Desperate Marriage Myth #1

For Lauren, Forlorn

Recently I conducted a survey here at Messy Marriage and I can tell from the responses that many of you are in desperate situations and don’t know what to do about your marriage. It’s important to recognize four myths identified by Gary Chapman in his book, Desperate Marriages that often surface in our thinking when we face prolonged pain and hopelessness in marriage and life.

In the days and weeks to come I will address each of the four myths, but for today I will be focusing on the first of the four …

My environment determines my state of mind.

If you’re in a desperate situation you probably recognize the powerful pull to let your environment dictate your feelings and thoughts. The reason it’s so important to recognize this myth is because it can make the difference between surviving a desperate time in marriage and thriving despite it.

You might wonder how you can “thrive” in a painful, desperate time?

With God’s help we can!

I’m in no way trying to say that finding the joy in the pain is easy. For me, when I was facing desperate days in my marriage, there were many days that I chose to focus on my circumstances or on my inability to control my spouse. Given time and repetition these helpless and negative thoughts caused a downward spiral, eventually “defining” my feelings and my perception of reality.

But God began to teach me to take my eyes off my abilities and off the chaotic and hopeless circumstances and focus instead on Him the Holder of all Hope.

When I was able to shift and maintain my focus on Him even in the middle of the storm, I felt His power and comfort lifting me up above the “waves.” Yes, it was like the example of Peter in the Bible walking on water, found in Matthew 14:22-33.

You may feel helpless to change your spouse. You may have endured pain and rejection for many years. And if that’s you, my heart goes out to you! But the truth is, so does God’s heart! He is able and wants to provide you the comfort, wisdom and strength you need to face this dark time.

Rest in His strong arms, discouraged one. Look deeply into His loving eyes. He is faithful to you even when your spouse is not. He loves you unconditionally and completely even when your spouse rejects you over and over again.

Surround yourself with godly friends who can remind you daily of God’s love for you. And pour over God’s word to find healing, comfort and hope. Remember His word can transform your life and perspective in amazing ways. Last of all, realize that this surrendering of the situation can be gut-wrenchingly hard, especially if you’re new to taking faith risks. But it is your key to rising above the desperate situation you face.

One of my favorite verses gives a picture of God’s transforming power of the surrendered heart …

“I waited patiently for the Lord, He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” –Psalm 40:1-2 (NIV)

 

What has helped you to take a huge faith risk and surrender your situation to God?

 

In what ways has God given you hope when you faced a desperate situation/marriage?

 

On Monday I will be discussing the second myth, “people cannot change.” Be sure to check back!

Photo by Gary Lilly

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  • Andrea

    I can easily get drawn down to that slimy pit. Thanks for reminding me of this truth!

    • Aww, thanks for being vulnerable enough to say that here, Andrea. I’m always here for you, you know. But even when my support isn’t enough (because it never will be enough really), cling to Christ! He will make a difference in your heart and situation as long as you’re surrendering it all over to Him. Hugs to you!

  • Nan

    This is beautiful, Beth, and such great encouragement!

    There was a time when I felt like I wasn’t in love with my husband anymore. I didn’t feel those “romantic” feelings and felt like I loved him like a brother but didn’t feel “in love” with him anymore, and it scared me. This was several months after our second child was born.

    My husband was so understanding and loving during that time, assuring me that it would be o.k. since I was very confused and afraid of my feelings (or rather, the lack of them). He did other things as well but I don’t want to hijack your blog, hahaha!

    During that time God also showed me the truth that love is a choice, an action. And when we choose to do that action, time after time, the feelings will come.

    So I chose to do loving things for my husband, chose to respond lovingly to him, write little notes, etc. As I acted in love, and prayed for a heart of love, I began to get excited again and began to fall in love with my husband all over again!

    I actually have written a blog post about this time in my life but haven’t put the final touches on it yet. But you’ll be seeing it linked up here soon, lol! Thanks for hosting!

    • Really, Nan? I didn’t know that you related to this part of my life. That makes me love you all the more! And I’m excited about your marriage posts. I read one this morning and it was wonderful! Great thoughts here as well! I love it when my comment section is as rich and helpful as my post! So preach on, sister!

