He said when a wife shares her husband’s personal failings, he is absolutely devastated and emasculated.  Don’t emasculate your man! Don’t cross that boundary when speaking about him in front of others! If he begins feeling emasculated, he will likely subconsciously gravitate toward another woman who will build him up instead of tearing him down.

Don’t confide in your relatives

I’ve learned something pivotal over my many years of helping women navigate marriage problems.  In general, don’t share your husband’s faults and failures with your family of origin!  The reason is simple.  Your parents, siblings and grandparents not only love you, but are often overly-protective when it comes to you.   They can’t stand the thought of anyone wounding a member of their family.  Now don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  However, their allegiance to you can often turn into the vilification of your husband!

Allow me to explain.  Once a wife openly shares the faults, failures or sins of her husband with her relatives, he may be forever stained in their eyes.  Many parents and siblings will begin treating the husband as the enemy.  Sometimes, those relatives develop deep resentment toward the husband.  Once those strong feelings have developed, it’s often hard to turn that ship around, even if the husband has repented of wrong-doing!  He will always have a black mark next to his name.

This is what I would suggest doing.  You definitely SHOULD seek advice and wise counsel as you’re working through difficult seasons in your marriage, but, in general, avoid confiding in your relatives.  If you sense that your relatives are quick to forgive and refuse to hold onto resentment, perhaps you can safely confide in them.  Otherwise, seek counsel elsewhere, such as a women’s ministry leader, Christian counselor, or wise older Christian woman in your life.  You need the kind of wisdom described in James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

— or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW

Dealing with husband’s flaws

You may be a wife like me…a wife who is stunned when her husband does or says something that isn’t exactly kind and loving.    To be honest, at some subconscious level, I guess I expected my husband to always make me happy and do the right thing.  In short, I rather expected him to be like Jesus.  I mean, after all, he is a Christian, for heaven’s sake!

Hmmm.  On the other hand, the Bible makes it clear that no human being is perfect.   Psalm 14:3 says, “there is no one who does good, not even one“.   So, perhaps it’s time for both you and me to take our husbands off the hook.  I’m not saying that we should give them a free pass on blatant, destructive sin.  Jesus makes it clear we should confront someone who is truly sinning against us.  You can read his instructions about that in Matthew 18:15-17. 

However, I do believe it’s time we started being gracious to our husbands in terms of looking beyond their minor faults and annoying quirks.  Does he sometimes drive more aggressively than you would like?  Maybe we can be gracious about that (while praying for safety!).  Does he often have a hard time sharing his deep thoughts and feelings?  We can be gracious about that too.  Does he sometimes snap at you when he’s stressed.  That makes him human!  Let’s remember he is a flawed person, just like us!  We’re all a work in progress…in the master’s hands.

Avoid this communication pitfall!

How many times have you muttered to yourself “He should just KNOW!”.  Most wives have muttered this time and time again.  I know I have, and just the other day, my husband and I were counseling a couple where this communication pitfall rose to the surface so clearly.  She needed her husband to romance her a little before physical intimacy and he had no clue!  She started getting resentful.  He most definitely felt her cold shoulder, but was oblivious to the problem!!

Expecting your husband to know what you want and need without clearly telling him…is a common communication pitfall.  Unfortunately, your husband doesn’t just “know” because he doesn’t think like a woman and most men have no idea what a woman wants or needs from her husband.  We can’t assume our husbands know what we want!

Avoiding this communication pitfall is so easy.  As a wife, clearly, concisely, and directly tell your husband what you want. Clearly tell him what you need.  Let him know the specifics as well!  Let me give a simple example.  Let’s say you have company coming over and the house is a mess.  Plus, you’re trying to make a dessert to serve.  So, you’re feeling stressed.  Meanwhile, your husband is oblivious to your inner turmoil. He’s contentedly watching ESPN.  In most cases, the wife would finally say “Hey, can you vacuum the house please?”.  To which the husband says, “sure” and continues watching ESPN.  At this point, the wife blows a gasket in frustration.  Here’s the thing.  She didn’t give him the details of what she was asking for.  Instead of simply asking, “Can you vacuum?”, she needed to say “Can you vacuum right now?”  She needed to clearly spell out what she was asking for and when.

Clear, honest communication is a gift to your husband!  It reminds me of Proverbs 24:26 An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

— or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW

Overcoming fear of confronting him

I have seen so many women wither and die emotionally in their marriages because their husband is engaged in disrespectful or sinful behavior and the wife gives up too easily in terms of confrontation.  (I should know because I was one of those women in my first marriage!)  So why would a wife give up?  I believe it boils down to one main fear.

The wife fears that if she continues to confront the issue, or heaven forbid, draw a serious boundary, her husband may decide to leave her…and in her mind, she will lose what’s supposed to make her happy and secure.  But this is faulty thinking!  Your husband is not a reliable source of happiness.  God is the only one we can depend on for unconditional love, compassion, and security.  If your husband were to leave after you draw a line in the sand, I believe God is big enough to take care of you financially.  I know He is.  Do you trust Him?  Do you believe what He says in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”?

Trust in the One who will never leave your side.  Trust in the One who can provide innovative ways to take care of your financial needs.  Trust in the One who can bring supportive people into your life to stand by you as you draw boundaries.  That One is Jesus.