I look back on that time in our marriage, and the memories still sting my heart like tiny cactus needles. We survived falling apart, but mending the mess was a slow, pain-filled process. We recognized how we had intentionally hidden parts of ourselves, assuming the other person wouldn’t understand and would therefore reject us. We noticed our patterns of communication, paid attention to what triggered our pain points, and examined the beliefs we had about ourselves, each other, and the world. We faithfully attended our therapy sessions, which included lots of tears, occasional yelling, and working through the same problems again and again.
I often wondered, then, if it was worth it — worth being in the marriage, worth putting in the effort for an outcome I wasn’t guaranteed, worth keeping at it when I couldn’t even imagine what a future together might look like. And the only thing that kept me grounded was the redeeming power of the gospel. If miraculous and impossible things can happen in Christ, such as resurrection from the dead, surely there was hope for us in our marriage. Surely we could change for the better, and it would be worth it to wait and see what God might do.
In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Though this verse has been used too flippantly in the church as a way to gloss over difficult circumstances, during that season of marital hardship, I held on to it for the promise that it is. It anchored me in hope, giving me the sustenance I needed to try and commit to our marriage for another day, another month, another year.
Mending a marriage or any other relationship is not always possible, but when it is, the hardest part can be doing the simplest things, like having a conversation, asking questions, and staying curious about the other person to get to know them better.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be fully known? Wholly seen?
Even though my husband has thoughts and emotions beyond what he shows, it’s difficult for him to access them and find the words to express them. By asking him directly about his feelings, I give him the opportunity to stay present with himself, figure out how to describe what he’s feeling, and then verbalize his thoughts to me. By asking questions, I open the door for him to take up space, be himself as much as possible, and create connections between us.
The questions will vary based on different relationships and situations, but the key to asking the right ones is to stay curious, which is different from being nosy. Curiosity keeps us tender to each other’s humanity.
When we don’t know someone, it’s easy to dehumanize them and treat them as if they’re an object made for our judgment. We can make assumptions about their character, their background, their family, their life, and feel justified as we do so. But when we stay curious, we keep their humanity in view. Curiosity helps us remember that the person we share a home with and the acquaintance on Facebook are both individuals made and loved by God. We may not agree or have the same values. We may never become close with that other mom at school or that neighbor across the street, but we can genuinely care for one another. We might even find that we laugh at the same things or have similar passions. We might learn we have a shared pain or we’re on a similar journey in life. And perhaps then, even when all hope feels lost, we can take small steps toward mending the gaps created by our differences.
Ask yourself: What is one small step I can take toward mending a relationship with someone where our differences have created a rift?
This story from Grace P. Cho is an excerpt from our new book, Come Sit with Me: How to Delight in Differences, Love through Disagreements, and Live with Discomfort. In this book, 26 of our (in)courage writers help you navigate tough relational tensions by revealing their own hard-fought, grace-filled learning moments (like in Grace’s story above). They show you how to:
– delight in your differences
– honor and value others even when you disagree
– connect before you correct
– trust that God is working even when people disappoint you
– live and love like Jesus by serving others.
Whether you’re in the middle of a conflict without resolution or wondering how to enter into a friend’s pain, Come Sith With Me will serve as a gentle guide. Discover how God can work through your disagreements, differences, and discomfort in ways you might never expect.
Let us send you the introduction and first two chapters for FREE (one is Grace’s full chapter)! Sign up here.
Ruth Mills says
Amen, Grace! This reminded me of meeting a new person at church about the time of our wedding. I’d designed & seen my gown & was used to the “Oh wow’ response when people found that out. This particular person responded with a “Me too”. In the moment I heard a ‘that’s no big deal, I did that. What else ya got?’. Fortunately we were thrown together a lot over the next few months & I realized she’d said that not to dismiss me but to establish a common skill set. While no longer in the same church & neighborhood, 35 years later we’re still exchanging Christmas letters to keep up with each other! 35 years later there’s still things to learn about each other. How much more important is the continuing to be learning about those closest to us! Thank you for sharing Grace! Blessings!
Robin Dance says
What an honest, great encouragement for when marriage gets hard, Grace. Taking small steps that lead you toward each other *does* make a difference. Your chapter will speak to so many who are struggling, and it makes me think of a few people who would love a copy of the book :).
