A Marriage Worth Fighting For

Somewhere along the way, my wife and I let someone else define what our marriage should look like. Those one-size-fits-all definitions created dramatic expectations that grew from a seed of hope into a weed of perfection that threatened to choke out the possibility of us ever bearing fruit. I was conditioned to believe that if every dish was cleaned, if every meal was cooked, if every bill was paid, then we would have a great marriage. On the other hand, my wife expected me to pursue her, to provide for her, and to rescue her—to become her knight in shining armor.

Those expectations were both unrealistic and impossible, a fantasy at best. Inadvertently marriage became something we did instead of something we were—a list of compliant duties to keep the other party happy. But when expectations are left unfulfilled, it leads to a shattered heart. And to avoid the pain, we broaden our expectations as a way to cope. Pretty soon, we generalize what a “normal” marriage looks like because our marriage is so far from everything we hope it would be. This culturally accepted, watered-down version of marriage is at best, survival.

In reality, a great marriage is a lot like going to war. You can train as much as you want, but nothing can prepare you for the battlefield.

Instead of giving in to the seven-year itch or irreconcilable differences, it’s time for us to fight for our marriages. We have to stick our collective flag in the sand and live for something more than survival.

Marriage is Hard

The quintessential words spoken on the altar at most weddings were penned by the Apostle Paul: “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) But what Paul should have added is, love is hard.

Western Christian culture has created this notion that love and marriage are a beautiful, God-Ordained adventure. They are. But what they fail to teach or what we’re unwilling to accept is that every beautiful, God-Ordained adventure is going to be difficult. Fantasize it as much as you’d like, but the path to the promised land isn’t a freshly paved freeway, it’s more like an unpaved back road through God’s untamed wilderness.

I’d love to say that the promises between my wife and I remain unbroken, but they don’t. I’ve had every opportunity to choose the vows I took, but in the end, I’ve chosen selfishness, impatience, envy, and pride instead. But just because the world says, “Oh, that’s normal,” doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t give me an excuse to stop fighting.

There comes a point in every marriage when you’re weary and don’t want to fight any more. You want to surrender, you want to quit, you want to scream, this isn’t what I signed up for. When you reach the point where you think your marriage isn’t worth fighting for, remember who defined it.

I remember that moment for us.

Choosing to Fight

In the Fall of 2009, my wife and I had endured more than two years of infertility treatments in hopes of starting a family. But our well-intended efforts led to a dead-end. After another unsuccessful attempt, the doctors determined that my wife’s body was rejecting me. Internally, at the cellular level, we were incompatible.

Indescribable heartache followed and we almost threw in the towel. But in the midst of that moment, we chose something else. We chose to believe that God had something more for us. When the world said it was okay to give up, we chose to fight for each other and for what we believed about God.

Seven years later, we have four beautiful children born in the face of incompatibility, our marriage has been strengthened on the battlefield of experience, and I’m deeply grateful for every bump in the unpaved back road that is us. Our marriage and our family is a testimony of a God who proves Himself faithful if we’re willing to trust Him at His word.

It’s only when our expectations meet disappointment that it forces us to trust in something greater than ourselves. And that’s why everyone’s story looks different. It’s when you let God define your marriage, that it becomes your own. Then, you get to fight for what He says about it instead of comparing yourself with the rest of the world.

No matter what your marriage looks like, that choice is yours. Even when the circumstances are far from what you hope for, you still have the choice to fight.

I’ve yet to encounter a hopeless situation when someone resolves to fight for something they believe in. That’s what the real journey of faith is about. Because fighting sparks hope and hope produces love.

Liz and I chose to fight for our marriage and that’s what makes it great. From here forward it won’t be perfect, but we will choose faith, hope, and love. Earlier I said love is hard, and it is. But it’s worth it.

Because like Paul said, “Love never fails.”

So what are you fighting for?

MH

 

About the Author

headshot-footerMatt Ham is an author, speaker, and storyteller who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife, Liz, their three sons, and daughter.

Matt’s first book, Redefine Rich, is a story of discovering a deeper, more fulfilling life while juggling faith, family, and career. Redefine Rich is available in both Kindle and paperback on Amazon: here. Purchase a limited edition hardback at www.redefinerich.com.

Matt is also the co-founder of YouPrint, a faith development organization that helps Christians bridge the gap between Sundays. For more, visit www.youprint.life.

Connect with Matt and inquire about speaking opportunities at www.mattham.com/speaking

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  • Elise

    What a great post! Definitely something I needed to read today.

    Thanks, Matt!

    • Thanks for sharing Elise. Keep up the good fight!!

