If I’m honest, marriage isn’t what I expected. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a lot about it I love, but it is much more challenging than I ever imagined. My husband, Greg, and I became “stuck” pretty fast when it came to working through our differences and handling conflict (just like our premarital assessment had predicted and we never in a million years thought could possibly be accurate). And, after 13 months of marriage, we learned that we were expecting our first child.
Knowing that our marriage relationship was far from being where we desired it to be, we realized our wake-up call had come. We knew it was time to grow up and get some help if we were going to be the type of parents we had always dreamt of being. We knew things had to change—we had to learn how to handle communication and conflict in a more civil manner. It meant being vulnerable and seeking out the help of a marriage counselor and a mentor couple to walk through these roadblocks with us. Our marriage was about to change and so were we.
As the months passed (and my belly continued to grow), we met weekly with our counselor. We devoured anything we could find on marriage. Slowly, we began to change individually, and we began to see a very slow and steady difference in our marriage. Before we knew it, the day came, and I called Greg from the hospital, where I’d just finished my last shift as a labor and delivery nurse, to let him know that I was feeling some contractions. A mere 48 hours later, we sat in the same hospital holding our beautiful baby girl. The minute I held her, I knew I wanted to provide the very best for her. And that included loving her daddy and continuing to strengthen our marriage relationship.
As new parents to our little Taylor (who is now 23 years old and married), we experienced many types of changes—sleepless nights, managing the new baby schedule, getting through graduate school—but one of the greatest changes came in our marriage. We realized that we had successfully navigated our first of many difficult chapters in our story as husband and wife. In fact, we began to see that our little family was “pretty good together,” and as we now approach our 25th wedding anniversary, we love to help other couples walk through the peaks and valleys of their marriages.
If you are currently in a challenging season of your marriage like we were early on, here are four courageous things you can do:
1. Recognize that you will go through different seasons in your marriage—the mountaintop experiences as well as the valleys. Even through the difficult seasons, there is always something to learn about yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.
2. Don’t go at it alone! Seek the help of a licensed professional counselor and/or a mentor couple. Seek out friends who will stand with you during challenging times and will encourage you toward your marriage—not away from it. You can call 1-800-A-FAMILY to get a referral for a counselor in your area.
3. Show up in your marriage as a healthy individual. Two healthy individuals make up a healthy marriage. This means that you must make sure you are well cared for emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. This includes getting enough sleep, eating well, learning to manage your emotions, and making sure you are continuing to grow spiritually and intellectually.
4. Make sure to look back and reminisce! Looking back and remembering what your story entails can have a powerful, positive influence on your marriage. It’s amazing to recognize that “you’re pretty good together!”
After working through several of the more difficult seasons, I can promise you one thing—being courageous and fighting for your marriage and family is worth it. Keep your eyes open for the blessing on the other side.