      • Nan

        Oh yes! Long time ago but I still remember having that conversation with my hubby when I told him of my feelings. He was so loving and sweet and gentle. He greatly encouraged me that night!
        Subject: Re: New comment posted on Desperate Marriage Myth #1

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  • Kim Adams Morgan

    Beth, so glad you are talking about this. We get locked in our circumstances and feel like there is no way out. I also was here at one time. As soon as I shifted my eyes to God and started focusing on what I could change, I watched in awe as God began to answer every single one of my prayers – and so many more. Passing this on, my friend.

    • Yes, and it’s only by going through those dark, stormy times that we are really able to see His mighty hand at work, Kim. If everything went smoothly in life, we’d never recognize our need for Him or His power and provision. I’m so glad you’ve let me know that you can relate to this kind of feeling in marriage. It’s good to know you understand and even better that you’ve seen God lift you out of that slimy pit! What freedom!

  • Kristen Michelle

    Beth, thank you for sharing truth and dispelling dangerous myths. You are a blessing more than you know. (visiting from Wifey Wednesday)

    • Aww, thanks so much Kristen! It’s good to know because some days I let Satan convince me I’m failing that task. I certainly don’t want to focus on the applause of men (or women!) but it’s always nice when it comes along, my friend. Thanks so much!

  • Lisa Raub

    Another excellent post, Beth! I think you’ve really helped a lot of folks today in desperate situations. Isn’t it amazing how we get something stuck in our heads only to find out that it’s really NOT TRUE?? It can be really disturbing, but good, too, because then we can fix it.

    We are not the sum of all our failures. We can rise above the myths and live in the truth!

    • Yes, it’s so important to hunt down those hurtful lies that lurk in our brains, Lisa. I’ve built my life around them and seen the destruction they can do. So I ask God regularly to reveal any offensive way in me. Then when He provides the revelation, I need to learn to humbly accept it and let Him transform my stony heart. It’s not always easy to do either of those things, but I’m learning that it’s always best! Thanks so much for your sweet words, my friend. I truly appreciate them!

  • Anna Owens

    Beth, it’s amazing that I was thinking of this very thing this morning! A week and a half ago many dear friends at the church prayed over me as I was in the pit. The storm was raging all around me & not only could I see it, I could feel it. Since they covered me in prayer I can see the storm around me, but I don’t feel it. I am still praying for the situation, but am so much more calm about it & have a wonderful peace about it. I once heard someone say “Sometimes God calms the storm; sometimes He calms His child instead.” I never understood that, until this morning when I realized that is exactly what He has done. He is so faithful and so good!

    • Wow, thanks so much for sharing that very vulnerable and precious realization, Anna. It’s an amazing place to be–in the middle of the storm but clinging tightly to His peace and power. I’m praying over you as well, my friend. I’m praying that your faith will be strengthened beyond measure and that the storm in your life will break forth in blessings that would never have been realized without the pain. Hugs to you!

  • Honestly, I struggle to encourage other people in desperate situations because I haven’t (yet) been through one in my own marriage. Squabbles, sacrifice, learning to love an imperfect person, yes – but my husband hasn’t hurt me so deeply that I can relate well to another’s deep pain. I do truly believe God is the only source of real and lasting change, even in the worst circumstances, and I’ve seen it in others. But because my own marriage hasn’t been through a dramatic 180 as a firsthand example, I feel like my God-encouragement is weak in a hurting wife’s ears. How do you get over that obstacle, Beth? I’d love to know your thoughts.

    • So is all of your life free of deep disappointment and pain? I know you’ve shared a story of one area of your life here before. That’s where I’d tap into their hurts. You know what it is to question God’s goodness and provision. You know how He lovingly taught you through that trial. You see the way God has blessed your surrender of the situation to Him. Walking out our faith through the pain of this life–no matter the area–is what binds us together, my sweet Becky. You are just as qualified to minister as I am. Don’t let Satan convince you otherwise!

