Getting My Marriage Back After Survival Mode
There’s no getting our marriage back after this. Or so we thought.
We both stood seething. Anger spilling from every single pore in our bodies. The children looked on in disbelief and shock. Fear rose to the top of my heart and my eyes brimmed with tears – tears that threatened to overtake me.
How did we let it get so far? Where was the man I married? Who was this woman standing in front of him? Did we even love each other anymore?
Of course, we did. Of course, I do. Love him that is. He’s … I do love him. I know I do. I just can’t seem to see past the pain right now.
Sometimes conflicts and anger and unforgiveness comes to a head in a marriage. Sometimes issues rise up and swell to the point where you finally have to do something about it. You can’t sweep it aside any longer. You can’t push it off to another season of less weariness, less change, or less transition.
You have to make a choice to fight for your marriage.
Several weeks before the proverbial poo hit the fan, I wrote this in my journal:
“Lord, you know the needs of our family. You know Mark’s doubts, his fears, his hopes. O mighty God, I pray you take over him. You take over him! I dare not worry without being faithful to pray. Forgive me for leaving him unprotected by neglecting to pray faithfully for him. Forgive me for being judge and jury in my heart. Teach me to be tender. Help me with my own log of sin and teach me to deal with Mark’s specks with gentleness. I am not his Holy Spirit. Help me give you room to work. Lord, I know you will lead us. Unify us. God have your way with us.”
The last several years have been hard ones for our family.
The church we met and married in unraveled, our eyes were opened to our legalistic views on church and marriage and life in general, and we began to see Jesus in a new way. God began to uproot our hearts and our faith, allowing the yarn to unfurl and roll about, as we chased the strands like a kitten, young in mind and heart.
Then we moved with our first son, barely fifteen months old at the time across the country to Colorado to follow His call to go and live on mission in a small, unchurched community 7,000 feet above sea level.
No sooner did we arrive in Colorado than our marriage uncovered some deep seeded sin and we were alone. No friends. No church. This continued the unfurling ball of yarn … We had nothing but Jesus and His word to put us back together again. And He did. Put us back together again by His grace.
In many ways Colorado was a breath of fresh air for me because Tennessee had taken a toll on my identity and who I was in Christ. I had fallen prey to lies of the church and it would take years to sort through it all.
Eventually, we found a church in Colorado and made some friends. But the security of a “church family” crumbled one bitter cold night in January when beliefs, convictions, and pain collided and conflict with believers burst forth. I left that ice cream parlor shaking, mad, confused, and resolved that I needed to get a grip on my faith. I needed to pound some things out with God because I wasn’t sure I believed in this whole Christianity thing. As far as I was concerned, it was a load of crock and now my whole life didn’t make a single bit of sense. Including my marriage.
The next several months I battled morning sickness and fatigue since I now had another baby growing within me. I wallowed in the loneliness and confusion of a life turned on its head. I seesawed between anger and moments of clarity. I cried a lot. I asked my husband a lot of questions. Together we battled through those seven months without a church home, with next to no friends, and only our Bibles to guide us.
God faithfully, tenderly began to help me find all the strewn about pieces of yarn. With meticulous care and fortitude, He gave me the strength to focus on one knot at a time, slowly pulling the pieces apart and allowing them to stretch across the room, unraveling bits and pieces at a time.
Then, He brought to our marriage two people with whom we could share all of our hurts, all of our fears, and all of our questions. They slowly, methodically, lovingly helped us to see that our identity must be found in Christ and Christ alone. They pointed us back again and again to His word as our guide.
They taught us how to allow others to love us again and how to love others in return. Through their example, we began to see what Jesus motivated living looked like. We got to see the imperfections and the joy that preceded it all.
Never in all of our lives had we felt so safe with people who claimed to love Jesus, and God used these sweet people to love us back to Him and back to His church. And eventually back to each other.
They walked with us still when my business fell apart and I nearly lost it all. When I was tempted to question it all again and they helped me to see my circumstantial god that I had created instead of clinging to an unchanging God.
They celebrated my birthday when I didn’t feel like celebrating. They hugged me when I cried through those long months of rebuilding the business from scratch and studied Nehemiah with me to help me see just how much the foundation of my faith mattered. I began to learn the incredible importance of knowing God’s word for myself, and I began to hunger for truth like never before.
Then, my husband quit his job and we began the new journey of learning to work at home together on our own businesses. We began to taste the freedom we had in Christ and we traveled the country for forty days savoring, rejoicing, and reveling in the grace of God. It was a time of great renewal for our family, faith, and marriage.
Then, God did another thing that sent us into survival mode yet again and moved us back across the country to Virginia this time with a four year old and eighteen month old in tow and a miscarriage not too far behind us.
We lived with my in-loves for three months before finding a place of our own and moving out. We’ve been in one spot for seven months as of this writing and we’re still not settled. Not yet.
It’s been hard. And several weeks ago it all finally came to a head. The pressures of it all finally crested and the waves fell over us, not in cleansing but in frustration and anger.
The last few years have been hard. Hard on our faith. Hard on our marriage. But we wouldn’t change a single bit of it.
