Anyone who has been married for more than a few days understands all too well just how messy marriage can be! It isn’t the smooth road of love that we once imagined. At some point, we’ll find out that marriage gets messy; and sometimes it gets VERY messy—even gross! (Look at the picture to the right.)
Has it surprised you just how gross and messy marriage can get? Most all of us would say a resounding, YES! The reason for that is because life is messy. And there’s a reason for that.
“Life is messy, because it’s real. If someone else’s grass looks greener, it’s either fake, or you’ve never been up close and personal with it. Get up close and you’ll see it has as many flaws as yours does. Remember, the difference between a beautiful garden and a wilderness is the time spent caring for it. If your lawn is straggly, instead of leaving it, take care of it a bit more. And while you’re at it, fix the fence.” (Sheila Wray Gregoire)
Marriage is Messy
There’s no doubt:
“Marriage is not about the wind blowing your hair as you glide across the sea. It is more like holding hands while the storm rages around you. It’s like getting drenched in life and waiting patiently for the sun to dry you. It’s about choosing, again and again, to reach out — to reach out, and to keep reaching out. … Marriage is hard, and messy, and beautiful, and real. And so, so worth it.” (Melissa Fouss, from her article, “Marriage Is Hard and Messy, And So Worth It”)
And we couldn’t agree more with that statement. Steve and I are holding hands a lot because of different storms that keep hitting our marital home.
Let’s see; there are physical storms, financial storms, relationship storms; the list goes on and on—not to mention the ones we cause ourselves when we bump up against each other. We’ve been together all these years and we’re still working out our differences. I see things this way and Steve sees things that way. I want things this way and Steve wants them that way. And of course, when that happens, we usually have to make some type of adjustments. And that’s when our marriage relationship can get messy.
Jake and Melissa Kircher talk about this on Tim and Olive’s Blog when they were asked the question: “Why do you describe marriage as a mess?” To that they replied:
It’s because when you get married you have to change. Period. Regardless of race, religion, age, economic status, or anything else. You’re living intimately with another person. Your quirks will annoy them. And your habits will be different than their habits. Your families will have different expectations and ways of doing things. Your pasts will end up being triggers for each other. Plus, your faults will cause pain. Your fears will become tension points. Even your strengths can become areas of friction and jealousy.
Marriage requires that each unique couple figure out the millions of tiny, and not so tiny, adjustments that need to be made in order for the relationship to survive. Our culture likes to say that if you have to change who you are, the relationship isn’t right. Get out.
But this is so false.
You have to change who you are to some degree. Have you met you?! No matter who you are, there are plenty of things that have to be worked on; and a marriage relationship will bring them to light in a major way. We’re not saying that spouses should compromise on their innate personhood. In fact, marriage partners should support and grow the gifts, talents, goals and so forth of their mates.
But you’re going to end up divorced if you think you’ll never have to fix a fault, heal an old wound, become a more experienced communicator, change the way you go about daily life, do things you don’t want to, give up things you enjoy, compromise on life goals, move somewhere you’re not thrilled about, get rid of comfortable habits, sacrifice time and probably money, and acknowledge that your spouse is just as flawed as you are.
Two people mean messes. But two people who change and shift and grow turn those messes into opportunities to create a tight, loving bond.
And what a wonderful bond you can form, IF spouses are serious about cleaning up the messes they create in marriage! It isn’t easy; but it is definitely worth it! We can testify to that.
But first we must stop believing the myth that:
“Marriage shouldn’t be hard. This is actually code for, ‘I didn’t think I was going to have to work at this.’ Truth is – life is hard, and therefore marriage is too. Marriage takes work and in order to enjoy it as it was created and intended, each spouse has to diligently work at it. If they don’t, they will drift slowly apart until they barely recognize each other. God didn’t design marriage to be hard (Genesis 1-2), but because of the fall of Adam/Eve, it became obvious that two selfish people living together for a lifetime was going to be extremely difficult.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) (Rob Thorpe, from his article, 5 Myths that Make Marriages Messy)
And it is! It’s difficult, but it’s rewarding. And it’s “always messy.” Dr Carol Peters-Tanksley gives this insight on this issue:
“The union of two sinners is always messy, but it’s still one of God’s best laboratories in which humans can learn to love well.”
In another messy marriage article:
Dr Peters-Tanksley points out that even in the “midlife” years of married life:
“Your marriage has accumulated ‘stuff.’ You each brought baggage into the marriage; old hurts, addictions, expectations, ways of being you learned from your family of origin, messages you came to believe about life, sex, communication, feelings, conflict, relationships.
“You may have been able to ignore or power through both your own stuff and your spouse’s stuff for quite some time, but now that’s become exhausting. You wouldn’t want to go through the next 20 or 30 years under these conditions. Both of you have hurt each other, and it’s hard to imagine things being any different. And you keep hurting each other.
If you haven’t been keeping the floor between you swept clean, more stuff may keep accumulating. Elephants in the living room (or bedroom) keep leaving, um, deposits (put kindly). And the smell, well, how long can you tolerate this?” (From the article, “Three Difficult Dynamics that Make Your Midlife Marriage Messy“)
Again, gross AND messy! Sometimes we mess up; and sometimes our spouse messes up (or both of us). Other times messes are thrown in at us from other people, jobs, life circumstances, neighbors, friends, and children. And the list goes on and on. That’s why we must continually lean into God and look to Him, for His leading. Jesus sure understands just how messy life can get. He also understands the sacrifices we must make to love each other well.
This goes along with the scriptures in Ephesians 5 where we’re told to “Be imitators of God … and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us…”
How do you do that? It seems impossible sometimes, doesn’t it? Yes, but God specializes in impossibilities. Note: If you’re dealing with abuse issues in your marriage, you’re working with a HUGE mess! This takes a major cleanup! Please work with the Lord on those issues first and foremost, however you are able. Find ways to be safe and seek help from those who are knowledgeable and supportive and won’t hurt your marriage further. (You can find some guidance, as first steppingstones, in the Abuse in Marriage topic of this web site. Pray, read, glean, and use whatever you perceive will help.)
Above all, however, learn from Him how to “live a life of love” within your marriage. You can do that by reading God’s Word and applying His principles to your married life.
The following are a few scriptures that can help you do that. They’re both preventative and clean up principles concerning messy marriages. We encourage you to get out your Bible (join your spouse in doing this together, if you can) and read (together, if possible) the following scriptures with the mindset to apply them to your married life. And as you do, ask yourself after each scripture (or scripture grouping):
How can I apply these scriptures to cleaning up messes that I create in our relationship?
Ephesians 4:22-24 + Ephesians 4:25-27 (Remember that your spouse is your closest neighbor.)
Ephesians 4:29 + Ephesians 4:30-31 + Ephesians 4:32
Colossians 3:5-10 + Colossians 3:12-14
2 Timothy 2:23-26
Hebrews 13:4 + Hebrews 13:5
1 Peter 2:1-3
1 Peter 4:8
2 Corinthians 13:11-12 (Don’t forget the “kiss” part.)
Again, marriage is messy (and sometimes gross), but you don’t have to stay stuck in that mess. Work together, with God, on cleaning up what you can. And if you do, you will be amazed at the love and satisfaction you will enjoy within your marriage.
Cindy & Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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