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Have you ever read a fairy tale that ended with a wedding and, “And they all lived happily ever after”?
Hey y’all, Tiffany here.
When I envisioned my life after growing up, getting married, and having a family, I didn’t expect that I would be fighting my dragons after I had said my wedding vows.
I knew it would be difficult, of course – life always has its ups and downs. But I never dreamed that the biggest fight of my married life would be a literal fight for my life.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease about 8 years ago, just a little over a few year before I was married. It was managed well with medications, but two months after my wedding, it all changed.
In these last six years, in addition to having two children, I’ve been admitted to the hospital close to 40 times due to health complications. Some of those stays have seen me on death’s doorstep.
I used to worry 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.
Here are four key things that I have learned about God, marriage, parenting, and life over these last several years.
Let go of expectations
Let’s face it, we all have expectations about what our happily ever after will look like. We may not realize it, but we do! A lot of that is how we were raised. For example, in my house, my dad always took out the trash. In Phillip’s house, it was his mom’s chore. For the first few weeks after marriage, we kept waiting for the other person to take out the garbage without realizing it was an expectation we had!
Many times, large trials will bring permanent changes to our lives. When we try to “hang on” to what we were in order to not lose ourselves, it can cause more problems and make the challenge more difficult. I’d had an ideal of how I would be as a wife and mother. My health makes it impossible to live up to that ideal.
My husband does more of the chores and childcare than we’d planned, and he’s also unavoidably had to give up a few professional and educational goals in order to accommodate my needs. I had to learn how to coupon so we could pay medical bills, which is something I never thought I would do. But the more willing we are to make changes in what we do or who we are, the smoother the process goes.
Let God be the third partner in your marriage
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. Let’s say 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 perfectand he can make up for you and your spouse’s imperfections (or even just the effects of a bad day from an imperfect world).
Make your home a safe haven
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.
Instead, my job is to make our home a haven, a refuge. My husband and our future children would be going out into the world and would be slapped in the face at times with their inadequacies. Our home needed to be a safe place for him to return and work out those lessons.
Instead of giving my family more reasons to see their failures, I needed to allow them to grow and develop in a loving, nurturing environment. Our home is a haven to learn and grow under God’s direction and guidance.
Honestly, some of it is choice. I have zero control over what my body does in spite of my best efforts, but I do have control over how I react to it. I can be sick and happy or I can be sick and miserable. Choosing happiness is much more preferable!
When things are difficult, I try to see what I can do to help others. Each time I go to a new doctor or am back in the hospital, my circle of influence changes. I try to do what I can to improve the days of the people around me. In turn, that brightens my day.
Think of others
These tips I’ve shared can be summarized in a single statement: think of others.
When we have a difficult journey in life, it is easy to get hung up on ourselves and what we’re going through. Instead, if we take the time to think of others and their situations, we forget our sorrows and feel true joy.
And true joy is the real happily ever after.
A version of this post was originally written for Living Tickled HERE