A Heartbreaking Anniversary

What follows is a different type of post than I usually write. It’s less professional and more personal, so please forgive me if I take off my counseling hat for a moment and bare my soul.

The Anniversary

Last week my wife and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. Let me clarify upfront…that’s not the heartbreaking part! We’ve been together a total of 45 years and she’s still my best friend. I wouldn’t want to do life with anyone else, and hopefully, we’ll be chasing each other around the nursing home someday.

The Heartbreak

So what made it so heartbreaking? Was it the health issues we currently face? Was it the personal family things we’re currently walking through?

None of these led to my heartbreak. Though they’re not fun, they’re just a part of life, and the further down the road you travel, the more apt you are to hit some rough roads.

What broke my heart was that at the same time as our upcoming anniversary, I received word of four different marriages that were headed for divorce.

These were not rookie couples. They were couples with kids who had been married for over 10 years. They were couples who appeared to have promise and hope. They were couples with whom I had some sort of connection. And they were couples who were capable of rising above their issues and going on to have a great marriage together. But, for some reason, one or both spouses decided the marriage needed to end.

The Reality

I don’t want to minimize or trivialize the struggles they were facing. When you’re in the midst of such struggles, it’s easy to feel that things are insurmountable. Nor do I want to minimize or trivialize the efforts of those spouses who did everything they could do to keep their marriage together. Some of these spouses worked incredibly hard to save their marriage. But, as I’ve said before, marriage is a dance between two people. And sometimes you just can’t make your dance partner want to dance.

You might be thinking, “You’ve done marriage counseling for close to 30 years. You should be used to this by now.” But I’ve never been able to get used to divorce. (And I hope I never do.) No one dreams of being divorced. So to watch a couple who once vowed “till death do we part” wind up dividing property and kids because they believe they can’t make it work still breaks my heart.

Divorces will happen. We live in a complicated and messy world with complicated and messy people. Sometimes…

  • The hurt is too deep.
  • The personalities are too fixed and rigid.
  • The issues have been left unattended for too long.
  • The trust is too damaged.

I still want to believe that every hurting marriage can be restored. But sometimes divorce is just going to happen, no matter how hard you try.

The Plea

So, out of my heartbreak, I want to plead with you. Whether you‘ve been married for 2 or 42 years…

  • Don’t sweep things under the rug. Talk about them sooner rather than later.
  • Don’t ignore your spouse’s needs. If you can, meet those needs more often than not.
  • Don’t let yourselves drift apart, even in the hard seasons of marriage. Fight against that.
  • Don’t let legitimate responsibilities take priority over your most important responsibility…your spouse.
  • Don’t compare your marriage with others. Instead, focus on being the best couple you can be.
  • Don’t take things too personally. Not everything is about you. Sometimes it’s about them.
  • Don’t die on every hill. Some hills are just too small to die on.
  • Don’t let pride or embarrassment keep you from getting help when you need it. A happy marriage is worth anything.

Will these things insure that you’ll never go through a divorce? No. These things are investments, and occasionally the investment may not pay off. But doing these things will greatly improve the probability of avoiding divorce and of making the most out of your life together.

And to my wife: Thank you for sticking it out with me for the last 42 years…and not smothering me in my sleep! I owe you!