8 Strategies for Coping and Thriving in a Difficult Marriage

As soon as you see the letter and word; “8 strategies”, your mind instantly assumes that this is one of those prescriptive motivational statements that simplifies every problem and makes the solution very easy to obtain. But this is not about that, but a way of keeping the message as concise as possible, in a way that makes it easy to follow. There are no set rules on how to solve a problem as solutions will always work or not based on who’s applying or how they are applying the solution. These strategies nevertheless can be used as a starter tool or a guide if you find yourself in a difficult marriage or are indeed in one.

Contrary to what we would all hope for when we first get married and what we are led to believe is an ideal marriage, there is no marriage that does not at one point or another go through its own challenges. The only difference between a successful or shall I say succeeding marriage and one that isn’t, is that the couple will be able to work through their problems and move on to a higher level of working together as a team. They will also be able to develop good strategies for resolving conflicts and start to grow in their marriage. Of course every now and again, they will experience conflict but they should be able to prioritise the success of their marriage over other things including conflict.

Without wasting time, here’s my 8 strategies for coping and thriving in a difficult marriage. This is in no particular order.

  1. Find the source of the difficulty – A difficult marriage is difficult because someone is being difficult or both parties are. It may also be because the couple are facing a turbulence that is outside of their control. Therefore I would begin by doing a thorough examination of when, where and how the problems started. It could be that both parties need to seat down and talk this over because communication is important. I would also seek God’s counsel and insight. This is because difficulties can be experienced due to selfishness on the part of the couple or one of them and it could be as a result of a spiritual attack against the marriage/family. Books are a good source of knowledge and understanding. The degree to which you are able to understand what the difficulty is about is the degree to which you will be able to apply the right solution. Sometimes it is a combination of both. Seeking the help of a trained counsellor may be helpful in some instances to help work through the solution. I know some folks are reluctant to go to counselling but if the person values their marriage, she/he will do whatever it takes to find a solution. There is a great benefit in having an impartial party at the table and someone who can see things from an objective angle.
  2. You can thrive – Difficult and thriving are two contradictory words as you wouldn’t expect anyone to thrive if they are going through a difficult time. This is because problems in marriage have the tendency of affecting other aspects of the person’s life in a negative way. It could even start to affect their other relationships, finances or health. However it isn’t uncommon to thrive in other areas of life if one remains focused, learns to focus on those areas of life that are still going well, and by maintaining an attitude of gratitude generally. I have learnt to take an inventory of life at each stage including difficult ones by looking at those areas that I have control over and that are going according to plan. I have also learnt to then focus my positive energy on those areas to allow myself maintain the momentum to carry on with life. This has helped to keep me afloat of the situation as well as helped me to retain inner strength and my joy. It is needless to say that this won’t be possible without the help of God.
  3. Recovery takes time – You may have heard the proverb ‘Rome was not built in a day’. In the same way, a difficult marriage cannot be expected to magically become great in a day. It will take time, some longer than others. This is because it probably took some time before you or your spouse found yourselves in that difficult junction. Therefore to expect an instant recovery is unrealistic. As long as you are both trying to make things work and you are giving it your best, then all you need is some time and patience and before you know it you will be on your way to seeing some real improvements. This can be frustrating especially at the early stages when no sign of improvement is visible but with perseverance and prayers, you will surely get there.
  4. Get Busy – It is true that what we focus on becomes amplified. If it is a problem, it starts to grow bigger and if we are unable to find a solution, in no time, we start to feel helpless and defeated. It is therefore important to manage the amount of time you spend rehearsing a problem. Unless you are doing so in the process of finding a solution. Even then, care must be taken as it doesn’t take much to get sucked into the emotions and details of the difficulty you are experiencing. I am not suggesting that you bury your head in the sand and live in denial. But you must ensure that you focus your mind on positive things. Taking up a new course, learning a new skill or volunteering with a charity are ways to get busy if you haven’t got little kids. Even if you do, you can still find something different to do that will help channel your positive energy and bring you fulfilment, rather than spending your whole time thinking about your problem. It is amazing how something as simple as these can change your perception or position on things. Do also find positive people that you can talk to and who can support you through the difficult phase. These must be people who won’t take sides but who are also not afraid of speaking the truth in love.
  5. See things through the mind of God – God’s plan for marriage is good as if not, He won’t have invented it. The turn of events may have caused you to conclude that your spouse was a wrong choice. However my bible tells me that God will cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 But even when you think God was not involved in your choice, you never know what He’s got planned to do with that thing you call a mess. As such it is important to seek God’s counsel always about the decisions that you are proposing to make in response to that difficult marriage. Some think that divorce is a natural response to a difficult marriage. This is not often the case. See a recent journal on why divorce is not an OPTION by clicking on http://www.echoesofmy-whisperingheart.com/7-reasons-you-should-fight-for-your-marriage/ Marriage is intended to make us more like Jesus at the end of the day and so therefore God is more interested in who we are becoming through the process of managing difficulty. Besides, what God has joined together, Jesus states that “let not man separate” Matthew 19:6. This includes you or anyone. I used to think it meant others but I recently caught the revelation that this is a caution for all including those in the relationship.
  6. Guard your heart – Proverbs 4:24 admonishes us to “keep our heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life”. Of all the battles that you will ever fight in a marriage, the one battle you cannot afford to lose is the battle against your heart. The devil knows how important our hearts are. So most of the assaults we face are intended to wound our hearts. Once a heart is wounded, it is hard to cope with anything else. Bitterness, discouragement, fear, DEPRESSION, anxiety and all sorts set in. It is only a matter of time before the person loses the will to live or carry on. No matter what you do or what happens to you, guard your heart. Guarding your heart has two meanings and I will explain. Some think that withholding love from their loved ones is a way of guarding their hearts, while some think that being loving means that they let others take advantage of them. None of the extremes is good for the heart. Withholding love can shrivel the heart and cause it to stop functioning as it should. In like manner not setting appropriate boundaries can also cause the heart to be wounded. You may think that you are closing your heart to one person but the implications of this are that it will affect your other relationships even if unintended. Guard your heart! So how do your guard your heart? One of the ways to do this is by embracing the peace of God as seen in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
  7. Do away with all the negative emotions – What do I mean by this? It is very easy to blame yourself or others when going through a difficult marriage and the tendency to oscillate from one negative emotion such as guilt, anger, shame, resentment, jealousy etc. is there. Even if you have contributed to the difficulties in the marriage, there is a place for remorse and restitution. Once you have apologised, made amends, then it is time to move on. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Those who cannot forgive themselves are hardly capable of forgiving others. Even if you did not do anything, at a subconscious level, you can still blame yourself for allowing such a thing to happen to you. I have been there, trust me. Instead of wallowing in guilt, shame, and anger, allow God to heal you and don’t let the sun go down on your anger. At a point in my life, I used to ask myself why I had to experience certain things because in my view, I was an okay girl. Do you know what I mean? We sometimes think bad things cannot happen or should not happen to us because of our good nature. Life on the other hand does not always go like this. In hindsight, I am mostly grateful for those experiences as they are helping to shape who I am becoming.

Expect the best always – Be optimistic about your life and marriage. Expect the best and not the worst. Negative people miss the opportunities in a difficult situation because they are pessimists. Even if things don’t work the way you plan in this instance or have not worked before, don’t relent in being positive. Trust God and do what you can to make things better. Philippians 4:8 advises us to focus on those things that are true, noble, pure, lovely, of good report and praise worthy. We are to meditate on these things. In spite of how life or others might have treated you in the past, don’t stop believing in the best and in what is good. Things have a way of working out for the best if you don’t give up.