I know you’ve had it. I’ve read your letter or email a thousand times from a thousand different women. The words – and wounds – sound the same and I know your story well.
Every week I receive an email like yours saying “I’m fed up with this marriage. What should I do?” Every week I hear from a wife who is frustrated with her husband. Every week! That tells me there are a lot of you out there who are feeling like that…but most of you never reach out for advice or help. You stuff it in and keep dealing with it…or you call it quits. So would you let me encourage your hurting heart?
I understand your frustration with your husband. Every wife is frustrated to some degree with the things her husband is doing or not doing. He doesn’t treat you like he once did. He seems distant. In some cases he’s rude and constantly criticizes you. In most cases, he’s ambivalent and resigned.
You say it has led to a deep depression. You cry a lot. You wonder when things will change. Or, today you have decided you no longer want to wait for the change. You’re calling it quits.
I remember the day I, too, felt depressed. I concluded that the only way I was going to be happy is if my husband made certain changes. You see, I, too, married my husband to meet my needs and make me happy. I don’t think I consciously did that, but we all, in our own selfishness, expect marriage to fill us, complete us, and make us happy. We expect we will never be lonely again. We think life’s problems will suddenly be solved. We imagine all the holes in our life will suddenly be filled. The truth of the matter, though, is that we are all incomplete, broken individuals (broken by our own sin, selfish nature) and we marry another incomplete, broken individual (Romans 3:23 says we ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God). So, the reality of marriage today is that often two sinners come together hoping the other person will complete them and then they find they are disappointed. However, God is the Only One who can meet all your emotional needs. He’s the Only One who will never disappoint you.
I had to learn this lesson 20 years ago and it ended up saving my marriage. When I quit looking to my husband to be god -and fulfill me in every way possible- and started looking to God to be my “spiritual husband” (Isaiah 54:5), it is then that I took a great deal of pressure off of my husband so that he didn’t feel he was continuing to come up short. And that made him want to pursue me again.
Maybe pursuit isn’t the problem. Maybe you’re past the point of even wanting him near you. But that’s where it began, didn’t it? You wanted him more than he seemed to want you and now you resent that.
Dear friend, your husband will never be able to meet all your expectations and emotional needs, nor change the way you are feeling so that you are no longer depressed. In fact, he probably already suspects or believes you find him responsible for your depressed state. That might be the very reason he is distant, “moody” or constantly criticizing you. You’ve already given up on him, in some ways. So he has given up on himself, too.
I really do understand what you mean when you say you are “fed up.” There are days when I think the same thing. But those are the days I am focused on me, and I must remember that marriage was not God’s gift to me to make me happy. I truly believe it was God’s gift to me to make me holy. Marriage is our practice ground for dying to self…for loving another as God has loved us. You and I make mistakes, too. Our husbands are disappointed in us, just as much as we are in them. The key is, will you die to self (Galatians 2:20) and love that man and extend grace to that man as God has loved you and extended grace toward you? You made a promise to him, to God, and before witnesses that you would. This is the test on days and in seasons of life when you don’t feel like loving him anymore.
Admit it, you at one time believed God brought the two of you together. That is why you married. Yet, looking back, you were more concerned about what you would receive out of the relationship, than what you could give. It’s only natural. We think first of our needs, our happily ever after, our own selfish ambitions. I did, too. But I truly believe God brings us together with another individual in marriage to show us, firsthand, what it means to exercise Christlike love and become more like Christ in our everyday lives. That being said, those days when you and I are “fed up” are the days we need to die to self and say “God, how can I serve him? How can I be the wife he needs me to be, rather than focusing on his shortcomings?”
You asked me, out of desperation, what you should do? Two things:
1) Look to God first as your spiritual husband (Isaiah 54:5). By letting God meet your emotional needs, you will no longer be expecting your husband to be your all-in all. When you are healthy, spiritually, you can be healthy emotionally. When you are in a growing relationship with Christ, you are more able and stable to deal with whatever comes your way….regardless of your husband’s behavior toward you.
2) Lift your heart up for change. For years, I asked God to change my husband and make him the kind of man I needed. But real change in our marriage began the day I finally asked God to change me and make me the kind of wife he needed. God blesses that desire of ours…to serve another and not ourselves. When you begin to love your husband as God does – focusing on serving him rather than being served, on meeting his needs, rather than having yours met – you may very well find that he has much less to criticize you for, much less to be rude about, and much more of a desire to pursue you again. I don’t suggest this in a “let him walk all over you” way. Not at all. I mean this in a “live obediently to Christ” way. As you put your husband first, and thus fulfill your God-given role as his “helper” (Genesis 2:18), you’ll be surprised how God takes care of the rest.
I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve been submitting. I’ve been putting him first. When will he finally put me first?” But it’s time to quit asking that question. It’s time to quit thinking about how you will be treated. It’s time to live like Christ and trust that he will honor you for it.
I wrestled with those same questions. But when I began to focus on how I could change and began to apply the principles from When a Woman Inspires her Husband, either my husband started changing and being the man I needed him to be, or I didn’t notice anymore the way he was falling short of my expectations. The bottom line is, when we seek God’s will above our own, He always blesses. And what you consider bitter right now, he really can turn into something beautiful.
You mentioned in your email that Scripture says God hates divorce (Malachi 2:13-16). You’re right. Divorce says to God, your spouse, your family and your friends “This relationship cannot be reconciled.” How can we trust God with the reconciliation of our soul for an eternity if we cannot trust him to reconcile our most important earthly relationship? The God who reconciled sinners to himself is sufficient to reconcile your marital relationship, too. God cares about your marriage even more than you do. And he wants to make you more like his Son through whatever you are going through now. Trust him with your marriage, your story, your heart, your feelings, and your future. And inasmuch as it depends on you, surrender your marriage to him. He is far more capable than you realize (Ephesians 3:20).
And finally, for those of you who truly wanted your marriage to work and your spouse was the one who said “I’m done” – God saw it all. He knows your heart and sees your tears. And though someone else gave up on you, he has not. He is still writing your redemption story.
Cindi McMenamin is the author of more than a dozen books including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 120,000 copies sold), When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and her newest release, When God Sees Your Tears. She has also co-authored with her husband, Hugh, When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection. For more resources to strengthen your relationship with God or your marriage, see her website: www.strengthforthesoul.com.