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Hey y’all, Tiffany here.
I once heard it said that the first year of marriage is always the most difficult. I always thought it meant my husband and I would argue with each other over where to squeeze the tube of toothpaste (from the end, duh), or which direction the toilet paper roll should go (over the top – always).
While my husband and I have certainly had some squabbles over him eating the last of my favorite cereal (do NOT touch my Cinnamon Toast Crunch!), I never dreamed the biggest fight would be in would be the fight for my life.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease a couple of years before my husband and I were married. At the time, it was well-managed and caused me very few problems. I thought that as long as I took my medicine, it would be fine.
I quickly learned otherwise – I was hospitalized 13 times in our first 9 months of marriage, and in 35+ times in the last seven.
Needless to say, our seven years of marriage together have been anything but normal! However, looking back, we wouldn’t change it for anything. There have been some hard, hard times, but they’ve made us stronger: both individually and as a couple.
I was so worried those first few months when it became apparent that my health had taken a permanent turn for the worst: worried that my husband would say, “Psh, this isn’t what I signed up for! See ya!” and walk out the door. On the contrary: he has never once complained. Not one single time. He hasn’t been resentful or blamed me……ever.
Instead, he and I have allowed these difficulties bring us closer together and help us grow. We’re at the point that we wouldn’t change a thing, even if we could. While it is still hard (after all, there is no cure for Crohn’s), we’ve learned a few things along the way that make these challenges a blessing as opposed to a stumbling block.
Put God first
When we were married, we made covenants with each other and with God. The three of us form a triangle, with Lord at the top.
As we get closer to Him, we also get closer to one another. When we keep our covenants, it makes our covenants with each other stronger.
With everything we go through, it gets easy to get caught up in doctors, work, school, caring for children – life gets busy. However, when we take the time to truly have God in our lives and have Him first, then the rest fits in.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
Let God teach your spouse
When we were first married, my husband inadvertently said something that hurt my feelings on our way to my parents’ house for dinner. When I showed up with red eyes, my father asked me if I was okay.
Before I continue this story, I should mention that my parents probably like my husband even more than they like me!
I tried to brush it off by saying something flippant, “Oh, I just haven’t trained Phillip how to talk to his wife the right way yet.”
Note: I almost never say things like this. I strongly feel that it is extremely disrespectful to joke about how men aren’t great at “watching kids” or cleaning up laundry, even if it is “just a joke.” But that’s for another day!
My father didn’t laugh; instead he stopped me, looked me straight in the eye, and proceeded to explain a concept and perspective about marriage that I had never considered before.
You see, it’s not my place to “train” my husband about anything. That’s God’s job, and that’s something the world is going to do. At this time, my husband was just finishing his undergrad and was entering the “adult” world of full-time employment and taking care of a family. He was going to be going out into new situations, and the world was going to teach him some very hard, difficult lessons.
The world, you see, is not very forgiving of imperfections and weaknesses. My husband was going to be surrounded every day with people watching what he did, measuring how he performed. And God was going to allow those opportunities to help my husband grow in the areas that He thought was best.
My job, explained my father, was not to “train” my husband in the areas that I thought he needed. That’s God’s job, because He knows everything and knows my husband better than I do.
Instead, my job is to make our home a haven, a refuge. My husband was going out into the world and would be slapped in the face at times with his inadequacies. Our home needed to be a safe place for him to return and work out those lessons.
Instead of giving my husband more reasons to see his failures, I needed to allow him to grow and develop in a loving, nurturing environment. The same goes for him to me: he helps me grow and develop with love and care. Our home is a haven to learn and grow under God’s direction and guidance.
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
Communicate with a child of God
As you communicate with your spouse, remember who they are. He (or she) is a child of God. You have been entrusted with the love and care of one of Heavenly Father’s precious, beloved children. How would you want your child’s spouse to treat them?
You are the most important, most influential person in your spouse’s life. That is a precious gift that should not be taken lightly simply because it is commonplace.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
Let God be the third partner
We often hear that God is the third partner in our marriage, but most of us leave that as saying prayers as a couple, scripture study, and more. However, we tend to stop there. We don’t truly involve Him as a third partner.
Let me give an example of what this could look like:
You decide to surprise your husband with his favorite dinner, which usually takes a lot of work to make. He comes home late without telling you and in a bad mood. Dinner is already cold; he eats it without a thank you, then heads off to the living room and watches TV.
Now at this point your feelings are hurt. In your mind, you have two choices. You try to take the “higher road” and not mention it, in an attempt to be understanding. Or you could go talk to him about it, but that might lead to a fight, or might just make him feel guilty.
Note: we are approaching this as if you are in a healthy, functional relationship; not an abusive or one-sided marriage.
Either of your options leaves one of you with hurt feelings. However, there is another option: talk to the third partner in your marriage. Go to God in prayer and say, “I wanted to do something nice for my husband because I love him, and I thought I would feel love and gratitude in return. Since my husband isn’t able to provide that right now because of his rough day, could I please feel it from You? Can I feel Your love and gratitude for doing something nice for my husband, who is also Your child?”
God will always answer that prayer. Both you and your spouse are imperfect people, trying to have a Christlike relationship. Thankfully, your third partner is perfect and he can make up for you and your spouse’s imperfections (or even just the effects of a bad day from an imperfect world).
Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth….is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
Keep an eternal perspective
Everything that we have learned in our seven years of marriage with so many health issues can be summed up with this: keep an eternal perspective. It means that no matter what comes up, we keep our eternal goal in mind.
Whether it’s a week in the hospital with doctors informing my husband that it’s time to say our goodbyes (which has happened multiple times), or him coming home late from work after putting the toilet paper roll on wrong that morning – we try to always remember that we’ve made covenants. With God and with each other.
Those covenants are how we do it. They’re how we make our marriage work….successfully.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.