What’s the hardest challenge in your marriage?
Think about that question for a minute. Your answer says a lot about the current state of your relationship.
For my wife Ashley and me, the answer to that question has changed through the different seasons of our marriage. At one point it was financial stress. At another point, it was managing complex family dynamics. At different points in marriage, we’ve wrestled with cross-country moves, depression, debt, parenting stress, work stress, health issues and many other challenges along the way.
I’ve come to realize that struggles are always a part of marriage, because struggles are always a part of life, but how you choose to face those struggles will have a tremendous impact on the health of your marriage. I had a conversation with a man at church yesterday, and he’s been married for fifty years. His words profoundly changed my perspective on struggles in marriage.
He and his wife have walked through many struggles and many seasons of life in their half-century together. Their current struggles include a move from their hometown to be closer to family and a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s in his wife. Watching her battle dementia and lose her memories has clearly been one of the greatest struggles in their marriage, but apparently, not his “biggest struggle.”
His wife was on a weekend trip with their daughter spending some “girl time” together. I asked him how he’s been doing, and he said, “Honestly, I’m not doing so well.”I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought to myself, “Of course you’re not! You are in a new town trying to learn a new routine and you are having to watch your wife slowly lose her memories and her personality through the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s. Nobody in your shoes would be doing well.”
What he said next left me speechless. When he was talking about why he was having such a hard time, his struggles had nothing to do with the factors I thought he meant.
He said, “I’m having such a hard time, because I’ve never been apart from her this long before. I’ve never gone two days in a row without seeing her. I can’t wait until she gets home tomorrow!”
Fifty years together, and they’d never been apart for a 48-hour period. While so many couples seem to try and invent ways to escape from each other, this man and his wife and created a relationship that neither spouse ever wanted to “escape.” In fact, even the thought of being apart left him feeling sick.
This temporary distance, not the Alzheimer’s or anything else, was his current greatest struggle in marriage. His perspective was an inspiring reminder to me that a marriage isn’t defined by the size of your struggles, but by the size of your commitment to overcome those struggles together.
He felt he could face anything with his bride by his side and their united faith in God and faith in each other. No matter what life throws your way, your marriage will be able to survive any storm if you face it hand-in-hand and side-by-side with your spouse. Never give up on each other!
For more tools to build a rock-solid marriage, check out my bestselling book iVow: Secrets to a Stronger Marriage and our brand new iVow online, interactie marriage course (by clicking here).
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