August 17, 2017

Trading Partners, Trading Problems

Gary Thomas — 

I woke up at 4:20 a.m. this morning for the “privilege” of running in 81 degree heat with ninety percent humidity. It was awful. August can certainly be a challenge for Houston runners.

That’s why, a few weeks ago, I was excited to run in Albuquerque. Lisa and I flew in a day early for a pastors’ conference in part so I could enjoy running in a dry climate. I went out for a ten-miler the first morning, excited that, even though it was still kind of hot (around eighty), the humidity was only thirteen percent.

The last time Houston had thirteen percent humidity, baby Moses was floating down a river in Egypt.

Since it was only ten miles with low humidity, I thought I could get by with a small bottle of Gatorade, but that clearly wasn’t enough. I was seriously hurting toward the end of the run and couldn’t figure out why. Lisa had gone biking and felt the same way. We didn’t recover very quickly, either, which concerned me as I was scheduled to speak that evening.

“What’s wrong with me?” I asked. “This should have felt like an easy run.”

Later that evening, one of the organizers asked about our day. Lisa told him about my run and he said, “You do know Albuquerque is a mile high city, don’t you?”

“No, I didn’t know that,” I replied, not wanting to admit that the only thing I did know about Albuquerque is that the Partridge Family turned it into a killer song in 1970.  (

“We’re actually just a touch higher than Denver,” he added.

Given that my house in Houston is literally just thirty-two feet above sea level, I figured out why that ten mile run felt so difficult. I thought Albuquerque would be easier to run in than Houston because of the lack of humidity. I didn’t even consider altitude.

The same principle applies in marriage. If you think leaving the problems in one marriage will make you happier in a second marriage, you lack a biblical understanding of human nature. The second marriage will have its own set of problems, just different ones.

James 3:2 says we all stumble in many ways. According to the Bible, trading partners is merely trading problems. Yes, if you leave your husband you may be free of his passivity, but you may also wake up to discover that husband number two can seem a little controlling or embarrassingly confrontational. Yeah, your wife’s care free attitude might seem a little tiresome at times when she forgets to do things she’s agreed to do, but wife number two has a number of other issues just waiting for you to discover on the other side of the marriage altar.

I was so focused on getting away from humidity I didn’t even think about altitude. And in marriage, you can get so focused on a frustrating character trait that you become all but blind to the potential problems inherent in marrying an entirely different spouse. Which explains God’s wisdom that, absent abuse or persistent unfaithfulness (which goes far beyond being a “problem”), you’re best to stay where you are and learn how to manage it or, if necessary, even to endure it.

I can’t manage running in humidity. I could dress for all kinds of rain in Seattle; it’s not possible to “dress” for humidity. Clothes only make it worse. Some things, for some seasons, have to be endured. But come November, when my Seattle friends have running shoes that haven’t been dry since Labor Day, I’ll be enjoying carefree afternoon jaunts in a gentle sixty degree climate. In the same way, don’t let a spouse’s few challenges blind you to their benefits—benefits a new spouse may well lack.

There’s no perfect fit, no perfect spouse, and no perfect marriage. But there are a lot of great marriages and great spouses that get even better with time. Your best chance for happiness is to stay where you are, learn how to manage your partner’s weaknesses, keep reminding yourself of his/her strengths, and live a full life based on Matthew 6:33. That’s a much surer path to spiritual health and happiness than to go through the crucible of divorce only to marry an entirely different set of problems with spouse number two.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

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16 responses to Trading Partners, Trading Problems

  1. Thank yon for this truth. A personal friend did the same; she and her husband separated, reconciled, and unfortunately divorced. She was engaged to be married, but that didn’t happen. Met another suitor, quickly engaged and were set to have a decked out wedding (we sometimes think if we get the event we always wanted, vs. The one we had as well…). En route to the big day, people around her saw the struggles, some of her same behaviors (from the 1st marriage) appeared, I suggested biblical counseling, not sure if she got it. They married, huge event, and unfortunately in their first year, we discovered she wasn’t happy and allegedly attempted to hurt herself because of the unhappiness. A Pastor once said the grass is greener on the other side…because it’s astroturf! Marriage is the great revealer of our own problems and those of our spouse and I’ve found that only submitting to HIM has helped me escape mine and find out my role with hers. It’s a marathon, not a sprint…plus somebody may be less patient with me and my baggage LOL!

  2. For 25 years, my husband traded me for anonymous women online. I learned of everything on Easter morning. I am trading him for Christ.

  3. Merry Beth Anderson August 17, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Here is how I’d sum up your wonderful, very true article: “The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but it still has to be mowed!”🤣

  4. 100% Biblical truth and accurate.

  5. Thanks Gary!!! Great analogy. And, can’t wait for cooler temperatures to run in Houston. You are such a great author and marriage counselor. I enjoy your blogs each day.

  6. Excellent analogy. I have had many divorced friends state exactly what you are saying here. In the wisdom of their hindsight, they say a new marriage just comes with new problems once limerance fades. The other key to finding harmony, besides giving your spouse some grace, is to point the finger at yourself and figure out how to change that. Thanks for this, Gary!

    • Bonny, thanks for adding that. I’ve heard similar testimonies. I pray God will lead someone to your words to gain a new perspective before they flee

    • Bonny, you’re spot on with the limerance reference. My wife is in that space at the moment. Doesn’t want to admit her affair, because she knows it’s wrong.. but to her it feels so good! Once she completes the divorce, I wonder how long it will take for the new partner to present new problems.
      Thanks Gary for your insight.

    • I totally agree with you, Bonny!

  7. Hi Gary – I always read your posts with interest. But I also tend to come away with the question, each time: Is it worth the hassle to get involved with another woman? (my wife of 25 years left for ‘another set of problems’ about 2 yeas ago) I don’t really answer the question. But it tends to produce a certain amount of lethargy, I guess. Maybe I found a title for your next post? Marriage: Is It Worth the Hassle? 🙂

  8. “Why trade the fool you’ve got for the one you don’t know?”

    I think I heard that in a country song long ago. I don’t remember the source, but the quote has stuck with me. 😀