When I read last week that Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband are going through “conscious uncoupling,” I had to chuckle a little. I mean, it’s terribly sad that another family is dissolving, but to use a crazy term like “conscious uncoupling” to describe their divorce was just a wee bit odd, in my humble opinion.
I have to say that I wasn’t the least bit shocked at their announcement, however. It seems that every other day a Hollywood couple splits up. What is it with these disposable marriages? Why do they almost never last?
I have a few thoughts about how to go the distance in marriage. Hopefully this will encourage some couples who might be struggling and wondering if it’s worth it to work through the problems.
Trevor and I have only been married for 16 years, so we certainly aren’t experts compared to couples who have made it 50 or 60 or 70 years (my grandparents have been married 63 years and my parents and in-laws each around 45 years). However, our marriage has lasted longer than many do, with researchers reporting that of the marriages that end in divorce, around 60 percent end before their 10th year.
Anyone who’s ever been married knows that marriage isn’t full of sunshine and roses all of the time, especially when you add the stress of children to the mix. All marriages have “issues,” problems, arguments, and disagreements. Why? Because when two imperfect people come together, feelings will be hurt sometimes; selfishness will rear its ugly head occasionally; fatigue, financial strains, illness, and the like make it difficult to see eye to eye.
So, what makes for a long-lasting, successful marriage?
One thing I’ve found is that I had to ditch my lofty expectations and understand that my fairytale marriage wasn’t realistic and just wasn’t going to happen. Our relationship is good in many ways, but I think women, especially, have romantic ideas and high hopes about marriage that often go unrealized. I concluded that I could either be at peace and be thankful for the man God gave me, or I could wallow in self-pity because things aren’t exactly how I want them. It’s a conscious decision, a choice that I make, to focus on the good instead of the negatives. I still slip into a discontented attitude at times, but I’m learning.
Don’t let the “D” word enter your vocabulary. I learned this from my parents as I was growing up. They always said that the word “divorce” wasn’t even in their vocabulary; it just wasn’t an option. When you have the attitude that your marriage WILL go the distance, you force yourselves to work through issues and you grow together rather than apart.
Don’t take life too seriously. Take time to laugh together and be silly. I like to act stupid sometimes (to make my children laugh), and Trevor has this look that he gives me…..a straight face that tells me, “You’re really acting dumb.” He’s even taught the kids to give me “the look.” Of course, it makes me laugh even harder. And sometimes if I’m acting especially goofy, Trevor tries so hard not to smile that his nostrils flare. Then I really cackle like a hyena. I guess you have to be there…..or not. 🙂
Pray for each other regularly. If your spouse has character flaws or traits that you would like to see change, try praying about it instead of complaining or nagging him or her. God is the only One who can make real changes in a person (Proverbs 21:1), so trust Him to work it out. In the meantime, look in the mirror and ask the Lord to work in your life as well. We all have things that need to improve, so be the person that you want your spouse to be for you.
And my final thought: choose to love your spouse, when you feel like it and when you don’t. The warm and fuzzies that you had before the wedding are temporary. True love is a long-lasting commitment to your spouse through good and bad, thick and thin, no matter what.
Of course, we have the best example ever of how to love each other when we read about God’s love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a,
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”