The couple spent six weeks in premarital counseling with their pastor before they married. Equipped with biblical principles for a happy marriage, they were convinced they would be happy.
During their first year, Sandy and Frank were happy. However, as life’s responsibilities pressed in, their relationship became strained.
Over the next few years, life was more about accomplishing tasks, paying bills, and caring for kids. Between piles of laundry and carpools, they found working toward a happy marriage had become a low priority to immediate pressures of life.
“Angry” wasn’t the word Sandy would have used to describe her feelings toward Frank, but she most certainly had developed a habit of responding to him in a short and irritated tone. Frank knew he was not measuring up to Sandy’s expectations––the harder he tried, the less adequate he felt.
So, Frank retreated to his place of work where he felt approval and acceptance. Unintentionally, Frank was responding to the stresses in his marriage the way he had observed his own father react––right before his parents divorced.
Frank’s concerns grew, but he refused to seek out any guidance. Not wanting people to know they were struggling, Frank put on a happy face on Sundays, but avoided fellowship with others––so they would not see through his facade.
Sandy on the other hand, was painfully aware of the struggles they were having at home. When she pressed Frank to talk about it, she only triggered his anger and caused a fight. So, Sandy turned her attention onto the children. While she found a sense of accomplishment in parenting, she knew there was a big hole in their marriage, and she had no idea what to do about it.
Maybe you can relate to this couple’s story. Over the many years my husband and I have walked couples through biblical marriage counseling, this scenario is all too familiar.
So what’s the problem? And what help can we offer to couples like this who fill our pews every Sunday at church? What is the answer to the question: Why isn’t my Christian Marriage Working?
Let’s unpack this question––shall we?
What Went Wrong?
Remember the wife you meant to be? You know, the one who was going to be such an encouragement and joy to your husband. The one who promised to “love, honor and cherish” the man of your dreams.
How are you doing? Are you measuring up to your own expectations––let alone those of your husband’s? Has your husband measured up to be the husband you hoped he would be? Both husband and wife enter into a marriage with expectations. In my book IF MY HUSBAND WOULD CHANGE I’D BE HAPPY & Other Myths Wives Believe I share this insight:
The Danger of Unrealistic Expectations
One of the biggest threats to a happy marriage is when one or both parties have unrealistic expectations of each other. When those expectations are not realized, you might feel betrayed.
When my expectations of my husband were not being met, I remember feeling betrayed because he had promised to always make me happy. How self-absorbed I was back then.
God used my disillusionment to show me my selfish heart. Have you ever had expectations come crashing down around you when reality sets in? How did that experience make you feel? Let’s talk for a moment about how disappointment turns to disillusionment.
You might feel betrayed when you come to realize the man you married is not the man you had perceived him to be. If you have been married for any amount of time, I am sure that by now you have your own secret list of things you wish you could change about your husband.
Have you considered your husband may have his own secret list of disappointments about you as well? Rather than dwelling on what you wish your husband would change, what if instead you work to be the woman your husband had hoped you would be––the wife you meant to be––on the day you said, “I do.”
In more 30 years of ministry, Steve and I have listened to countless couples reveal how disappointed they were in the person whom they married. Whenever a wife can convince her husband to come in for marriage counseling, she often secretly says to herself, “Oh good. Now my husband is going to find out all the ways he needs to change to be a better husband––so that I can be happy.”
Can I let you in on a little secret? Looking to your husband to make you happy is an unfair expectation.
No matter how “perfect” he is, he will never bring you true joy. Because the purpose for which you exist is not to find happiness in your marriage relationship––contrary to every fairytale you ever heard as a little girl.
You were created to delight in your Creator. God made you to long for intimacy with Him—to delight in Him. So any other relationship that you pursue to fill the void only God can fill will always come up short. In the same way, you can never be your husband’s source of true joy.
What Can You Do?
Across the country, I have had countless conversations with women at my speaking engagements. Over and over, I hear stories of the resentment women have toward their husbands. While the husband’s may not be the godly, kind person God is calling him to be, the answer is not in changing their husband.
What’s the Answer?
You might be surprised to learn that the secret to a happy marriage isn’t related to how “ideal” your spouse is. Rather, it is grounded in a love that is deeper than your love for each other.
A marriage flourishes when both husband and wife love Christ more than any other person in life––including one’s own spouse.
In Mark 12:30, Jesus declared that the priority of life is to love God with all of your being—all of it.
It All Comes Down to This:
The key to having an all-out love for your husband and experiencing fulfillment in your marriage does not lie in how well your husband measures up to your expectations, but in how well you love God.*
It is humanly impossible to love selflessly because we are all born with a sin nature that seeks our own good above anyone else’s. The only people who are able to love the way Jesus intended are those who know Christ, and are pursuing a deeper love for the Lord. Because God provides His supernatural love to those who love Him, He offers hope for true love.
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5