4 Things to Do When Marriage Feels Hard
We are so excited to introduce to you one of our newest contributing authors, Jan Clark! Jan graduated in Family Studies and has since committed to engage in the fight to help people find true, consistent joy in their familial relationships - starting with her own. And that is exactly what she is talking about today.We were always having the same argument, just disguised under the facade of a different topic. He felt confused and misunderstood by me; I felt a lack of care and protection from him. One night, we were sitting across from each other at a beautiful restaurant in silence, scrolling mindlessly through our phones. Nearly every post in my social media feed validated my belief everyone else had it better than we did. I felt alone and disappointed in having a marriage that didn’t feel (in any form) picture perfect.
In the midst of my self-pity, a loud, exuberant laugh caught my attention. A cheerful, middle-aged couple was sitting at the table next to us, captivated in conversation. I watched as he reached across the table and grabbed her hand, causing the already-present-smile on her face to widen. Their locked eye-contact and enthusiasm in their voices portrayed they were thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.
I looked across the table at my husband as he was face-down in his ESPN app and wondered what we were missing.
What do they know about marriage that I don’t?
It had been so long since we had shared in that kind of synergy together, I had forgotten what was possible. The spark in our marriage seemed to fade as time passed and legs stopped getting shaved and doors stopped getting opened.
So, how do you improve a marriage that feels hard?
First, Pause for Reflection
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. — Proverbs 4:26
It was when I took a step back and became intentional about the things I desired, that things began to improve. I had to get radically honest and ask myself hard questions: Am I unhappy and blaming it on my marriage? Do I spend more time thinking about what my spouse needs to change rather than considering the ways I can change? Am I fueling the problems or creating solutions? What is in my control to shift my experience in this marriage?
Honest self-reflection is crucial in helping you become clear what is happening and what you want to be happening. If we disregard reflection, we go blindly on our way, without achieving any results we desire. For things to change, something must change. And that something can always be you.
Second, Declare a Revolution
I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me. — Philippians 4:13
The more I reflected, the more I realized I had a script I expected my husband to follow. Didn’t he have a copy to know what his lines, expectations, and roles were? It’s silly when you think about it in those terms, but it feels so real when Mother’s Day shows up and they didn’t get the cue to give you the day off of your motherly duties (or whatever the situation may be).
By revolution, I mean throwing out the old beliefs and expectations you have of marriage and starting over. Revolt, challenge and stand against unhealthy patterns and systems. Declare the change you so desperately desire and be on the front line of your own cause.
Sometimes in order to break old patterns you must first break some “rules” (e.g. who said it had to be the husband to take out the trash and the wife to do the cooking?). Throw the script out the window! Individually, you are unique, and together even more so. Why should your marriage look like anyone else’s? Be bold. Allow it to look different. Allow it to be new. Miracles stem out of doing something that didn’t seem possible; that’s why it’s a miracle. Be like Moses in this way: excuse your fears, step into the waters of faith and watch as your marriage obstacles part and the path to your promised land becomes clear.
Third, Seek Revelation
The Holy Ghost...shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance. — John 14:26
For me, the Holy Ghost came to my rescue enlightening me with seemingly small suggestions that would make a big difference. Sometimes it would be to hold my tongue and other times He would encourage me to speak freely. Most guidance was simple, yet profoundly effective when implemented at the right time, with the right intention.
Revelation is key whenbuilding a new foundation in marriage as a co-creator with Heavenly Father. Seek out his guidance and He will reveal to you how you can make your best marriage possible. Be open to his counsel. Be humble enough to hear what He reveals and and brave enough to take action. If God gives you a task, He will make it possible for you to accomplish it.
Fourth, Allow Restoration
Thy faith hath made the whole. — Matthew 9:22
I was surprised that one of the greatest challenges was for me to allow the past to stay in the past. As I was forging new grounds, it felt vulnerable to trust wholeheartedly, to love unconditionally, and to believe that change can be lasting. So often I would want to bring up old events, habits and patterns to defend myself, not acknowledging that things had shifted and we were no longer the same people.
Allow your spouse to change. Allow yourself to change. Don’t continue to bring up and hold on to past experiences and problems. The Savior’s grace is sufficient. As you exercise faith in Him, He will heal your marriage by healing the individuals within the marriage. Often times, things that are restored end up with more value than when they were originally created. Your marriage can be the same.
So let’s recap:
Reflection helps you identify WHAT needs to change
Revolution is creating a new way so things CAN change
Revelation helps you know HOW to change
Restoration is the ACTION to allow change
If I could, I would go back in time and sit down by that old version of me at that table and compassionately tell her: You’re waiting for him to make you happy, but making you happy is your job. In order to feel his love, you need to first love yourself. You don’t see that he’s a good husband because you are looking for ways he’s not. You are not as alone as you feel or as stuck as it seems. You are worthy of love. You can create joy even in the midst of sorrow. And things will change for the better as you change for the better.
Things have changed for me. I know they can for you.
While in the middle of studying piano performance at Brigham Young University-Idaho, Jan had an undeniable prompting to switch gears and set her music aside to become educated in family dynamics. She graduated in Family Studies at Brigham Young University and has since committed to engage in the fight to help people find true, consistent joy in their familial relationships - starting with her own.
Her entrepreneur, fun-loving husband has taken them on many adventures, including moving 13 times in 5 different states during their marriage. The best part about living in so many places has been making friends all over the country, the hard part was leaving them. They have two happy kids and currently live in Herriman, UT.
You can connect with Jan on instagram @janclark.