An unhappy marriage can be saved with commitment—if it’s more than a commitment to just “stick it out.”
Our ninth wedding anniversary loomed a week away. Habit moved me to write something in remembrance, if not honor, of our time together. I sat pondering, seeking honest thoughts, searching for some truth to tell. Subconsciously, I was digging for some magic.
My first marriage had ended, but the desire for the joy of sharing life with someone drove me to marry again. However, eight years had passed, and our flame was flickering.
Isn’t it odd that we rarely remember why we argue or what we fight about? It’s the scars and wounds that remain in our minds, not whether we were right or wrong.
I had been out of work for several months. Foreclosure began on our home, and my truck had been repossessed by the bank. Outbursts of emotion broke our strained silence. Our resistance to express where we were headed broke during a late-afternoon battle.
“Why don’t you just leave?” my wife flung across the room.
Pushing back from the table aside, I snarled, “I’m not going. You leave!”
“This is my house. Get out of here right now!” she shot back.
“I’m the one who’s been paying for this house. If anyone’s going, it’s going to be you, not me!”
“You’ve been paying? Not for the last four months you haven’t.”
Back and forth, same scene, different topics, all carrying a single thread of dread for our lives. Eight years of marriage had its end in sight. I wondered, Why was it happening again?
Statistics from various studies suggest that the number-one cause of divorce is money issues. The pressure of not having enough funds to pay bills, yet wanting more, generates a “blame game.” Obviously, money is a major reason, but is it number one?
I didn’t want this marriage to end, but the anger, frustration, constant yelling, and continual depression of reminded failures mounted to more than either of us wanted to bear. The door stood open; we only had to walk through it. Amid the despair, our relationship all but snuffed out and happiness a forgotten imprint of years gone by, I sought for something to write.
Why had we married? What had drawn us together? Where were the feelings, the attractions, that had pulled us toward each other? Where had the love vanished?
Like a glint of gold in a mountain of rubble, my inner eye caught a glimpse of that sparkle. I focused on its glow. Where was the love? Why had we loved? What was love? The slogans I’d heard began turning in my head.
- Love is giving.
- No one truly “falls” in love.
- Love is a choice.
Attraction, often incredibly powerful, exists, but until one chooses, there is no love. No one else bears responsibility for the choice I made. I chose to love my wife.
Still, something tugged at my heart and whispered, “There’s more.” Something nudged me along with the question, What did you choose when you chose to love?
The Book beckoned
Readers of the Bible consider 1 Corinthians 13 to be “the love chapter.” I picked up the Book, turned to chapter 13, and searched for the secret of what was included when I chose to love. I stopped at verse seven: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
When I chose to love, I chose to bear ALL things. I chose to believe ALL things. I chose to hope ALL things. I chose to endure ALL things. That word all generated numerous memories but also began a litany of what-ifs.
What if she doesn’t respect me? Love bears all things. What if she breaks my things? Love believes all things. What if she spits on me, lies to me or about me, steals from me? Love hopes all things. What if she cheats on me? Love endures all things.
Like having the wind knocked out of me, I gasped for a breath of understanding. I chose to love my wife, which meant that I chose to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things. I could envision bearing and enduring everything except one thing: the thought of my wife stepping out on me with another man. If those circumstances arose, would I, could I, include them in the category of “all things”?
What if she were unfaithful? Would I stand by my commitment? Like Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, the question remained before my mind’s eye. Would I love her still? The secret power of commitment, of choosing love in spite of our emotions, is beyond explanation.
My innermost being took a stand. “Yes, even if my wife slept with another man, I would love her. I would stand by my choice.”
My difficult choice was enabled by divine grace. Deep within me I realized a power to cut away excuses, and I committed to standing by my choice to love my wife. Nothing outside of me could change my choice to love, not even my wife.
During the following months, I no longer fought, yelled, accused, or found fault with my wife. Neither did I defend myself when she assaulted me with these things. I had made a choice, and I would stand by my choice. I endured all things.
That was eleven years ago. We still hold hands when we walk together. We still kiss each other for no particular reason. We rarely part company without the words, “I love you.”
There is a secret for happiness in any and every marriage. The formula is still a mystery to me, but I know it involves a commitment, total and irreversible, to stand by the choice to love and all it truly means.
I can offer one good reason for making this kind of commitment. First Corinthians 13:8—the verse immediately following verse seven—says, “Love never fails.”
George Sperry writes from Newberry, Michigan.