Last week and today I have been substituting for Social Studies, which has meant a lot of U.S. History. I’ve (re)learned a lot about WWI, when trench warfare became a thing. I think I can appreciate the phrase “In the trenches” a bit more now that I have heard a lot about what it was like. Frigid winters, not much to eat, nothing homey, and that’s not even to mention “trench-foot”. Basically, it’s difficult and not at all fun.
Sometimes marriage can be the same way. We can be shot at and wounded. If anyone sees this marriage thing through to the end, you deserve a marriage purple heart because there’s no way you never got hurt. But here’s the kicker: Marriage is something we have to fight for. It takes you and your spouse in combat against everything that would threaten the health of your relationship: stress, difficult circumstances, selfishness, the enemy, tiredness…basically just life in general. It takes deliberate, intentional action on our parts to fight off the bandit that would steal the joy and emotional intimacy from you both.
As far as conflict goes, I’m not going to tell you that I’m necessarily a fan. BUT after about two and a half years of marriage, I have definitely come to appreciate conflict for what it can do for our relationship. See, every time David and I disagree about something, it’s an opportunity for us to jump down into the trench together and figure out how to end the conflict with as few casualties as possible. It’s an opportunity to band together and fight our common enemy.
That’s the thing about marriage. It may seem like the enemy is your spouse, but friends! That’s such a lie! The enemy is whatever is threatening your closeness. Your spouse is your ally! You are on the SAME team, whether or not it really feels like it in the moment. Something David and I have learned to remind each other in the midst of strife is that our goals are the same, even if we each see the means of reaching those goals differently. We’re not in opposition on the outcome that we want at all!
Here’s an example–>
When we do our budget sometimes we disagree about how much money to budget for things we might need to buy for the month. I’m basically always in the camp that says “Let’s go ahead and budget for it so that if it comes up before the month is over, we’re prepared! And if it doesn’t then we didn’t spend that money and it can go to paying off student loans.” David usually shares his thought of, “But I don’t want to plan to spend it when it could go to debt.” Both of our goals are to put all the extra we have toward paying off student loans until we don’t have student loans anymore. (We’re ready to kick Sally Mae to the curb, as Dave Ramsey would say.)
Sometimes the way we each perceive the method of getting to the same goal is different. That’s okay! God created us with different brains! Each of us has different gifts–which really, really comes in handy, btw–because we’re meant to compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s basically the point of marriage, I think; that we’re better together than we are apart.
The nice thing about a lot of our quarrels is that when we do figure out what the problem is (problems like ‘Why do I feel unloved? What caused this argument to happen? Why am I being disrespectful toward him? And how can we fix it??’), we have probed even deeper into who we each are and we can see patterns of how we relate to each other. We can understand not only what makes our spouse tic, but also who we are ourselves in the deepest of our core. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about myself in the last two and a half years!
But let’s get real. The stinky part is that we have to spend some time in the trenches battling it out, and that can be downright brutal. It can be devastating. Sometimes you might feel like your spouse has launched a grenade (or several) at you and you’ve barely escaped with your life every time. And maybe they have because they’ve forgotten that you are not their foe. It’s okay to gently remind them that you’re after the same things.
Aren’t you both striving for love? Don’t you both desire harmony? Peace and joy in your relationship? Don’t you (deep down, at least) want what’s best for each other? Don’t you both want to reach common ground? Is it important to you to find a solution to whatever problem has presented itself? Don’t you want to make it through to the other side together? Do you desire growth as individuals and in your relationship?
My guess is that you want these things. I know I do. Even in the midst of a power struggle, I couldn’t imagine wanting anything less than the very best for my husband. Remember, you’re in the trench together. You’re fighting for each other, not against.
Every time you disagree, I challenge you to look at it as an opportunity to dig a little deeper together. When you approach it this way, my guess is that when you get there, you’ll be a stronger team on the other side. Hang in there. It’s for a purpose. God is using these moments to sanctify you, which (at least partially) fulfills the promise that He gives in Romans 8:28. God desires your good! And He deeply desires good for your marriage. Lean into these moments, knowing that they can only make you stronger and better together.
Oh, friends! It’s not always easy or fun, but, oh is it good.
Do you have difficult times you can look back on and see how it brought you closer? Is it a comfort to you to know that you and your spouse don’t have to be on different teams? Are you in the midst of turmoil right now? How can I encourage you?
These are some of the deepest thoughts I’ve had about life, even if that doesn’t come across in my words. I care so deeply about my marriage of course, but also about marriage in general. It is a gift from God. I sincerely hope you and your spouse are learning and growing together and that life only gets more and more sweet because of your tenderness towards one another.
With deep, deep love and compassion,