  • Beth

    Beautiful post. Marriage is so worth the fight and I’m so grateful my husband and I kept and keep fighting. Love really does conquer all. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m grateful a friend shared your post and I found my way here.

    • AMEN! Beth I’m so glad you stopped by – I love new visitors! Thanks for fighting.

  • In our 13 years of marriage, my husband and I have lived the full meaning of our vows. We’ve made it through cancer, back problems, being broke and having money. Our marriage is stronger than ever. We keep fighting for it together, every minute of every day. It’s us against the rest of the world, no matter what they throw at us.

    • Kristin what a testimony to be so proud of!! Remember Jesus told us that he has overcome the world!!

  • Matt (and Mrs. Matt) I am so happy, so proud… so humbled by your post today!!
    This is so incredibly beautiful. And so what I hope our Father has in store for me someday. God, please, continue to bless you both. Happy Anniversary and please never stop fighting for each other and praying together.

    • Hey Amber!! It’s so great to see you back! I so enjoyed your insight, but I lost all of my WordPress friends when I switched to self-hosted. Regardless, its great to see you and great to have your encouragement!

      • Oh! You haven’t lost me- I am here and always reading (was actually wondering why I hadn’t gotten a post in a little bit just yesterday!)- I am super busy and stressed over the ramifications of following through with “Be Fearless”. I am getting ready to launch a fundraiser that means everything to me. (April 23rd) It is very scary, very important and at times, I feel as if it is just me. (sigh)
        OH! When I feel like that I say a prayer, pull out my notes and Bible and immerse myself in His Word and Glory… I am almost always stronger for it and even when I still feel small and scared, I KNOW what I am doing is not just Fearless, but right.
        But! Don’t think you’ve lost me ~ LOL, I am right here, listening and learning and becoming stronger for knowing you.

        • Amber – so encouraging to open up the Word and see truth. Continue to chase fearless!

  • So true! We started a 5 night a week study called 7 Minute Marriage Solution Devotional Bible by Steve Arterburn – been transforming. Short enough to not feel overwhelmed and it opens the door for discussion and prayer.

    • Robby that’s a great way of fighting! Keeping it in front of your and surrounding yourself with encouragement!

  • Awesome stuff Matt!!! Could not have said it better myself… The whole desire vs expectation thing is so subtle, yet can be so devastating in marriage… Keep up the fight! Looking forward to hanging out some this spring/summer.

    • Likewise Chad! Very subtle indeed – always at war for our affection.

  • Great post, Matt! I was surprised about how unprepared I was, despite thinking I had it all figured out.

    • Thanks Nick! Right up your alley brother. This could have been a confessions blog. Thanks for fighting!

  • Loved the post Matt. Loved how you talked about not even being aware of what you were getting into and not fully understanding it at 23. I’m sure this post will resonate with many. You’re also right about how you have to fight for your marriage. Some people are not willing to do it. And some people are, but their mates are not.

    • Thanks Anne! It’s a constant battle that we need to expect and prepare to fight. Often times it seems easier to quit fighting which is just what the enemy wants. A surrender.

  • Michele Carla

    Matt, you are a very wise man. Love the post, your honesty, and guidance, and the truth about it being ‘hard’. You and Liz are very blessed to have each other. There are men twice your age who still haven’t, and unfortunately may never. Both parties need to be truthful, open, and honest not just with their spouse, but with themselves. And your three practical tips, awesome! Congrats to you and Liz, and your beautiful children who are reaping the rewards as well! Keep up the great work!

    • Michele – I call it borrowed wisdom from those around me – much older and much wiser! You’re absolutely right that it does take two-way communication. As long as we can continue to learn through the struggle and not settle for normal!

      PS – I hope you were able to get the book!

  • Fantastic read, especially as Ron and I approach our 15th anniversary (on 4/29). We have faced trial after trial, loss after loss, and so many struggles in those 15 years – but we keep on fighting because it marriage is worth fighting for. When people year our story – the whole story – they look at us dumbfounded and ask how it is that we lasted through it all. I could very easily just say “I have no idea.” but that would be wrong. It’s all God. He gives strength in the most seemingly impossible situations. He gives hope, endurance, strength, wisdom – everything we need to persevere.

    • Congrats on fifteen, Sarah. You and Ron have an amazing testimony of fighting that in inspiring to me. His strength is clearly present. I hope you guys are doing well!

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  • Missy Gregg-Bailey

    Love this!!!! Yes! Keep fighting ?

    • Thanks, Missy. I needed the reminder and felt like someone else might as well.

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