Pastors, What to Do if Your Marriage Is Suffering
Oftentimes pastors’ married lives seem idyllic and dreamy, but I’m here to tell you that’s a myth. I’ve been in vocational ministry since 1990 and I’ve been married since 1994. My marriage stinks…at least sometimes. Last week was one of those times.
My wife and I were dueling about things that ultimately came down to selfishness on both our parts. But still, the fights were ugly. We yelled. We said mean things. We felt stupid. But we were both prideful enough to hold on to our side of the argument for a few days. This made living in our home tense.
Today things are better. We came together and confessed our pride. We apologized for our anger and for hurting one another. We made up. But we still have work to do.
As a pastor I know this one thing: Satan hates me and wants me to fail. He wants me to fail as an example, he wants me to fail as a church leader, as a man, as a father and as a husband. He attacks me relentlessly. So I have to continually be on guard and I have to continually improve. If you’re a pastor, you know exactly what I mean.
One of the worst aspects of this reality is that my wife didn’t really sign up for it. She knew she was marrying a pastor, but she didn’t realize that our marriage would be under the intensely concentrated scrutiny and assault of the enemy. She didn’t have any idea it would be this hard. Pastors, let’s own it: Marrying us meant things would be hard enough, but marrying one of Satan’s favorite chew-toys makes it that much harder for our poor spouses.
Yes, sometimes our marriages stink. So what are we to do?
Below is what my wife and I have done and are doing to make our marriage, with the help of Jesus, not stink and able to last a lifetime. I’d love to hear what you have done and are doing to help when your marriage stinks.
• We have a counselor – We go because we are not perfect. We go because an objective third-party perspective is worth more than we will ever pay in counseling fees. We go because we are both often wrong and need someone besides our spouse to help us see that.
• We go on dates – Dating your spouse means chasing after your spouse. Just because you got married does not mean the pursuit is over. Marriage is just the beginning of a life-long pursuit.
• We have alone time – Getting away from the kids is crucial. Bedroom time is a must. Weekends away are priceless. For our 20th anniversary we took a week-long-cruise that we called our “Twennymoon” and it was awesome!! We’ve taken short trips to Disney World without the kids TWICE and we’ve only taken the kids there once! Yes the kids hold that over our heads, but that’s okay. The time alone is worth it!
• We pray together – Hearing one another pray allows us to hear very clearly from one another’s hearts. The fact is that we talk to God differently than we talk to each other. I love hearing what is most meaningful to my wife by listening to her talk to Jesus. It gives me insight into her that I can’t get any other way.
• We have shared goals – We try each year to get away for a family-goal-setting weekend. Last year was hard because my dad died around the time we usually do this. We never got around to having our makeup goal-setting weekend, but we held on to our goals from the previous year. Here’s the point: We get away so we can clearly list our goals as a couple, as a family and for each of our kids. This lets us know if we are on track. Without written and shared goals we would have no idea of the progress we are making or the ground we are losing.
• We strive for Jesus together and alone – While we pray together and serve the Lord in church together, our joint relationship with Christ can’t substitute our individual relationships with Him. We encourage each other to spend plenty of time with Jesus. When we are praying alone or reading the Bible alone, we do our best to guard one another’s time with Jesus. For example, my wife literally goes into her closet and closes the door to pursue the Lord. When she does that I try to keep the kids out of the room so she’ll not be disturbed. I love seeing her closed closet door with light peeking under it. It means she’s loving on Jesus and he’s loving on her. When I’m reading my Bible and praying, she knows to guard that time as well. We are very aware that the more time we spend alone with Jesus, the better we will be when we are together.
If I’ve learned anything from marriage it’s this: It’s hard and it takes work. I vaguely recollect the pastor at my wedding mentioning something along those lines, but I’m a pretty slow learner so it didn’t really hit home until a few years into our marriage. Now I realize that if my marriage is to last a life-time I must continue doing the things mentioned in this article and I must do them better. In addition, I will need to do things I’m not yet aware of. That’s why I’m asking you to share your experience. Let’s make each other better by sharing what we do to help our marriages not stink!