The Christian Marriage Bloggers Association blog challenge this month is proving to be, well, a challenge for me. Two of our four weekly challenges ask us to write about words of wisdom and encouragement from people in our lives—one week from family, and this week from friends.
I have become acutely aware that I have not had people in my life who have spoken about marriage.
I’ve had many friends who have spoken to me about their own marriages. I have witnessed hurt, anger, frustration, and desperation in women whose marriages are suffering from porn use, a drop in their husbands’ pursuit of them, financial and career struggles, family crises, mental illness, and infidelity. I have celebrated with women who have experienced healing in their marriages or who share the wonderful things their husbands do.
Those things, though, were about their need for encouragement, support, or sharing.
The women in my life have spoken about their marriages—but I remember no one speaking about marriage in general and only one time when a friend asked me how my own marriage was doing. Even at times when I couldn’t put on a happy face in public and would let my irritation or frustration show when we were with other couples, not one person ever asked if we were okay or shared their own struggles in order to help me.
Does anyone else find that as sad as I do?
I know that people don’t want to pry—but no one called me out on my attitude as a wife. No one found a way to gently (or not so gently) say, “Things seem a bit tense between you and Big Guy. When my husband and I were in a rough patch a few years ago, we found it really helpful to talk with a marriage counselor. If you ever have questions about how that works, I’d be happy to talk with you.”
No one offered wisdom, and no one offered encouragement.
I’ve been puzzling this over for a few weeks. My first thought was that we try so hard to keep out of other people’s business that we don’t speak into other people’s lives when perhaps we should. My second thought was that maybe I’ve had a lot of friends who don’t feel expert or wise enough to be able to have the right words—or even the right—to say anything.
As I continued thinking, though, I realized that I have to own some of this lack of wisdom and encouragement. I am good at putting out “don’t touch this subject” signals when I want to. It is entirely possible that there have been times in my life when a friend has begun to direct the conversation toward marriage—and I, knowing where it was heading and not wanting to go there, steered it in a different direction. I don’t recall doing this, but I suspect that I did.
Friends should be able to say difficult things and ask tough questions—but I wouldn’t have made it easy on anyone to do so.
Not only is it important to say the tough things to our friends and to allow them to say difficult things to us, it also is important to actually ask our friends for help. I was sad in my marriage for a long time. Other than a few vague “we’ve hit a rough patch but we’ll be okay” or “Big Guy and I didn’t have a good weekend marriage-wise” comments, I never shared with a friend that I was as sad as I was. I never told anyone that I didn’t know what to do or if we would make it, I didn’t express frustration with the tension in our sex life, and I never asked anyone to sit with me while I cried.
I sometimes wonder how much encouragement and wisdom I could have received from friends had I only been open to it or asked for it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of wisdom and encouragement from friends. I realize that over the past couple years, I have begun to make some changes in how I communicate with my friends about marriage—their marriages, my marriage, and marriage in general.
I make a point of offering encouragement to friends, sharing parts of my own marriage story when it seems appropriate, and sending links to various blogs or articles when a friend has made a comment about her marriage.
I try to be the marriage-encouraging friend I realize I haven’t had—or haven’t allowed myself to have.
As hard as it is for me, I have also begun asking for insight and encouragement regarding my marriage. I really hate asking for help and usually don’t do so until I feel completely broken about something.
Because I know that value of the wisdom of my friends, I have begun to share current struggles. I’ll share conversations and frustrations. I’ve asked women I love and trust if something I said sounds like I’m being controlling. I’ve talked about disagreements I’ve had with Big Guy and ask how else I could have handled it. I’ve asked if my words and actions express Christian love or selfishness.
My friends are good. They listen. They let me know that my feelings are normal—and then encourage me to work with those feelings differently the next time. They tell me when I need to do a better job of being Big Guy’s wife.
It is hard for me to invite people to speak into my struggles, but I know it is important that I do so.
Do you have friends who encourage you in your marriage and offer wisdom? Do you invite other women into your own marriage journey in order to help you do better? Do you encourage your friends in their marriages?
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