With Valentine’s Day just past, I was thinking about the difference between happy and unhappy marriages. We have seen examples of both.
In happy marriages, the husband and wife care for each other by paying attention to each other. They will stop what they are doing to help or listen to or encourage the other. There are frequent touches, both physical and emotional throughout the day. There is support when the other is having a hard time or is ill or is exhausted. In other words, they each are trying to do what will help the other.
In unhappy marriages, one or both are disengaged. They are ignoring or repulsing the other. They ‘stonewall’ to protect themselves or to punish the other. They avoid each other some or all the time. They hurt, instead of help each other.
Among unhappy marriages, there are those who just have gotten too involved in their own sphere of life and forget the importance of the frequent contacts with their spouse. I call these the neglectful ones. They may surface at times like Valentines Day to treat their spouse as special. This is good, but it doesn’t take the place of the daily touches that make a happy marriage.
Then there are the unhappy marriages where one or both have turned outside the marriage for the kind of friendship that would be in a happy marriage. They may be accusing the other of neglect or hurtfulness or infidelity. With their accusation, they feel justified in pursuing a caring relationship outside their marriage. So, these may be full-blown affairs or emotional dependence.
Of course, there are men who are mean, abusive, terrible husbands. There is little or nothing a wife to a man like this can do to have a happy marriage.
Then there are wives who have decent, hard-working, but insensitive husbands. These men are often good providers. They got the idea that to be a good husband was to provide well for their family. They may be good enough in bed and be good enough fathers. But they just don’t communicate much with their wife and are not very attentive to her needs.
A wife with a husband like that can still love and care for her husband. She can pray for him. She can talk to him about ways he could be more connected. But even if he never changes, she can still find her happiness in God-pleasing ways. This is hard and it means living with unmet needs, but God will honor her and their children and show her how to be a blessing to others.
Proverbs 14:1. It says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one pulls it down with her hands.”
I have met foolish wives. I always come away grieved that I cannot do anything to help them become wise women. They throw down what could be a good life.
A foolish woman may meet the requirements for a good wife. She may cook good food, keep the clothes washed and pressed, dust and sweep the house. She may take good care of her children. She may work outside and add to the family finances. But. . .
- She pays little attention to her husband. She may find him ‘boring’ or non-communicative. She feels she has good reason to not even try to discuss life with her husband.
- She is critical of everything her husband does. She can never be satisfied. She thinks he doesn’t do anything up to her standard. a
- She focuses on her own interests and has little regard for what he’s interested in.
- She makes sure to win every argument or make him pay if he ever succeeds in winning.
- She gossips and is shameless in her tales of her husband’s short comings.
- She chooses to sleep in another room or prefers sleeping with her child rather than her husband.
- She centers her whole life around her baby or children and never gives her husband her undivided attention.
- She may simply draw into herself and quit trying to make her marriage work.
- She either lets herself go and pays no attention to her appearance or she becomes sexy in her dress and flirtatious with other men.
- She gets shrill or silent, whichever seems to hurt or frustrate her husband more.
- When her foolishness is full-grown, she has an affair with another man.
- Ultimately, she either files for divorce or makes life so miserable for her husband that he feels he has no choice but to divorce her.
When we meet a woman who is tearing down her home with her own hands, she seldom uses only one of these tactics. The couple may come for ‘counseling’ at the request or requirement of their pastor, but their heart is not in it and they only want a rubber-stamp for their decision to break up their marriage.
My heart grieves. I grieve for both the husband and the wife. I grieve for their children who will suffer greatly and carry a warped view of marriage into their own marriages. I grieve for their friends and family who had such high hopes for them on their wedding day.
(I am not saying divorce is always wrong. It may be the only way to be safe for you and your children. But divorce is always a shredding of hearts and lives.)
If you are in a less than happy marriage, please do what you can to rekindle the love you had before you married. Remember the good things about him and remind him of happier days. If you are not finding solutions, please talk to a counselor or pastor. They cannot cause your spouse to become your idea of a model husband. They can, however, help you to become a better version of yourself and one who pleases God with her attitudes and actions. When you are not tearing down your home with your own hands, your husband may see the change and love it enough to change too.
To see a video about modes of communication that tear a marriage apart, click: The 4 Horsemen
If you wonder whether you can make a difference in an unsatisfying marriage, read Mike’s article: Can One Partner Make a Difference