It’s confusing when someone with so much to live for can’t see a reason to live. It’s jarring to think that someone could be so bright on the outside and so dark on the inside. Yet this is the reality for many people.
This is also the reality for many marriages. On the outside, they seem so strong. On the outside, they have so much going for them. On the outside everything seems so bright. But on the inside they feel so weak. On the inside, they feel so hopeless. On the inside, there’s so much darkness.
How can a marriage end up this way? How does a marriage with so much going for it get to the place where someone wants to end it? What can a marriage learn from a suicide?
As with suicide, there are a variety of reasons marriages become dark and troubled, but the reasons generally fall into one of the following caragories:
- Expectations. This is where we hurt ourselves. We all have expectations for marriage, and for life. Many times, those expectations are unrealistic. We expect our spouse (or something in life) to make us happy, meet our needs, or satisfy us. When these expectations are not met, we get hurt and angry. We assume our spouse is at fault and we try to change them. Eventually we start to realize that the person or thing we thought would fulfill us can’t. At that point, the discouragement can be so intense we decide to end it.
- Hurts. This is where we’re hurt by others. It’s impossible to live this life and not get hurt. We can be hurt by parents. We can be hurt by others like teachers, bosses, strangers, and friends. We can even be hurt by our spouse…the one who’s suppose to love us for better or worse. If not dealt with, these hurts begin to pile up and we can start to feel buried under them. When this happens, we can feel like ending it.
- Hardships. This is where we’re hurt by life. Things happen in marriage that are beyond our control. Job losses, financial reversals, physical illness, mental illness, broken dreams, the death of people we love. Hardships are a part of life, but when the hardships are major or frequent it can lead us to want to give up.
- Fatigue. This is what happens when we feel like we’re continually dealing with expectations, hurts and hardships. Marriage is a lot of work. The demands and pace of life can fatigue any couple. But when you add the extra disappointments of expectations, hurts, and hardships it can feel insurmountable. If we don’t get some support and respite, we can loose the will to keep moving forward.
Now I know that every marriage experiences these things at times, but when a marriage experiences these to a great extent or for a long period of time the marriage can wind up in a dark place.
There are three things you can do when your marriage is struggling and in a dark place. To remember them, think of S.O.S.
- Seek help. If you could fix the struggle in your marriage on your own, you would have already done it. Chances are you’ve tried more than once to make things better and it’s not worked. You need to seek help from a family member, trusted friend, co-worker, pastor, counselor, or God Himself. This is something we can learn from Robin Williams. Despite being at the top of his game, he humbled himself and sought help for his issues. We must drop our pride and seek help when our marriage is struggling and going to a dark place.
- Open up. Robin Williams was open with his struggle with alcohol. He didn’t keep it a secret. We could learn something from this. We have a tendency to hide things from one another. We only want to show the best to people. Consequently, we appear to have everything together. So much so that others may even wish they were like us. But all they see is the outside. They don’t know that the inside is much darker. We need to open up when things aren’t going well. If we would open up about our struggles two things would happen. (1) We would start the process of getting better, and (2) those struggling around us wouldn’t feel so alone.
- Stay a little longer. This was where Robin Williams lost the struggle, and it’s where many marriages loose the struggle. Psychologists tell us that the desire to end one’s life is like a wave. It comes on and swamps a person for a time, but if the person can wait it out (stay a little longer) it will eventually subside. That’s not to say it might not come back, but if you can get through it you will then have the opportunity to do something positive about it. The same could be said for marriage. So often a marriage will end because someone succumbs to the impulse to end it, rather than wait out the impulse and then take positive steps once the impulse is gone. I’m not saying that if your marriage is abusive you should “just hang in there.” If your marriage is abusive, you should protect yourself (and your kids), separate from your spouse, and then take any steps you can to address the abuse and repair the marriage. But if abuse is not a part of what’s going on, don’t jump on an impulse to end the marriage. Wait it out. Stay a little longer. When the impulse subsides, do something about it.
Robin Williams had so much, gave so much, hurt so much, and had so much more to do. The same could be said of your marriage. It’s a tragedy to loose another brilliant comic and actor, but it’s also a tragedy to loose another marriage. Let’s stem the tide.
Have you come through a dark time in life or marriage? Leave a comment and let us know how you made it through.
Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg