The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Whether you marriage is good, bad, or just plain ugly, there is always hope to make it great.  But great does not come easily.

Great marriages take courage.  When we think of courage, we generally think of the policemen and firemen who ran into the Twin Towers, or of a person diving into an icy pond to save a friend, or of a soldier on the front lines of battle.  Most of us don’t think of courage when it comes to facing our everyday stuff, such as our marriage or raising kids.  But it takes great courage to build relational intimacy, which is the oxygen of a marriage.  It takes an enormous amount of courage to say, “This marriage is in trouble and we need to do something about it.”  It’s much easier to put your troubles on the back burner, engage in the rough-and-tumble of life, and hope things will sort of work themselves out.  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.”

Great marriages take discipline.  When you look at successful people you will find one thing in every case: It takes discipline to become successful at anything.  Failure, for the most part, is due to people letting things slide.  There is a lack of discipline.

In his book the Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck writes, “Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.”  Discipline is simply a commitment to get the pain out of the way first.

When Deb and I were first married (we were in our teens), we decided to wrestle through the hard stuff from the start.  We needed to learn how to fight fair, when to speak up and when to keep quiet, how to forgive, how to handle money (what little we had), how to love in a language the other one understood, and so on.  There were some long nights as we worked through sneers, fears, and unfair judgments.  But the long-term benefit has been wonderful.

Over the years I have sat across from many couples in deep conflict.  As the problems emerged in their marriage, they chose to ignore them, to let them slither out of sight, refusing to deal with them.  Instead of committing to work through the pain early on they ignored it.  But ignoring problems in the context of an intimate relationship doesn’t work.  Eventually it becomes intolerable.

Here is a practical idea: Don’t go to bed mad.  It was the apostle Paul who wrote, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”  Decide in advance (a secret to being disciplined) that whenever you get into a spat, you will at least quash the negative emotions associated with the argument.  And do it before you fall asleep (this will make for some long nights).  You might not get the issue resolved, but you at least get past the hurt of disagreement.

Great marriages take endurance.  Endurance refuses to cash it in—it pushes past quitting points.  We live in a culture where we have come to expect things instantly.  We like fast diets, overnight success, rapid fitness, and a hundred-yard dash to marital bliss.  If we don’t experience what we want in a reasonable amount of time—say, in a day or two, we think something is wrong.  Those of us over fifty were once called the “now generation.”  We were pretty well known for easily quitting things before the rewards showed up—jobs, educational paths, relationships, pretty much anything complex.  Why? It couldn’t be had, now.  Sadly, the generations that follow us expect no less.

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5 Responses to “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”

  1. Amy says:

    In our marriage, we did a lot of ducking and covering, and arguments occurred over the bits of shrapnel bouncing off our helmets, but rarely addressed the mines we attempted to dodge or the wounds we hid. As a wounded animal would, we snarled and snapped whenever the other person came too close to the actual trouble spot. We have reduced to animal behavior?

    Having traveled through an awful valley, we find ourselves on the climb upward and the discussion of differences and the conversation about EVERYTHING makes the view beautiful.

    I have sat with several women within the past 6 months who have presented their struggles to me, not knowing my experience, and have gone on to begin the conversations. Most have found that happy place that facing the truth and dealing with the realities of life and marriage bring. The truth does set a person free in so many ways.

    Good things are out there — but the pull of the world has so many marriages in its clutches. I see couples grasping at straws and simply letting go. The most recent wife I have talked to tried to handle her horrible situation on her own and filed for divorce without telling a soul, aside from her mother. Having it made REAL might have changed the landscape, but neither party feel willing to face the truth, so they’re closing the book on it.

    No one wants anyone to know. That’s Satan’s foothold.

    Thanks for this article — I’m passing it along!

  2. Dianna Zaragoza says:

    My husband and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary this week. Our marriage is fantastic, but it took a lot of work and crying and working through problems to get there. It was a lot of work, and a lot of help from God.

    Your comments are spot on. Marriage can be amazing, but only if couples face their problems head-on, take responsibility, and work on themselves instead of blaming each other. That is where courage comes in, and in my view, those private heroes are every bit as important as the public ones.

    We are trying to reach out and help those in our faith community to do the same now. It was your work that was part what helped us, and we’re so glad for all you do to speak out on behalf of God’s word and Christian marriage. Thanks so much.

  3. Nancy says:

    Not many people talk as plainly and truthfully as you do and so some of us generally don’t know to expect any ‘ugly’ in marriage and reassess our choices at the first sign of ‘the bad’

    Sadly even the church has bought into the “now” thinking – sometimes teaching that faith is only effective when the results are seen instantly. The problem with this thinking is that we do not wait around long enough to see any real results. However the fact is that like with physical exercise, the exercising of faith makes it develop.

    Could 2 Peter 1:5-9 be the key to living differently in the “now generation”? Surely marriages would not be heading for divorce at such alarming rates if the Christians in the relationship have exercised their faith and developed a firm resolution, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection and Christian love?

    5 For this very reason, adding your diligence, employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence)

    6 And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness,

    7 And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love.

    8 For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    9 For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] short-sighted, [seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins.

  4. Rhonda says:

    How do you get porn out of your marriage when your spouse does not think its an issue…but he looks at it every day and cannot perform correctly when with me …which is seldom.

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