My husband and I have the best marriage when it’s good, and the worst when it’s bad. We’ve tried counseling, and things seem to go better for a while and then things get worse. What do you recommend?
You’re in good company. Lots of couples enjoy good times in their marriage only to feel deeply discouraged when they experience bad times.
But let me point out something interesting about your question that is also common to many others. You say, “when it’s good” and “when it’s bad.” You also add the phrase, “things get worse.” You write in a passive voice, as if there’s something outside you and your husband that impacts your marriage.
While I know what you mean, your wording conveys something important about you that must be changed. You and your husband, not outside “things,” are the ones responsible for whether your marriage functions effectively or dysfunctionally. You’re obviously doing things that makes your relationship enjoyable and things that make it painful. The trick is to find out what those things are.
Let me further illustrate this point by some of the things I’ve noticed with couples who are paying closer attention to their marriage:
* Couples who complement each other enjoy each other more;
* Couples who criticize each other fight more frequently;
* Couples who forgive each other tend to get along more;
* Couples who fight about the same issues again and again feel disconnected;
* Couples who work on their marriage tend to be more satisfied and loving.
I could go on, but the main point is this: You have an immense amount of control over how your relationships go. Scripture talks a lot about personal responsiblibity. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). We are not meant to approach problems timidly, but with self-assurance and God-assurance. We are instructed to seek wisdom and God promises to give it to us generously (James 1:5).
When you slip into a passive mentality, you cheat yourselves of the opportunity to take active control of how your relationship functions. You and your husband are the ones who determine the direction of your relationship. And you can take more strategic actions to make your marriage prosper.
Here are a few additional thoughts about taking personal responsibility for the well-being of your marriage:
Your marriage matters to God. You are not alone as you work on your marriage. God ordained the institution of marriage; because of this, God cares about you and your mate and will attend to your heart’s cry concerning your marriage.
You must take personal responsibility for the ups and downs of your marriage. While God will do his part, he expects you to do yours. He outlines many truths in Scripture that apply to having healthy, loving marriages. Many of marriage’s ups and downs are a direct result of actions we take or fail to take. You and your husband must learn to listen more carefully to each other and respond accordingly.
Acknowledge the positive impact you can have. Notice the impact you have when you pay closer attention to your spouse. As you see the negative impact from negative actions or negligence, and the positive impact from positive actions, you will grow in confidence. You really can have a wonderful marriage.
Remember that some aspects of marriage are outside your control. While you can have a positive impact on much of your marriage, some things are outside your control. You cannot control how your mate thinks, feels, or responds at times. Your spouse has a unique history and personality and is impacted by forces you’ll never fully know or understand. You owe him support for his individuality.
In summary, your marriage can be wonderful. You can have a tremendous impact on how your marriage works. While you don’t have complete control, you can do much to determine your marriage’s direction. Pay close attention to the ups and downs and then do everything you can to maximize the ups and minimize the downs.