Are you living in a taxing marriage? Last time we talked about how Marriage Taxes You When You Enter Into It. We stressed that ALL marriages go through taxing times. The first two issues we addressed were: — When you marry you lose much of your independence. And then building on that, — You are now part of a team—a marital team.
Any coach of a successful/winning team knows the first thing they have to do is to get their team to master the fundamentals—the basics. That’s where we pick up this time. We want to further explore the basics of what makes a taxing marriage. Plus, we’ll look at some benefits when we may not have realized there are any.
Building Upon a Taxing Marriage
So, here’s another of the fundamental points that underlies every marriage—taxing, or not.
• We married a sinner.
And sin causes problems for everyone within its path. Here’s a good point that Dave Harvey brings out about this point:
“If you are married, or soon to be married, you are discovering that your marriage is not a romance novel. Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin. Often it gets opened right there on the honeymoon. Sometimes it waits for the week after. But the suitcases are always there. Sometimes they are tripping their owners. And sometimes they are popping open unexpectedly and disgorging forgotten contents. We must not ignore our sin, because it is the very context where the gospel shines brightest. …To get to the heart of marriage, we must deal with the heart of sin.” (From the book, When Sinners Say “I Do”)
Actually, as difficult as it is to live within a taxing marriage and deal with sinfulness, we actually can learn through what we live through if we allow it.
Benefit From Learning?
Dave Harvey also writes in his book about this aspect of marriage, and it’s benefits amidst its frustrations:
“Have you ever thought that passing along God’s mercy may be one of the main reasons you’re married? Think about it like this: Marriage is a place where two sinners become so connected that all the masks come off. It’s not only that we sometimes put on our best faces in public, it’s that when we’re married we see each other in all kinds of situations, including some very difficult ones.
“All the wonderful diversity (in this case, a polite word for our personal quirks, weaknesses, and sin patterns) that was kept refined and subdued before the wedding tumbles out of the closet after the honeymoon. We begin to see each other as we really are—raw, uncensored, and in Technicolor. If our eyes are open, we discover wonderful things about our spouses that we never knew were there. We also discover more of the other person’s weaknesses. It’s no wonder that Martin Luther called marriage ‘the school of character.'”
That’s what we have discovered. Marriage becomes a “school of character” as soon as we say, “I do.” We learn things about ourselves through our marriage partner that we never could have known otherwise. Sometimes we wish we didn’t have to learn those things. But that’s all part of God’s plan for our lives. He uses our marital situations to help us to grow. That’s because He cares more about our character than He does our comfort. God uses each problem to refine our character so we can become more Christ-like in every aspect of living.
Marriage Disappointments = Opportunities for Growth
It’s like what Debra Fileta wrote:
“At some point, you will be disappointed in marriage. …For some reason this truth doesn’t really hit home—until it hits home. …When you allow someone to bury their heart in yours, one day, you will feel an ache. Whether in the form of an unkind word, a thoughtless action, or a selfish moment, marriage will hurt. But by God’s grace, each wound paves the way for grace, forgiveness and restoration” to be given and received.”
Each wound DOES pave the way for grace, forgiveness and restoration. However, we often have to lean into finding a way to embrace those difficult concepts when our marriage partner hurts us. That’s because it doesn’t come naturally to us to extend grace. God knows that all too well. But He gives us grace and forgiveness, and as a result, we can give them to our spouse, as well. We can learn from Him and be empowered from Him.
Marriage can accelerate the process of bringing out our bad sides. It can be a cooking chamber for bringing out the good, bad, and in between. When we are hurt, it’s a matter of “choosing to love” and then emptying ourselves of selfishness. When we do this we can then look for a new way to build relationship bridges with our marriage partner.
Holiness Displayed in Taxing Marriage Situations
“Marriage calls us to an entirely new and selfless life. And any situation that calls me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value. Perhaps God designed marriage to make us holy even more than to make us happy. I’m not suggesting that God has anything against happiness, or that happiness and holiness are mutually exclusive. But looking at marriage through the lens of holiness began to put marriage in a new perspective for me. In fact, it has led me to believe that couples don’t really fall “out of love.” I think it’s more precise to say they fall out of repentance.
“What usually happens is that we let little vices —like impatience, disrespect, selfishness, pride, and anger —pollute a once-precious relationship. Instead of letting marriage draw us into holiness, we let it draw us into bitterness and accusation. Here’s the kicker: a lot of people want out of a relationship not only because they no longer “love” their spouse. The truth is, they despise what they themselves have become. Then they want a new start with someone who hasn’t seen them at their worst. But changing partners isn’t the answer—changing ourselves is.” (Gary Thomas, from the Ncfliving.org article, “The Transforming Miracle of Marriage”)
All of this is something you need to prayerfully consider.
Another taxing part of marriage is:
• You are married to someone so very different than you.
