In this series, we’re looking at your marriage as if it were a story and what goes into making it a good story that you and others want to read. There are certain elements every marriage needs in order to tell a good story, starting with a good author and two main characters who are playing their parts well.
In a good story, the main characters are in pursuit of something they believe will bring them happiness and fulfillment. But that which the characters seek is never easily achieved. Just as they’re about to get what they want, something happens that thwarts their desire. There’s some sort of set back or defeat that puts what they want just out of their reach.
We’ve said a good author allows the characters to face obstacles because without the problems the characters and the story cannot develop as they need to. That’s why The Wizard of Oz has the wicked witch and the flying monkeys. It’s why The Matrix has agent Smith, and The Grapes of Wrath has the dust bowl and the depression. Without these struggles the stories would be flat and the characters would never be able to become what they were meant to be.
Likewise, every good marriage story will have its share of obstacles and difficulties. A marriage story might include financial difficulties, major illness, infertility, infidelity, struggles with children, struggles with parents, cooling courtesies, absent passion, dented trust…and the list goes on.
The presences of such obstacles is not necessarily an indicator of a bad marriage or a bad author. Obstacles can be an opportunity for the main characters to grow into everything they were intended to be. It just doesn’t feel that way at the time.
So when your marriage story is facing obstacles that seem to put what you desire out of reach, what can you do to make your marriage story better? Here are some suggestions…
- Don’t take it personally. When obstacles and difficulties pop up in life, it can feel as if someone has it out for us and is trying to intentionally stop us from getting what we want. More often than not, this is not the case. Everyone has obstacles and difficulties woven into the fabric of their story, so don’t take it personally. It’s just the story of life.
- Trust the author. You have got to be able to trust that the author of your story knows what he’s doing. This is why your view of who is authoring your story is so important. It’s also why, as a person of faith, I choose to view God as the author of my story. I feel He’s more consistent and dependable than family, friends, society, and even myself.
- Draw close to your spouse. It’s so easy for spouses to pull apart in times of difficulty, because both are hurting. In times of difficulties, spouses tend to draw in on themselves and away from each other. But that winds up weakening the marriage, rather than strengthening it. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (ESV). You will always have a better chance of overcoming the obstacles by drawing close to your spouse rather than pulling away from them.
- Remember, this is just a chapter in the story and not the whole story. It’s not easy to remember this when the obstacle is right there, staring you in the face. But if all you do is focus on the obstacle, the tunnel vision will suck you into a black hole of despair. The difficulty you face may be serious, but it’s not the only thing in your story. Your story is broader and longer than just that one thing. You will eventually move out of this difficult chapter and on to better parts of the story.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- “What do I need to learn from this?”
- “How can I grow through this?”
- If I were reading this in a book, or watching it in a movie, what would I want the hero to do?”
- “After I’m gone, what would I want my friends and family to say about how I faced this struggle?”
- Do the difficult thing, rather than the easy thing. Unfortunately, the right thing to do is rarely the easy thing to do. If it were, then Jack would never have climbed up the bean stalk. He would have stayed on the ground and left well enough alone. What you need to do to overcome the obstacle will probably be difficult. Don’t let that stop you. Lean into it and do the hard thing that will make for a better story.
There’s an old saying…”Difficulties will either make you bitter or better.” This is true for marriage as well.
Like it or not, the obstacles and difficulties in your marriage story are a way to make the story stronger and sweeter, but whether or not that happens will depend on how you respond to the obstacles. Will you curse the author, run from the problem, or play your part well?
Here’s a side note: You don’t have to do this alone. You can get some help. More on that in the next post.
Think about an obstacle or struggle you’re currently facing in your marriage, then try working through the steps above. I would love it if you would leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post or on working through the steps.
Copyright © 2016 Bret Legg