• Amber Albee Swenson

When for better or worse takes a turn for the worse

Twenty years ago when my husband and I walked down the aisle I couldn't imagine a single thing we couldn't handle. We were in LOVE, and love conquers all!


At my wedding showers and again at our wedding some caring older people took the time to write us notes. They wrote things like: "Marriage is a lot of work, but stick with it and it will pay off in the end" and "Don't quit even when you feel like quitting."

Those notes were a sort of foreign language. Who would want to quit marriage? I was running full-speed, diving head first, couldn't wait to get in.

My husband started nursing school the Monday after our wedding so we didn't take a honeymoon. The Friday (as in six days) after our wedding he announced he was going to hang out with friends for a bit.

It came as a total shock. Why would he want to leave? We had a house. We had each other. Wasn't that enough?

My twenty-two year old mind had no idea of the road ahead. It was a road paved with an unexpected death that would send the family reeling. The implications would be felt for a long time, and most of those implications were not good. There would be bouts of illness, work schedules and four kids.

I'm not one to argue about the value of marriage. I get it. I believe in it. Most days I'm thrilled that I am married and God gave me such a wonderful spouse. I just wasn't prepared for the amount of sacrifice that would be required to keep it going. I wasn't prepared for the days I would long for something more.

Like a nap.

Somewhere in my head romance looked an awful lot like my husband coming home to a greasy-haired wife surrounded by equally stinky children making a mess of the house, and through his smile he screamed "I love you all" and "How could I ever want anything more?" because you see, that's what I wanted.

But my husband wanted clean counters and an unobstructed hallway and clean a drawer, not at the bottom of a laundry basket, and that caused friction. Lots of it.

He wondered what I did all day.

I wondered what I did all day.

And now that I work I get it. On the days he's off of work I come home and want laundry folded and a meal made and dishes done, because I'm too exhausted to even want to attempt those things.

These days I have a lot more respect for marriage than I used to. As the kids have gotten older some things have gotten easier and some things have gotten a whole lot harder.

What I've learned is that marriage is fragile. If you don't take it seriously it may shatter.

And godly, totally-in-love-with-the-Lord couples struggle. A lot. Tears stain pillows. Words are said that shouldn't be said in a tone that shouldn't be used.

But they hang on.

And they pray.

And they find a friend who will hold them accountable and pray for them and encourage them to forgive and to love and to serve, because that is what Jesus was all about, and we will all struggle until we realize it's not about a perfect life or a comfortable life or an easy life.

It's about a life that honors God.

And God is honored when our marriage holds and we keep our promises. And God is honored when we let go of our expectations in order to make the other person happy. And God is honored when we realize we are trying to do too much and going in too many directions and something has to give...even if it is something we really want to do.

Sometimes we have to give those hopes to God to hold for a time. Sometimes in two or three or four years those things are realistic, not to the destruction of your family, but with your family or with your family's blessing. And sometimes God takes the desire away and what seemed so important no longer matters.

But marriage matters. It's not the thing to let go. When you're struggling keep these things in mind:

1. Recognize Satan as the enemy and not your spouse.

2. Recognize the stress of trying to live up to the standards of others.

3. Decide with your spouse what your family goals will be so you can establish priorities.

4. Pray for your spouse to walk with the Lord. Pray the same for yourself.

5. Ask the Lord to kindle your love.

6. Take a nap and start over. (I can't think of a time I regretted taking a nap, but many times I have regretted not taking one, and when I'm overtired I tend to say things I don't mean to say in a tone I don't mean to use).

And when you get to the other side and you enjoy marriage and your spouse again, you'll be so happy you hung on and that God hung on to you.

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