You probably didn’t realize this when you married. We all fall into a type of unrealistic fog before marrying. But once we marry (or soon thereafter) our differences push themselves out to the light. It’s a good thing we didn’t know this would happen beforehand. There probably wouldn’t be very many people who would marry. But even though this aspect of marriage is taxing, it also has it’s benefits.
“We marry someone we claim we have a lot in common with. But we’re mostly attracted to someone different from ourselves. We balance each other out by marrying someone who has strengths where we’re weak. Eventually we’re annoyed at the differences, rather than appreciative of how they balance us out. You and your spouse are uniquely different. This is not only okay, it’s good.” (Cindi and Hugh McMenamin, from the Crosswalk.com article, “See Your Spouse as Unique – Not Annoying!”)
And why is this good? What good could God possibly make out of this conundrum?
“Why did God make men and women so unbelievably different? I believe the main reason is so that we would have to depend on Him. God wants to be the center of every marriage. So He made the relationship so difficult that we have to keep Him there to make it work.” (David Clarke)
Taxing Marriage Differences On Display
That’s so true! Our differences, once they show their irritations, can sure drive us to our knees! God knew we would need Him all the more. After marrying it then becomes our mission to work to fit our differences together to use them for our benefit, as a marriage team. Here are a couple of wise statements that we hope you will adopt (we have):
— “Enjoy the 80 per cent you really enjoy about your spouse. And ask God to show you how to live with the rest and not to focus on it.” (Jim Elliot)
— “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2)
— “Move beyond simply tolerating your spouse to truly appreciating him or her. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see how your differences (in personality, background, strengths, weaknesses, and gender) can complement each other so that you all can accomplish more together than you can apart. Remember why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. And then express your admiration to your spouse in fresh ways.” (Whitney Hopler, from the Crosswalk.com article, “How to Give Your Marriage a Makeover in Only 10 Days”)
We hope you will! And lastly (at least in the marital situations we will point out), when you marry, it can be taxing because:
• There is no one secret formula that makes a marriage into a good one.
We, as a society, love quick and easy formulas to resolve our problems. Make it quick and make it easy and we’re all in! But in all honesty, when it comes to resolving marriage problems, there is seldom, if ever, a “quick and easy formula” that will work. It takes commitment, hard work, intentionality, skill building, and the list goes on and on—to resolve most of our marital problems. When it comes to growing a good marriage into an even better one, there is rarely a quick and easy formula that you can apply. That’s probably why Henry Youngman proclaimed:
“The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret. People try. But the secret is, that there is no one secret. Every spouse is different. So every marriage is different. That, which works in one marriage may not work in another. It’s a mixture of a lot of different things applied at just the right time that will have the best results.”
Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we’re told in Ephesians 5 that marriage is a “mystery.”
There’s no doubt that marriage is packed full of mysteries for most of us. Marriage points us to Christ and the church. It is a living picture of Christ’s love for the church. We are to seriously care for each other that much! We can tell you that it’s a “mystery” to us as to why God would trust us that much to live out that picture! That makes it all the more important to fight FOR our marriages, instead of fighting against each other.
“Whether you marriage is good, bad, or just plain ugly, there’s always hope to make it great. But great does not come easily. Great marriages take courage. It takes great courage to build relational intimacy, which is the oxygen of a marriage. Running from problems is always easier than solving them… But courage is willing to put on the gloves and say, ‘Let’s fight for this marriage.’” (Mark Gungor, from his blog and video podcast, “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”)
And when you’ve fought FOR your marriage, and you are experiencing victory, it’s a great feeling! We know; we’ve fought through A LOT!
We can go on and on in listing out the ways, in which marriage can be taxing. However, to sum all of this up, we want to leave you with the following thoughts.
Working Beyond Taxing Marriage Situations
Remember the team analogy we gave at the beginning of this Insight? We talked about how successful/winning teams have the fundamentals down. Well, here are a few underlying points in how that can look as it pertains to marriage:
— “Life is full of choices. And each choice impacts both spouses. Being a team means making those choices with your partner and with your mutual goals and desires in mind. Likewise, when you say ‘yes’ to one thing, you say ‘no’ to others. Being a team means choosing the sacrifices together, too. What are you willing to sacrifice to reach mutual goals? Are these sacrifices pleasing to God?” (Renée S. Sanford from the Today’s Christian Woman article, “A Team of Two”)
— “You’ve heard the saying ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going,’ right? What if we changed that to: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough team up’? Whether the tough are issues with a car that won’t start, a vacation outing gone awry, an in-law or neighbor, or even a cheap camera on your honeymoon, facing it side-by-side is much better than back-to-back.” (Ashleigh Slater, from: “Team Us Marriage Together”)
Our prayer is,
“Lord may we all approach the taxing issues in our marriage, united together! May we continually look for Your solutions where we both ‘win’ and You are glorified.”
May God bless your marriage as you lean into Him, and do things His way!
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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 invest in their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:
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