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?
About the Author
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.
Connect with Matt and inquire about speaking opportunities at www.mattham.com/speaking