“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part.”
Those were the words I vowed 27 years ago. Twenty-seven years ago I had no idea how much my commitment to those vows would be put to the test.
I was very young and naïve when I got married. Looking back, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. How could I? I had never made a life-long commitment to anything or anyone before.
It wasn’t long after the honeymoon that I realized what I had just done…I made a commitment to be in a relationship with someone forever. If I’m being honest, while I loved this man, it scared me to death. I really wasn’t sure how I could live that out for multiple decades to come. At that point, I wasn’t even sure who I was. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and hadn’t had a chance to discover who I was or what I liked or wanted from life.
Soon after I said “I do,” I began to see the little things in my husband that I had been blind to prior to marriage. They were truly little things (like, no matter what the item was, he always put one more fold in it than I would), but if I wasn’t careful (and sadly, I often wasn’t), the little things bred bitterness and resentment.
It didn’t take long after saying “I do” to realize that marriage was hard work. There were times I felt stuck. Some days I felt lonely despite not being alone. Many times I felt misunderstood, unloved, or unappreciated. And those were times experienced within the normal day in and day out of daily life, when life was really pretty good.
Then came the stresses from my attending graduate school, and the social, emotional, and financial burden of those years. We knew the statistics going in – most marriages when one partner is in graduate school end up in divorce – and we were determined that this would not be us. But I can’t sugar coat it – those were very difficult, extremely stressful years.
As a result of the requirements of my profession and transfers within his, we ended up having a commuter marriage for multiple years – which meant having two households but just barely more than one income. It meant extended periods of not seeing each other, and periods of working off-schedules making even catching up by phone a challenge. And this was back in the day before cell-phones, text messages, instant messaging, skype, or email! Those were days that required we not only love but also cherish the other – even when it was long distance.
Between the two of us, we moved something like 8 times in 4 years. That added a dimension of stress and chaos to our marriage that neither of us was prepared for.
There were those difficult times when life brought such hard circumstances, like job loss, that we had to choose again to remain true to each other not only in richer but poorer as well. There were times we had to choose to be so grateful that we could trust our spouse had our back.
And then there were those devastating times when we went through such tragedy from cancer to other life threatening health concerns and miscarriage, that we had to choose again to stick with each other not only in health but sickness as well.
I wish it wasn’t true, but over time-after tragedy upon tragedy, I began to guard my heart. We endured much more heartache than one couple should ever have to suffer. I unconsciously began to protect myself emotionally – I didn’t ever want to be caught off-guard to life’s tragedies again, because they hurt too much and took too great a toll.
I shudder to think how I wounded my spouse’s heart in my efforts to protect myself. He was the one God chose for me as His gift to my life. God knew from the start that it was not good for man to be alone, and just as He gifted Adam with Eve, He also gifted me with my spouse.
Just as in the Garden of Eden when the enemy created dissention between Adam and Eve, the enemy seeks to destroy every marriage today.
Just as God knew the exact person to compliment my needs and areas of strength and weakness, He knew what my spouse needed as well. He brought us together and knit us as one cord with Him, and a cord of three strands is not easily broken.
Now when I feel hurt or frustrated by the little things (and sometimes not so little, if I’m being honest) my spouse does, I choose not to take on a spirit of offense. I choose to remember that it is not his God-given character to intentionally try to hurt me, the gift God gave him, but that
By remembering this, it allows me to keep a softened heart toward my spouse, and to make a daily choice to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part. Twenty-seven years later, I’m grateful for the gift of marriage and for the specific husband God gave me, and I’m grateful for the choices I made for worse, for poorer, and in sickness as well as for better, for richer, and in health.
Marriage is hard work.
How can you show your conscious decision to choose your spouse today?
(This blog is written as part of the blog tour for my friend, Juana Mikel’s book “Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and Redemption.”
I’d recommend Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and Redemption to anyone who is married or considering marriage.
You can find it at your local bookstore or Amazon.com.
Thanks Becky! He can use our messes as our message!
“…I choose not to take on a spirit of offense.”
That is vital, and it’s what has saved my marriage, if not my soul
Thank you for this telling, transparent post, Doc. I know that it must have been hard to write, and almost physically painful to press “Publish”.
You’ve done a lot of good today.
Thanks Andrew. It was written out of obedience…not always easy, but His way is best.
I can choose my spouse today by not being angry at him for the bad dream I had about him last night!
I jest, but not really. Sometimes I have very petty complaints. When I find fault with the male sex because of something I’ve read about or observed, I often bring those up to my husband. It’s a bad habit, and a big no-no in marriage. As you said, Satan aims to cause discord. I must recognize when conflict is arising in me and ask outright for the grace of God to see me through, because I do know my man is the one God chose for me, and I am very grateful for him.
Great article – thanks!