By His grace, we’ve experienced the gift of a newly rolled ball of yarn, something solid and beautiful and raw. Ready for Him to make something beautiful.
Perhaps our marriage has undergone stress and turmoil, but individually we’ve come to know who God is personally, who we are in Him individually, and what He desires for us to be together.
And we do love each other. Very much. God has called us to one another and to this growing family of ours. He has used the last seven years to shape and mold us into people who are ready to pick up the knitting needle of life together and begin to make beautiful art together.
It’s time to focus on getting our marriage back.
It’s time to figure out who we are together. It’s time to take what we’ve learned through the hard knocks of life and invest deeply within the four walls of our home. It’s time to take our eyes off ourselves and place them on one another. It’s time to unify.
As we stood nose to nose in anger and then surrender as God’s Holy Spirit moved in each of us, we made a plan to get our marriage back on track this year. For the first time in a long, long time we set some goals for our marriage. We put some boundaries in place, we renewed our commitment to one another in humility and grace, and we purposed together to let the past stay where it belongs while taking the lessons we learned with us.
3 Simple Goals We Set for Our Marriage
1. Commitment to faithful prayer
I know prayer works in marriage. I know it’s vital to the health of a marriage. But that doesn’t mean I was faithful to follow through in the last couple of years.
I am revamping my prayer notebook a bit to include more detailed prayers for my marriage. I’m taking it up a notch and building on what I’ve already learned about prayer.
By the way, if you haven’t taken the 21-Day Prayer Challenge for Your Marriage, you can sign up here.
Here’s what someone wrote to me just this week after taking the challenge:
I absolutely love this prayer challenge. All of it reflects God’s truth and it has been like a balm to my soul. It’s given me hope now that I find myself praying for my marriage daily.
God bless you
I am using the prompts from this challenge (it’s free by the way) to craft my own personal prayer life for my marriage.
2. Monthly intentional conversations
The second thing we are committing to doing is monthly intentional conversations. We use this simple work packet I put together several years ago as our guide for the conversations.
By using this guide, it allows us to safely and openly discuss issues in our marriage in a non-confrontational way.
By committing to monthly intentional conversations instead of doing them every six months (as we did last year and the year before that), we can rebuild the habit of safe communication in our marriage.
We will re-evaluate in July whether we will continue them monthly or not. We prefer to do them quarterly.
3. Have fun together
For far too long we have let survival mode and crisis management run our marriage. We’ve become business partners, cohabiting the same house instead of friends and lovers. As understandable as this is, it’s time to take back the reigns and have fun together.
We plan to do weekly date nights which is just a fancy way of saying, “We’re going to turn off the computers, close the school books, and put the work aside one night a week and just spend time together.”
I’m going to be scouring this post I shared years ago for fresh ideas and inspiration for making date night-in FUN!
We’re going to have at least one date night-out a month. There’s really no excuse when we live in the same town as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a loving church family. Yes, we might be strapped for money, but we know how to do frugal dates. Frugal dates were our first two years of marriage!
In addition, we’re seeking to live graciously with gentleness. Overlooking areas where the other struggles (and we know they are seeking to grow) and extending more grace than we’ve grown accustomed to. Love will reign and we will loosen up and have fun!
What about you? What goals have you set for your marriage? What tips do you have for getting out of survival mode? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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Thank you so much for your openness and honesty, Leigh Ann! So many times when we go through marital struggles, we try to pretend like it is no big deal rather than facing the pain of being honest and dealing with the problems. I love your commitment to set goals and have fun together again. May God bless you!
Thanks for sharing! We’re coming out of a difficult couple of years. I’m definitely signing up for the 21 day prayer challenge. Sometimes you just have to hold onto the commitment you made and remember what brought you together in the first place. Deep down, that spark is still there.
OMG this could not have come at a better time. I am at the wits end of my marraige and I stopped praying for my husband. I say that I have faith and I pray but in my head my marraige is over. It doesn’t hurt as much as it use to so I have convinced myself it must be the end. This article is refreshing and maybe I can pick myself up and try this again… It take two though so that is the part that makes it more difficult. Anyways thank you for this article I love all your post.
I’m sorry you’re in such a yucky marriage spot. I can only imagine. I definitely believe in the power of prayer. If you do nothing else, pray to God who created marriage. I have seen Him do BIG things in my own marriage through the power of prayer. If nothing else, you’ll grow in your relationship with the Lord and this is of primary importance anyway, right?
Oh how close this hits to home! While we have very different circumstances, I feel like some of the conflict and struggle you have shared could have very well been my own heart poured out. My husband and I are finally emerging from a hard season too (new job, loss of my dad, 3 babies in 4 years, chronic exhaustion) 😉 and we both set down on New Year’s Eve and expressed a deep concern and desire to put our marriage back in priority. We do sit down together every week but we are making it a priority to get out of the house more by ourselves for some intentional date nights (to have fun together) and even have an overnight planned soon too. We want to remember what it feels like to be partners, friends, lovers and teammates because lately all it feels like we are co-parents.
YES! Co-parents! I get that. Good for you guys! It’s good to know we aren’t alone. 🙂