From Gary: Megan Raines and her husband thought their marriage was at an end. They even began speaking the “divorce” word. The path they found out of this malaise isn’t all that original, but their story is as helpful and practical as it is inspirational, and I believe it would work for many, many couples. If you or some couple you know has fallen into a downward drift, you might find Megan’s advice helpful. Here’s her story: (she also can be found on her blog)
Two years ago my marriage was failing. To say it was shaky or rocky doesn’t even come close. It was literally falling apart day by day.
Living in the same house but barely speaking.
Simple questions turning into intense yelling matches.
Zero intimacy physically or emotionally.
Sleeping in separate rooms.
This was not how I was raised to view marriage, nor did I ever believe it would happen to me.
Then it happened. The big “D” word, “divorce,” was thrown out there. Both of us were so miserable we were actually considering it. Neither of us believed in it, but we didn’t see any better option. We thought what the world tells us must be true: “Get out while you still can.”
Then we found out we were pregnant with our second child. We hadn’t been intimate in months, but, apparently, one time (that seemed so long ago) was all it took. Clearly, God had other plans. This baby would be the beginning to a greater plan God had for us and our marriage.
Things didn’t immediately get better. In fact, they got worse. For a while I hated being pregnant. I felt as though I was now “stuck” with him. Those feelings and my actions towards him in turn only made him angry and dislike me more. But we knew for the sake of our children we needed to figure something out. We had officially arrived at the point where “the rubber meets the road.”
Where did our “marriage recovery” start?
First, it began with prayer. We spent so much time alone and together in prayer, daily seeking the Lord’s will for both of us as a couple, for us as parents, and for us as individuals.
Next, it carried forward with communication. We started trying to communicate better and to resolve issues differently than before. I learned how the way I chose to respond to him would influence his reaction, which would ultimately be the deciding factor on the next five minutes of either laughing at our dumb disagreement or blowing up into a yelling match. And he in turn was doing the same with his responses.
Three, we started receiving godly counsel. I began seeing a counselor for myself. Fighting the battle of fixing our marriage, being a stay at home mom, and the emotions of being pregnant followed by post-partum issues and dealing with some other family problems on my side of the family, I knew I needed someone other than my husband or friends to talk to. It made a world of difference. The counselor just listened. And because they were Christian, they could scripturally give me advice without telling me what I needed to do or didn’t need to do. The best advice I ever got was, “the most important thing you can give your kids isn’t a perfect marriage, it’s a healthy mom.” I needed to work on ME. So that’s what I did. And boy did we ever see a change in things once I did. (Due to his work schedule my husband wasn’t able to see someone but he spoke often with an accountability partner on the phone and he was making changes, too).
Four, We bought some couple devotions and got in the Word together. It was so helpful to have something that he and I could do together at night before bed, in the quiet of our bedroom, free from any disturbance. They really helped. One of them each night had us both getting very deep and open with one another. We had to ask questions and answer them with painful honesty. Walls were coming down and God was healing our marriage.
Five, and this is a big one—I stumbled upon an amazing book, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. This book changed our marriage radically. It opened our eyes to how much trials and stumbling blocks and disagreements could actually make our weak areas stronger and actually draw us closer to God and make us more Christ-like. We began to take a completely different approach to how we worked apart and as a couple. I’m not saying that book is for everyone, but finding material that fits your situation and can help that is scripturally based is a huge tool!
Fast forward two years, and where are we at today?
Well we are STILL together, happily married. In fact we are more in love with not just one another than ever, but also God. As we both dove deeper into knowing Him, and growing in Him, we began doing the same with one another. The “triangle” theory was actually becoming truth. “As two move closer to God apart they move closer together.” I have never loved someone so much in my life. He is the man of my dreams and my helpmate. Does this mean everything is perfect? By no means, but it does means we now have a healthier, godly approach to our differences or “bad days” (which are now very far and few between, praise the Lord) instead of the worldly “dump and run away” approach.
We are also working towards a ministry together as well as both of us having our own ministries and callings, and both have a heart to help other couples never get to where we got, and if they are already there, help them get through it.
And that precious baby? Well we found out she was a girl, and after much prayer named her Cadia. Her name is from Arcadia which means -“place of peace; place where fears and trials are released.” And she did just that. That little baby girl changed our marriage for the better, and she is such a special edition to our lives! I no longer am bitter, but instead praise God daily for the pregnancy which began the road to save my marriage. God knew what he was doing with that little girl. In fact he was probably laughing to himself the day we found out we were pregnant. Big smile on his face! His sense of humor no longer surprises me. I embrace it.
Now for you, I encourage you, when the waters get rough, and they will, because that’s life, don’t run away from each other, don’t hide, don’t shut down.
Instead run to God. Open yourself up to one another and to Him. I have learned that nine times out of ten it’s not actually my spouse that I’m annoyed or upset with. It’s actually a deeper issue that needs to be resolved between me and myself or me and God, and something my husband says or does just becomes “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
And my most important, last suggestion? PRAY. Pray like your life and marriage depends on it, because oddly enough, they do! The road may be long and bumpy, but when you get to the other side and can step back and look at all God did and will continue doing, all those bumps are so worth it. This is a new year and one of my resolutions was to discover new ways to love and adore and bless my husband, because I want to be 60 and still finding out something new every day about him and still falling madly in love with him day after day!
May the Lord greatly bless you, and bless your marriage as you begin your journey to restoration! And when the waters seem too rough, remember…you have a life raft. Jesus Christ. And with one word, he can calm the seas. “Peace.” Trust me: that’s exactly where you want to be, in his perfect PEACE.
(Note: If you’d like to start Megan’s Step 4 and start reading a devotional together, two options are Gary Thomas’s Devotions for a Sacred Marriage and Rebecca Wilke’s New Beginnings, both of which are designed for married couples to read together.)