By Gary Moore
If I could see a show of hands, there are probably a lot of you who would characterize your marriage as “stuck.” What are some of the more common causes of stuck marriages? Pastor and author Ted Cunningham says that even though the issues vary, the roots are amazingly the same. In-laws, jobs, homes, communication, ministry, leadership in the home, laziness, nagging, holidays, and unresolved anger are all issues that couples say are the source of the problem. For some, money and the lack thereof is the cause. Others point to parenting styles and their inability to get on the same page with discipline strategies. And yet others blame a sexless bedroom.
Every couple experiences the grind. When a marriage gets stuck in the grind, the vacuum of intimacy sucks each spouse dry. It is exhausting and draining.
Because of the way most men handle stress – that is they withdraw from conflict and hard conversations (I know I’m talking in generalities) – it is not uncommon for marital issues to go unresolved for months, or longer.
In conflict, there’s the concept of the last 10%. In conflict we generally share 90 percent of the problem with little blood, sweat, or tears, but the last 10% is the elephant in the room – the part that leaves the relationship at risk.
When the relationship is at risk, couples are stuck. Sadly, many marriages end because one or both spouses blame issues and each other as the source of the problem. According to Pastor Ted there is a way out of the stuckness. There is a way to enjoy life and marriage at the same time.
To get unstuck as a couple, you must change your fundamental beliefs about the grind and your marriage’s place in it.
In Ecclesiastes 1, Solomon uses word pictures from creation to explain life and the grind. Here we get the picture of a grinder. The earth was here and churning long before my mother conceived me. Just like you, I was born into the grind. The churning never stopped. It is as sure as the sun rising and the sun setting. It is as sure as rivers flowing into the sea. The grind gives us plenty of hard times and challenges throughout life. But keep in mind, God already knows about the grind.
God gave Adam work to do before sin entered the picture. However, grinding work became part of the equation as a result of Adam’s disobedience. Romans 5:12 says, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death came to all people…” The grind is the direct result of humanity’s fall in the garden and will last a lifetime.
Age will not get you out of the grind. Even if you make it to 80 years of age, your life will be tough. It’s a myth to think that the more years you get under your belt the easier the grind will get. Money cannot buy your way out of it. Degrees cannot outsmart it. Age and maturity won’t deliver you from pain and trials. Eventually your body will find its way into the grind.
So, you’re in the grind all the way to the end, and your only way out of the grind is death. Are you encouraged yet? Life is hard, and then you die.
The bookends of Ecclesiastes tell us life is hard in chapter 1 and then in chapter 12, we die. But in the midst of the grind God invites you to enjoy your life. Ecclesiastes 9:7-8 says: “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.”
You and I have a responsibility in the daily grind. You and I are called to enjoy life. In the midst of the grind that is life, while you’re still alive, go and do something. Live life and enjoy it. You need to find and hold on to those moments. We can do nothing to escape the grind. So, in the meantime, choose joy. Choosing to enjoy life is a decision. Make that decision.
And for goodness’ sake, stop treating your spouse as the grinder. She is not the grind. He is not the grind. The grind is the seventy to eighty years you have on this earth, and God blessed you with a spouse to go through the grind with you. You have a grind companion. Just like my wife and kids coming along on a trip to be my travel companions and enduring all the airport stress, you and your spouse get to work through life’s challenges together.
You can enjoy life with your spouse in the midst of the grind. Hear Ecclesiastes 9:9. “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun – all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.”
This is the only place in the Bible where it says, “Enjoy life with your wife.” You and I do not need to choose between the two, and one does not trump the other. You can have both because marriage, done right, enhances life.
Gary Moore served as associate pastor at Cloverdale Church of God for 15 years. He does couples’ coaching and leads couples’ workshops and retreats called MUM’s the Word. He does a weekly radio program called Life Point Plus on KBXL 94.1FM at 8:45 a.m. on Fridays. Monday mornings at 10 a.m. he does live relationship teaching called MUM Live on his Facebook page Mutual Understanding Method. He may be contacted at [email protected].