As John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart, will tell you: You can fake it at work. You can fake it at church. But you can’t fake it in your marriage.
A lot of people get into marriage and feel like they’re doing something wrong when it turns out to be harder than they expected. They feel embarrassed about struggling—especially when they haven’t been married very long.
“As Christian couples, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have the model marriage,” said John’s wife Stasi, who teamed up with him to write Captivating for women. “When things are rough, we feel that we should hide that and parade the good stuff without addressing the bad.”
But the truth is that every couple struggles, and you can find your way to the good things in marriage if you stick together and fight your battles for what they really are.
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While the Eldredges didn’t necessarily want to open up and tell the world about their failures, that’s what they did in their new book, Love and War. They did it to help other couples see that you really can make it through the tough times, and you can learn to start fighting for each other instead of against each other.
Marriage: A Divine Conspiracy?
“Here’s one of the secrets,” said John. “Marriage is a divine conspiracy. God draws us to get married through love or loneliness or sex, but then He uses marriage to transform us into the people He wants us to be.”
You can’t hide issues like disappointment or anger or someone’s addiction forever in marriage, but there’s hope for getting through them. “God is using the marriage to bring those things to the surface to heal them,” said John.
“It’s time to realize you’re not blowing it. It’s not just you. God is up to something very redemptive, and part of that is bringing these things to the surface.”
“Marriage was God’s idea,” added Stasi. “It’s a beautiful gift to the world.”
Yet John explained that it’s only when you starting fighting for the marriage instead of against each other that you can start to experience the good things God had in mind for you. This takes admitting that there’s something going on that’s bigger than you and whatever problems you may be facing.
“You’re never going to change your spouse,” said John, “so you have to learn to work together.” As you allow God to change you through struggles and leave the work of changing your spouse to Him, you’ll both be stronger, happier people.
Fights and Filters
The next time the two of you get into it, look for the “breakthrough moment” John and Stasi talk about. “It’s when you realize: This isn’t really you, and this isn’t really me. I really do love you, and my heart toward you is good. There’s something else going on here.” Something bigger.
Then, team up, put the problem on the table, and fight against it instead of continuing to tear each other down.
John says to watch out for lies like, “He’ll never change,” or “We’ll never get out of this mess,” or even, “He always does that,” after he forgets a special occasion. When you believe a lie, in essence you’re making an agreement with it—an agreement against your marriage—and you’ll start building up serious resentment. Stay out of the trap!
“That becomes the filter you see your marriage and your spouse through,” John said. Instead of expecting the worst, try creating filters like, “We can get through this together,” and, “God is molding us into the people He wants us to be. We’re just trying to help couples realize you’re in this together and the enemy is not each other.”
Attack Debt Together
The same concept of filters applies to money, too. “We have been through some really difficult years financially,” said John. “We ate off of a card table as our kitchen table for like 10 years of our marriage.”
Going through those lean times, it’s so important to have the attitude and perspective that you can pull through it as a team. “As soon as you turn it on the other person with comments like, ‘You got us into this mess,’ then accusations start.” That’s the last thing you need!
But when you start fighting for each other, you’re a lot happier to make sacrifices in order to win—together.
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