When Wes and I were going through our premarital counseling, we were told that half of all marriages end in divorce. We were shocked by that number and figured that even if it was true for the rest of the world, the odds certainly had to be better for couples who love Christ and began their marriages with their eyes on Him.
Unfortunately, we’ve discovered in pastoral ministry that the percentages are just as high for Christian couples as they are for everyone else. And as we’ve walked alongside couples who were struggling and trying to work out their problems, we’ve come to a conclusion — sometimes marriage is hard. While we’ve been blessed in our nine years of marriage and are even happier together now than we were when we said “I do,” we can attest to the truth that marriage is hard work involving sacrifice, selflessness, and sanctification that only the Savior can bring.
Here’s a little peek into what that looks like for the Faulks. Praying that our transparency would leave you encouraged, challenged, and strengthened in your own marriage…
It’s one of those nights.
He says one thing, and I hear another. I snap. He snaps back. We assume the worst about one another… because we’re behaving at our worst. We send the kids off to their rooms so as to “talk,” but there are few productive words exchanged. Just glares and rolled eyes, along with unkind, harsh words, topped off with the very unhelpful, very untrue generalization, “You are ALWAYS like this!”
Then, bedtime. And I reflect on what a friend posted online, a friend who is in a new relationship where everything is sunshine and roses all the time, where hopeful expectations replace day-to-day reality, where the best in someone is kept separate from the worst in them, and where “this could be it, for the rest of my life!” is not yet “holy crap, this is IT, for the rest of my life.” She’s written it from that wonderful place where his shortcomings are theoretical and not blatant, from heady and lofty heights of new romance — “always kiss me goodnight.”
I reflect on where we were and where we are, where I find myself with this man lying next to me, our rings on one another’s fingers. And I detail in my mind all the many ways he’s wronged me over the course of us. And the list begins with him being a spoiled only child from his very birth and ends with him then — yes, even then — lying too close to my side of the bed where his big nose and his breath will be all up in my face all freakin’ night long and —
“Well, aren’t you even going to kiss me goodnight?”
And he thankfully can’t see me roll my eyes at this. You fight with me all night long, fail to affirm me at all, fail to really listen to what I’m saying, fail to be the prince of all of my little girl dreams, and YOU want ME to kiss YOU? I’d much prefer to punch you right in your giant nose, which is all up in my face since you have no concept of personal space —
But I don’t say it. And I don’t do it. Because if I’m good at anything, I’m good at being a martyr, and kissing him now, when I don’t feel like doing it, is the height of suffering. So I put my hands on his face and give him the biggest smooch he’s gotten likely since the children were conceived, then dramatically flop over in bed, making sure that my hair slaps him right in the face.
Always kiss me goodnight. What freakin’ ever. He can kiss my butt!
At some point in the silence, I’m reminded of the times we said we would never go to sleep angry with one another. And I conclude that some nights? There won’t be enough time or enough words to quell the anger we feel, justified or not, over wrongs or even just perceived wrongs that we’ve dealt one another. Marriage is hard. Living life with someone else is hard. Trusting and being trusted by someone who won’t always get it right is hard.
But it’s not impossible. And what we have in Christ, what we have covenanted together with God, is more important than what I feel on this angry night. It’s more important the residual anger I will feel in the morning or the frustration I will likely feel in a few weeks, a few years, a few decades. It’s more important than my feelings, which can’t be trusted because they change so much.
I can’t even trust myself… but I can trust Christ. And I can trust that if we’re found in Him and are in Him, together and individually, then we have a limitless supply of grace to get us through something far worse than one angry night. And that this — us — is more important than what I feel right now.
Us. We’re more important than you or me.
And while I’m angry right now with how he’s acting right now, whether it’s justifiable or not, I have to conclude (begrudgingly some nights — Lord, help me) that he’s a good man who knows, loves, and serves an amazing God. I have to affirm, again, that even if I wasn’t married to him, I would still be friends with him because he’s a man worth knowing, a great guy to be around, and someone who I sincerely like very, very much. And, even now, I can think of all the ways that I know him, that no one else past, present, or future will ever get to know him, and can marvel and thrill at how he’s mine, in this wonderfully intimate, incredibly intoxicating marital relationship that we alone share with one another. I know him better than anyone knows him, and while that comes with knowing the worst of him, it also comes with knowing the best of him.
And his best is better than anyone else I’ve ever known.
But I’m angry. And my anger doesn’t abate when he nudges my shoulder with that giant nose of his, trying to get a response from me. (Shouldn’t have given him such a great smooch earlier!) And it won’t abate tonight, likely.
Us. We’re more important than you or me.
And though my heart doesn’t always feel it, I make my actions testify to the truth of this by turning around, sliding my hand into his, and answering his squeeze with one of my own, our wedding bands brushing up against one another.
No one will win an argument tonight, and we will still go to sleep angry. But we will go to sleep hand-in-hand, still us, still one in Christ, still covenanted together until death do us part, and still, even now, unspeakably thankful that one bad night can’t dissolve what God has put together between two people who love Him and want to honor Him… even in this.
So thankful for love that endures, even for us.