Just like your car, your house, or even your teeth, our marriages need regular maintenance. There’s regular, everyday maintenance. Then you have to take care of the less frequent, but still routine jobs. Unfortunately, many marriages will also face major remodeling projects.
Little drips add up
When we first moved into our current home, one of Keelie’s favorite features was the kitchen skylight. I wasn’t crazy about, because I knew what was coming. Sure enough, during hard rain storms, we started seeing little drips. Little drips left little stains on the ceiling. Then the little drips got bigger, and started coming from more spots. We called in a roofer to seal some nail holes and it stopped. Until it started again. Eventually we called the roofers back and had them remove the skylight and board it up. At this point, it was fixed and we didn’t have to replace large sections of the roof and kitchen ceiling/walls. It could’ve been a lot worse.
Thankfully, we addressed the problem in time.
If a couple isn’t performing routine maintenance on the marriage, little problems can start forming. It could be hurt feelings, resentment, miscommunication, etc. Those problems can grow into poor communication habits, loss of intimacy, frequent disagreements, and worse. Recognize those issues and do the small repair jobs that it takes to keep them small.
Time for an overhaul
When these little problems are left to grow for too long, you can end up with major marriage-threatening crises. If we hadn’t addressed our roof leak issue when we did, we could’ve ended up with a destroyed kitchen in need of a total remodel. We’re talking ripping out walls, tearing up the floor, installing new cabinets, maybe even replacing appliances. Putting a pan under the drips is comically useless when your ceiling is falling in. This is gonna require some outside help, it’s gonna take a lot of time, and it will cost a lot.
This can happen in our marriages. When a marriage gets to this point, it’s time for drastic measures. It’s time to re-evaluate and assess everything. Where is the damage in the relationship? What is the original source? You’re probably going to find a tangled up mess of problems that have come together to wreck the marriage. Sometimes you can trace it back to a single point, like the one leak in the roof that started it all. You may discover that it’s a constellation of failures on both parts.
If your marriage is in this situation, you should consider outside help. Call your support system. Go to your pastor. Call a marriage counselor. If you’re thinking, “that sounds pretty involved, maybe even expensive,” you’re right. At this point in the marriage, it’s time to hunker down for some hard work. This kind of marital problem is going away after a short talk. A date and a gift isn’t the solution. We’ve entered the type of maintenance project that takes months, maybe years.
What’s it worth to you?
Many couples don’t make it through this kind of crisis. I always counsel people to ask themselves a question when they realize they’ve gotten to this point: What’s worse, staying in the marriage or ending it? I hear this thought expresses a lot, “It will just be better when we’re divorced.” Really? You think so? Don’t ever think that divorce is the end of your problems or your relationship with your spouse. This is especially true if you have kids. So again, what’s worse?
Do you love your spouse? No, do you really love your spouse? Sacrificially, fervently, passionately. Maybe you don’t like them right now, but you still love them. Good! Then it’s not too late! Now, what’s it worth to you to save this marriage? If you really love them, it should be invaluable. You’d give anything for them.
Do what it takes. Make a decision to save this marriage. Set your mind to the idea that you are going to work together with your spouse to repair this broken relationship.
Sacrifice. Invest. Serve. Forgive. In short, LOVE.
The last bit of input I’ll give is that someone has to start. So often I hear something like, “Well I would if they would just…” or “How can I when they keep…” Someone has to start. Resolve that you will be that someone. You will reach out in forgiveness. You will reach out to sacrifice, to serve, to love. Be prepared that this will not be recognized, appreciated, reciprocated, or maybe even received at first. The two of you have built some bad habits. It will take time to break them.
Austin and Keelie have been sharing life together for nearly two decades. In that time they've gone from high school sweethearts to a family of five.
Austin loves making Keelie and the boys laugh whenever he can. Occasionally he writes things.