Thanks for coming by Hillary. The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy – especially our marriages and often over petty things. Realizing he is the real enemy and not our spouse is crucial.
Honestly, my marriage is pretty easy. It’s rare that we have a hump, which I attribute to a) God, b) my husband’s deep humility and kindness c) our getting married in our thirties d) our intense gratitude for having found each other. But I keep our marriage alive by doing little gestures for him. Like, he has his quiet times in the studio, but he hadn’t any time to bring his many reference books out there (concordances, Hebrew-Greek translations, etc) so one day when he was at work, I moved them all for him. His face lit up. 🙂 And he makes me happy in similar ways.
What an encouragement that is for others. That is the kind of marriage God wants for us! It sounds like even you have made particular choices to foster such a good marital relationship.
When we take our vows, those lines are not just poetic words, are they! But you never really understand fully until you live it. I (we) can definitely relate. I had to laugh when you said your hubby folds everything at least one more time than you, though. lol Same here; I always have to giggle when we fold laundry together, but it is a special blessing to have a few extra minutes of time together. 😉
I am so blessed to be married to the man God chose for me. And the few things I have to choose to overlook in him don’t begin to the multitude he chooses to overlook in me! I would choose him all over again.
A have seen this book on the She Facebooks (She Speaks alumni) page! It looks like a truly wonderful book. Yes, marriage is such hard work. My husband and I have moved a lot during our eight years of marriage too, and it certainly adds stress and strain to any relationship. Thank you for sharing your heart here, Michelle. It is truly a blessing to see someone be so honest and open about their journey and to know that with God’s help and a committed Spirit, our marriages can thrive.
Thanks Abby. It’s in being vulnerable and open that we give others the chance to realize they aren’t alone. Thanks for coming by! Hope Prevails!
Every woman needs to hear this, even those in what they consider to be great marriages. The enemy can slip in without a moment’s notice.
You are so right Gina. The enemy slips in very subtly and twists things around so quickly – and never for our good. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment!
Really enjoyed this. Yes, marriage is hard work. It involves sacrifice. But how wonderful the harvest. I’ve been married 28 yrs. I am so thankful and blessed to have a great man.
Congrats on 28 years Debbie!! That’s wonderful. Even with a great spouse, marriage is hard work, and daily choices. Here’s wishing you at least another 28!
I totally agree…Marriage takes a LOT of work and it seems we are blind with love in the beginning, but reality hits after we are married. I’ve learned..or still trying to learn, to let the little things go a bit…not to dwell too much of what sometimes gets on my nerves. Great article
Thank you Jenny. We all have to choose to let the little things go, or else they multiply in our heart and become big things. But I’m so very grateful for the grace that God shows me, so it’s the least I can do for others.
Profound! And perfectly spot on. Thank you, Michelle, for your vulnerability in sharing your story. God bless you! PS AM SHARING this with my readers!!!!!
That blesses me so much Sheila! I pray it blesses your readers. Hope Prevails…especially in marriages!
It is so hard to let another person close enough to get at your heart. It is harder when, as a child, you learn to add bricks to that wall almost without noticing. The understanding and decision to choose to believe that our spouse is not setting out to hurt us purposefully can stop many bricks from being added. In a relationship where commitment to the marriage is real and decided, it still takes courage to be vulnerable. And I am happy to say that even as late as 30 years into a marriage, God can hold you as you make that scary leap into a deeper, authentic place with your spouse…determining to believe that God will strengthen your marriage as you allow the bricks to come down from around your heart.
My story is not the same as yours….and yet, not so very different. Very young, very naive, very immature, very stressed, very blessed, very difficult, very decided.
Glad I found your blog….
Debbie, I’m so very glad you found my blog too! You are so very right – it takes courage to be vulnerable. If we make the choice to remain committed, God can strengthen our marriage more than we dreamed or imagined. I hope you’ll come by again!
Amen! Marriage IS hard work! Thank you for linking up today at Inspire Me Monday–your words of wisdom are inspiring for both new and old couples. We’ve been through a lot of the same challenges (graduate school, job loss, cancer), but I’m happy to say that through God’s grace we’ve been married for 26 years 🙂
Congratulations Anita!! I know from experience, 26 years is quite an accomplishment-even for the best marriages! Making that daily choice matters! Thanks for stopping by!!
Hello! I’m visiting from Inspire Me Monday. Well I can totally relate to your post. I was a bit older when I got married (32) and that can have its disadvantages too. We both had hurts and disappointments to deal with in our marriage but we each decided that divorce was not in the picture. That would mean that we would have to work things out. Great for character building! We’ve been married for 20 yrs and I can’t imagine being with anyone else!
Glory to God Diane!! Marriage is a daily choice! Glad you stuck with it!! Congrats on 20 years.