My husband and I had only been married a few years. We were still considered newlyweds, yet we felt more like enemies. In that short amount of time, we endured hardships that we were not quite prepared for, leaving us isolated from one another. In just a short time as husband and wife, we experienced intimacy issues, financial issues, and character issues. Becoming one in marriage turned out to be a much greater challenge than I ever imagined.
The Temptation of Divorce
I didn’t realize it going into marriage, but I’d brought with me several expectations of what life would be like as husband and wife. When those expectations weren’t met, I crumbled. I cried, I yelled, I fought for things to unfold my way and on my timeline. With each expectation that was left unmet, bitterness grew in my heart.
By year three, I was convinced that our marriage was going to end. Although I didn’t want to experience the devastation of divorce, I justified it by believing my happiness was more important than staying committed to my vows. I daydreamed about life without my husband, and I desired to pursue a future free from hardship. As a result, I fell deep into fantasyland, longing to be loved like the characters in romance novels. As I turned each page in a book, I craved the same romance I was reading about—all the while my sleeping husband lay in bed next to me. I thought I’d never feel as lonely as I felt in my marriage. The more time that went by during which my husband didn’t fulfill my desires for romance, the greater the chasm between us grew.
I became obsessed with romance novels like Twilight. I fantasized that I was Bella and that Edward loved me. It’s amazing how an emotional connection to a piece of fiction could feel so real. It satisfied me in a way I was not being satisfied in my marriage, but it was counterfeit. It was anything but true intimacy. What I convinced myself was harmless actually influenced my expectations of marriage in a negative way, adding to an already extensive list of ways my husband was not someone I desired to be with any longer. I felt incredibly trapped.
My negative attitude grew at the same rate as the bitterness in my heart, and it came flowing out when I interacted with my husband. I questioned why he didn’t do certain things for me if he really loved me, and I questioned his motives for the things he did do. I believed lies about my husband to justify my hurt so that I would have more reason to leave.
I wish someone would have warned me about the dangers of exposing my heart to entertainment that had the potential to pull me further from my husband. I wish someone had encouraged me to protect my heart and my mind from the temptation of divorce. But since I kept my thoughts and emotions a secret, I put on a smile in front of others and said everything was fine. In reality, however, my husband and I were completely broken.
The Road to Healing
If we had continued on the path we were on, our marriage would have been destroyed, but God had other plans. My husband invited me to a marriage ministry at our church as a last-ditch effort to reconcile our relationship. With a bit of reluctance in my heart, I agreed to go.
It was there in that group of other married couples that we were given the opportunity to be transparent with our struggles. As we openly talked about our difficulties, the other couples helped us navigate the road to healing in our marriage. It was the first time I had experienced people passionately caring about the marriages of others. I felt loved. And it was there that I had a moment of recognition; I realized that my behavior and the expectations I had clung to were hurting my husband. I was finally held accountable for my responsibility as a wife and as a Christian.
I let go of the expectations I had of marriage and, instead, embraced God’s will and all that he would allow me and my husband to endure together. I experienced incredible freedom as the bitterness in my heart receded. As I turned my heart back to God and gained back a passion for our marriage, I found true intimacy and true joy.
Are you clinging to unhealthy or unrealistic expectations for your marriage? Are you exposing yourself to books, movies, or music that may negatively impact your relationship? Let go of those expectations and embrace God’s will for you and your spouse, relying on God no matter what may come!
Jennifer Smith shares more of how she found reconciliation in her marriage in her book The Unveiled Wife. She publishes weekly marriage articles and encouragement, all geared toward empowering and discipling wives, on her blog, UnveiledWife.com. Jennifer and her husband have been married for seven years and currently live in central Oregon with their young son.