Yesterday I learned that an old friend and her husband are getting a divorce and my heart is breaking for them. Sadly, over the last few months, I’ve heard of numerous Christian couples who are having marriage problems. I know this is a homeschool blog, and you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about marriage, but the deal is, if our marriage isn’t healthy, it’s going to affect our children and our homeschooling efforts! Frankly, I think that as homeschoolers we often are so busy with educating our children and doing ministry or working, that we forget that our spouse and our marriage need to be a high priority. The result: our marriages suffer greatly. I know it’s true because I’ve seen it happen in other families and it happened in ours.
God opened my eyes to this problem about ten years ago. We were in the midst of homeschooling our four children who were then 17, 15, 14, and 12. We were also heavily involved in serving in our church and I was teaching several water aerobics classes each week plus a class at our homeschool co-op. To be honest, we were much too busy. I was much too busy, and my husband was sadly my last priority. I didn’t even realize I had made him that, but he felt it, even though he didn’t talk about it then. I thank God for revealing it to me before it was too late. In 2006, I became very sick with a chronic condition that slowed me way down. No more serving, no more teaching outside my home, the only thing that kept on happening was homeschooling, and that was only by the grace of God. I was exhausted most of the time and very discouraged. God taught me many things during that time of sickness and pain. One of the biggest lessons learned was that my husband and my role as a wife needed to take a higher place in my schedule and in my heart.
I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned that will help you keep your marriage alive and well. I pray it will help you to avoid the same pitfalls that I fell into and give you the help you need to have a strong family and marriage, which in turn will make your homeschooling much more successful and fruitful!
- PRAY for your spouse every day, many times a day if God lays it on your heart to do so! It helps to keep them in the forefront of your mind, and also reminds you of their needs and the many ways they are a blessing to you. It can help if you’re feeling frustrated with them too! By giving those frustrations over to the Lord, He’ll help you see the whole picture, not just your perspective. If you’re not sure what to pray, here are a couple of links to great prayers for your spouse:
FOR WOMEN to pray for their husbands: 40 ways to pray for your husband: 40 prayers to pray over your husband
FOR MEN to pray for their wives: 10 things to pray for your wife
2. MAKE TIME with your spouse everyday if possible. I’m not saying it needs to be hours and hours, I know we often don’t have that much extra time. (yes, I know your “to do list” is long!) But making each other a priority and carving out some time for one another every day is so important. According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of best-selling book, “Love and Respect”, both men and women have a need to spend time together to build their relationship, although it plays out in different ways. Women need face-to-face time where they can connect with their husband, talking about their day and their feelings. Men need shoulder-to-shoulder time with their wives, just doing something together, maybe not even talking while they’re doing it. This shoulder-to-shoulder “hanging out together” time helps him to see that his wife likes to be with him, and in turn that she respects him for who he is. Husbands, spending even five to ten minutes of face-to-face time with your wife will help them feel more loved. Wives, handing your husband tools while he fixes the car, or just hanging out near him while he’s working on a home project will make him feel valued in your eyes. Or watch a football game with him! He’ll maybe even take you out to dinner afterwards because he enjoyed having you spend time with him so much!
3. Understand the LOVE AND RESPECT connection: I wish I had understood this important concept much earlier in our marriage! I highly recommend the book “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs which is based on the verse in Ephesians 5:33: However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. In this book, Dr. Eggerichs talks about how men and women are created differently, and that they have different needs. God, as the Creator, made us with different needs and so He gives this command that the husband is to love his wife and the wife is to respect her husband. The women’s greatest need is usually to feel loved and cherished. The man’s greatest need is usually to feel respected. You might be thinking, “women need respect too!” or “men want to feel loved too!” Yes, that’s true, but studies have found that typically a women’s greatest need is love, and a man’s greatest need is respect. Our society has elevated the need for love way above the need for respect, and unfortunately, many men are suffering for it. As wives, we think that we need to help our husbands improve… we see their faults, and we know just how to help him become a better person! Sadly, our manipulations and negative comments only serve to make him feel disrespected for who he is. When a husband feels disrespected, he often reacts by being un-loving, making harsh comments or just disconnecting emotionally from his wife. This in turn causes the wife to be more disrespectful, criticizing her husband in various ways. Then the husband responds by shutting down and going away by himself, which the wife perceives as un-loving. And as Dr. Eggerichs says, the Crazy Cycle begins! And we go round and round hurting one another without even realizing it. This book will help you to understand how we get on that Crazy Cycle and more importantly, how to get off of it!
4. GIVE GRACE: You know you’re not perfect, right? I wonder then why we think our spouse should be? We all fail at times, we make mistakes. We make bad choices, and we hurt those we love. We need to follow the example of our Heavenly Father, and extend grace and forgiveness to our spouses. When they say or do something that frustrates us, we can choose to mull it over and over in our minds and get angrier and angrier, or we can intentionally decide to extend grace to them; recognizing that they’re not perfect, just as we’re not perfect. Another great read that talks about extending grace in your marriage is called “The Grace Filled Marriage” by Dr. Tim Kimmel with Darcy Kimmel. If your marriage is struggling because of harbored resentments, you may want to read this book to help you forgive and put the past behind you.
I know there have been times I’ve let little things become blown out of proportion, such as when my husband’s pants pile up on the chair instead of being hung up in the closet. It was several years into our marriage when I realized that it just wasn’t as important to him that his pants were hung up as it was to me! And it wasn’t because he didn’t care about me, he was just tired at the end of the day, and they were dropped on the chair unintentionally. So instead of being irritated, I decided I would just hang them up for him! It was my opportunity to serve him (well, probably it served me as much as it served him!) and it only took a minute of my time. The frustration level dropped completely and instead of thinking negative thoughts about him, I just tried to thank God for how hard he works to provide for our family.
5. WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE… THINK ON THESE THINGS! Apply Philippians 4:8 to your spouse. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 When we feel frustrated with our spouse, it’s easy to focus on all their negative character qualities! We all have them, and when you live with someone, you typically see their negative qualities. We choose what we’re going to focus on, their good qualities or their bad. It makes a world of difference when I choose to look at my husband’s admirable qualities (and he has many!); I feel happier, and more grateful, and I treat him better when I make this choice.
6. MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE A PRIORITY! Life gets busy and we have so many demands pulling at us. If we don’t intentionally put our marriage as a high priority, we’ll soon leave it trampled in the dust. I suspect that many of you are possibly where we were ten years ago, with everything else coming before each other. Our kids certainly need to be a high priority, but our spouse needs to come even before our children on our priority list. In our child-centered society, this may sound like heresy! I don’t mean we don’t take care of our children’s needs, but there are times when their wants could be put off for a bit so that our spouses’ needs could be met first.
7. PRAY TOGETHER – I admit, this is hard to make happen, we’ve struggled to make this happen in our marriage on a regular basis, but I do believe that the benefits are worth making it a priority. Ask God to help you to make time to pray together regularly!
I love this quote by Dr. Tim Kimmel in his book mentioned above: “Love, like anything alive, is in a constant state of motion, either growing or diminishing. The conditions we create for our love – and our responses to the hits from life- will determine whether our love thrives.”
I encourage you to strive to make your love and your marriage thrive! If you’re feeling discouraged and overwhelmed in regard to your marriage, God can help you to make the changes that are needed. Turn to Him, seek His help and commit your marriage anew to Jesus. Read one of the books I recommended above or go to a marriage conference. If your marriage has hit rock bottom, seek out professional help or the help of a strong Christian friend. God created marriage and He wants to help you make it work! Make your marriage and your spouse a high priority, and you’ll reap the benefits in your home and your homeschool.