Dawn Ferguson-Liitle says
Weddings people sometimes think it all beautiful red love hearts and full of sparkles etc. Living on cloud nine. You when you go with someone for a few years as boyfriend and girlfriend. You think you know what true love is. As when going together everything seem a bed of roses. You know when you look at the roses how did they get to be the beautiful rose. They worked to pust through the thorns. Then your Boyfriend or Girlfriend asks you to married them. Like I did my Husband. You definitely if you said yes when they asked you. You look forward to the big wedding day. You both think this going bliss getting married and living together. You hope for the rest of your lives. It is so different getting married and living with someone as the saying goes 24/7. Than going with them when as boyfriend and girlfriend. The day comes you get married and you have a lovely day. Then relitaly can set in. You have someone to care for for the rest of your lives. Pay bills in house or flat you both live in. Keep the place tidy. You being the wife have to cook and do the washing and ironing for this person. Which you probably never had to expect for yourself if not living with your parents but living on your own. Same for your Husband. You do think of it will be easy we love either and we know either inside out. So it going to be the perfect marriage. But it is an real eye opener not like going with either when boyfriend and girlfriend. You have time to yourself more of when boyfriend and girlfriend. You can then choose when to go out and meet up. Now your married to the other half. You wake up on day say could say I have both of you another person to really care for. We both are responsible for bills and all that goes with a marriage. Were are before you only had yourself to worry about so did your boyfriend expect for when going out on a date. You might not like the fact there is shaving room all over the sink in the bathroom or your Husband has different styles of hygiene than you. You see his socks on the floor. Before if he was still living at home before he married you. His Mum just picked them up and put them in wash and said not even with his dirty laundry. Now it getting to you as you are a person who put the washing in the laundry basket. It getting on your nerve’s they do that and other things your not used too. You say to your new Husband and he says back to there no harm in it. Just pick up put in the laundry basket. They say hunny don’t get so wound up about. Just pick them up they say. That is only an example. Other things you didn’t know about there little habits they have now you do that get on your nerve’s. As when you both were boy friend and girlfriend they were so charming and you thought back then they were Mr perfect. But living with them as a married couple. You see what they are like. This were the rows can happen. Then you end up falling out. If not careful the marriage after so long not work out. You have say to yourself they have there way of doing things that are different to you. You never saw that side of them when going with them before you got married to them. Your going to have to get used it. Both of you give and take. As that what happened in my marriage. But today we are still together 30 years in June next year. As we did both when we got married found it hard as we were living together now as married couple. We never seen things we both did that now annoyed either that never did when going with either. So it nearly broke our marriage. Only both us were saved. We prayed to God. As many would or could of said that it it’s not working out. I can’t live with the way you do things that I don’t like. That you see no wrong in you doing. That went for both of us. So it at that stage was getting to be no longer a bed of roses. God showed both of us he asked both of us how did the rose get to be the beautiful rose. I felt my answer was the rose pushed through the thorns to be the beautiful rose it was. It did let any thing stop it getting past the thorns. God said to both of us you are going to have to work through theses problems you have and to get to be like the rose push past all theses problems of not liking the way either does things. Which were are throns. Satan wanted us to row and fight over them. That we didn’t get on. We would not speak to either. Then another day we were not getting on I had put a wedding photo up of both of us in our living room. I look at it and as I looked at it God spoke to me clearly he said Dawn didn’t you make your vows until death do you both part. I found out married life was not at the start what I thought it would be. I remember saying yes God I did make my vows until death do us part. God then asked me another question that day. Would you miss you Husband if you went you sepret ways. Because you do things that both of you don’t like. I said yes God. Then God asked me do you love your Husband I said yes. I began to cry. As I knew if we broke up over these things we both did not like what either was doing that annoyed us. I miss my best friend apart from the Lord. So I looked at my Husband after I looked at our wedding photo on the living room wall. I said I love you to too much to let theses things we don’t like that either does brake us up. As that what the enemy Satan wants. As he is out to break up marriages. I said no to my Husband. I made my vows to stay until death do us part. He looked at me gave me a big hug. Said Dawn we just have to work through all things we don’t like that either does that annoy us both. Not let the enemy Satan win by making us break up. As I know you be lost with out me he said I be lost without you. We have worked through them with God’s help and prayer. We still here all most 30 years later come next June. We not change anything. My Husband keeps saying to me God made you for me. I say the same back to him. If do have a row we make up before morning. As life short. You don’t know how much time you have together. Plus we tell either if not everyday we love either. Plus everything we do we encloud God. That is why are marriage has survived. Thank you Grace for all you said. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little keeping you all in prayer incourge xx
Beth Williams says
My hubby & I have been married for 18 years. It started out fine, but in the middle we had some issues. Biggest problem we had was understanding each other & our work situations ( he CT tech large hospital weekends). We sat down, talked about the details & duties of our jobs. Now I also work at hospital (ICU clerical largest hospital in system). Each Friday morning we sit together & talk about our work week. Letting the other one know what we need/expect of them. This helps us understand each other much better. Praying everyone can stay curious about their relationships with others. Don’t just judge someone but really get to know that person.