      • Thank you, Beth. I’ve been sufficiently slapped. And I love you for it! 🙂 You are so right… and it’s not like I’m wishing for a wrecked marriage just so I can relate to other people. God has blessed me greatly and I want to share him with other women who need his blessings, too. Satan will not scare me away, sister! Hugs to you, Beth! Thank you for your important ministry to us all.

        • This is such an encouraging thread Becky/Anna/Beth. I think it needs a whole blog post!

          What Becky has shared, it’s something i had to wrestle through as well. (and am still not there yet)

          I don’t have a ‘major mess’ per se in my five-year old marriage..we’ve had struggles, discouragements and downright crazy times. But nothing that other couples don’t necessarily go through.

          I struggled a lot when i first started writing on marriage. I didn’t feel qualified enough as i don’t have a “big testimony” or deliverance to talk about or base my messages from. Added to the fact that I have very few years of marriage experience! But over time and as Beth has shared, am learning God wants me to share from what I have, not what I don’t have.

          He’s taught me to wrestle through hard issues, to learn dependance, to trust Him in ways I didn’t know existed, to allow Him to grow me and change me. And from these i can share and strengthen other marriages, esp those in their early marriage years when issue can pile up.

          Saying that to say this – I feel sufficiently slapped and encouraged today! I am still learning and need these reminders dearly.

          • Actually, Ngina, I’ve struggled with that same sense of not having a “big enough” deliverance story as well. I make mention of this in the Messy Marriage book that I’ve been writing, but I know there are so many spouses out there that share in the more mundane messes of life and marriage. They need to know that those are just as dangerous on one hand, and just at redeemable on the other hand as those who’ve survived an affair or abusive situation. So I pray you’ll keep on pushing back that thought, “I’m not enough” right alongside me, my friend!

        • Please don’t ever feel like I’m chastising you, Becky! I simply see the great potential that both you and Ngina have as younger wives. I’m glad that you’re not letting Satan scare you away from this huge and important task! Hugs to you as well, my sweet friend!

    • Anna Owens

      Becky – I hope you don’t mind, but as a hurting wife I may be able to answer this.

      I have one woman in particular who has prayed countless times for me & over me in this situation. She has been married 35 years and hasn’t had a marriage of hurt (same as you mentioned, squabbles yes, but desperate situations, no).

      When my situation started I hadn’t intended to speak to her about it. She asked a very simple, non-intrusive question & I completely broke down.

      I was like Moses with weary arms & was finding it hard to pray. She came along beside me & was like Aaron & Hur (when they held his arms up) and lifted me up in prayer. I knew she was praying (and still is). I knew I could talk to her & she wouldn’t talk to people about what I was sharing with her. It has been nice to have that prayer partner.

      You can be that person to a hurting wife! And you will be loved & appreciated more than you will ever know!
      Blessings to you Becky!

      • Anna, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. You’ve definitely encouraged me today. I do want to be a source of encouragement and strength for hurting women – it’s where my heart is – and you’ve reminded me that prayer, compassion, and confidentiality are some of the greatest gifts any woman has to offer another. Of course! Blessings to you, too, Anna!

  • Such a wonderful post Beth! Thank you for sharing
    What you’ve said here is so true “surrendering of the situation can be gut-wrenchingly hard, especially if you’re new to taking faith risks.” I thought i was good at taking faith risks, since I’ve been saved for a very long time. Until I got married and learned that marriage brings with it a whole new level of faith risks!

    Digging deeper into God’s word, seeking counsel from trusted mentors, believing God is bigger than my sitaution and His faithfulness is real – that has helped when it comes to trusting God in challenging situations. That and Him carrying me through it all! 🙂

    • oh by the way i shared a comment you left on my blog sometimes back (comparing the outside of someone’s marriage to your inside) on Sheila’s blog ,To love honor and vacuum. She liked it much and has an image on her Facebook with the quote 🙂 Just thought to share! It has blessed many others, as much as it blessed me!

    • Thanks so much for your constant encouragement of me and Messy Marriage, Ngina. And yes, I certainly agree with you on how marriage brings a whole new level of faith risk opportunities. And I’m doing those same things you’ve mentioned as well, knowing they will keep me focused on the One who can do all things through me! Hugs to you, sweet sister!