A Guest Post by Elizabeth Diaz
Sticking out a Difficult Marriage
When my husband and I met, I was 17-years-old and fell madly in love. My parents, mentors, and friends cautioned us to slow down and take a serious look at some of our differences before getting married, but we didn’t listen. We married when I was 19 and started a family almost immediately. By the time I was 20 I had a baby and a failing marriage. We fought all the time. I didn’t understand his family (his family immigrated from Nicaragua to Miami and our cultural differences were mammoth) and he didn’t understand mine (I’d lived in a small town in Michigan my entire life). He worked long hours and I was home alone with a baby. Shortly after she was born, I got pregnant again.
The emotional and physical toll were exhausting. I grew up in a loving home while he grew up in an abusive home with an alcoholic father. He didn’t want to be like his dad and thought that, as long as he didn’t hit us, he was doing okay. He didn’t realize words can wound just as deeply.
I began praying like never before and attended a Bible study that was comprised of women 20 years older than me. I’d been a believer for quite a few years, but had never needed God like I did then. Every week I arrived in tears over a fight or cruel words that had been spoken. Every week they prayed, encouraged me and kept me going. I remember after one particularly bad incident I decided it was time to leave. I was a mess. A friend from my Bible Study happened to call at the time I was packing. When I told her I was leaving, she begged me not to do anything until she got there. Not much later, she showed up and hugged me and cried with me. She then encouraged me to stay because I had no Biblical reason to leave. It was hard to hear, but true.
As the years went on, things got worse instead of better. It seemed the nearer I drew to God, the further apart my husband and I grew. I was determined to stay and honor our vows, but most days felt like torture. After 8 or 9 years, even some of my Christian friends began to suggest maybe it would be best if I left. I spent much time in prayer for God’s direction and never felt the freedom to go.
One day, after we’d been married about 10 years, things began to change. I had no idea why, other than God’s grace. The changes were small at first, but my husband kept making them. A few years ago I asked what brought about the change. He said he didn’t know. He had been meeting weekly with a godly mentor for a few years and thought maybe that was what made the difference. This man encouraged him to love me and our children better, to spend more time with us, and to treat us kindly. And he listened.
Today we’ve been married 15 years and it feels like I’m married to a different man than I was when we said I do. He did the hardest thing anyone can do, he recognized where he was wrong and decided to change. I’m so glad I surrounded myself with godly women who encouraged me to do the hard thing and stay. Without them in my life, I wouldn’t have been around to witness this metamorphosis in the man I love.
Of course, there’s much more to the story, but I wanted to give enough of it to offer hope for others in tough marriages. It’s hard, even when you aren’t dealing with cultural differences and anger issues!
Be careful who you ask for advice. Make sure the counsel you’re given lines up with the Word of God. Am I saying that staying is always the right thing? No, I’m really not. We need to be safe and keep our children safe. If there is violence, I believe separation and counseling is in order until the issue is resolved. If it can’t be resolved, then I would stay separated. But I believe many marriages end in divorce that could’ve made it.
Our culture tells us to quit trying when things get hard, and that we deserve things our way. But that’s not biblical. “Marriage isn’t for our happiness, it’s for our holiness.” (This quote is from Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas and I LOVE it!) Marriage refines us and is not a self-serving thing. Does that mean we’re not to be happy? I think sometimes it does because we’ve sure had some rough years, but we’ve also had good years! There are some great resources on marriage out there: books, marriage conferences, counseling and, of course, your local church. You can do it!
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