I’m sitting here on the Wednesday before yet another massive storm pummels the coast, writing my post a little early, and thinking about these storms. Having been through Hurricane Harvey and then discussing with a friend her preparations for Hurricane Irma, I considered how our options to a coming storm and to marriage struggles are the same.
You know that person after a hurricane, whom news reporters always seem to find, that says something like, “I knew there was a storm coming, but I had no idea it was going to be this big. So when it shattered my house…” All the signs and warnings were there, but the person chose to ignore that something bad was happening, preferring instead to live in denial.
Too many deal with marriage struggles the same way. Sure, they’ve heard that their spouse is unhappy, but they didn’t realize it was that bad until she left with the kids or until he filed for divorce. Despite the signs and warnings being there, the spouse chose to ignore the conflict or silence in their marriage, the emotional pain their mate felt and expressed, the absence of companionship and intimacy.
And, sadly, in many cases, the home eventually shatters. If your spouse is telling you they’re unhappy in the marriage, listen and take steps to avoid irreparable damage.
Ride It Out.
This is what the vast majority of Texans decided to do with Hurricane Harvey, staying put in their homes while the storm raged over and around us. While the photos of devastation in Houston and now Beaumont are truly heart-wrenching, we experienced relatively few casualties and most of our homes and buildings survived. We have a lot of rebuilding to do, but riding it out allowed residents to be here immediately to begin reconstruction once the rains subsided.
Some challenges in marriage are worth riding out. You might be experiencing conflict tied to external events, like a health issue or financial pressures, that won’t last forever. We tend to think however things have been going for the last year or two are how they will continue to be, but it’s just not true.
One important research study showed that couples who reported being unhappy in the marriage reported being happy in their marriage just five years later …. with no intervention. What happened? They rode out the storms, and things got better. Riding it out doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing. You still need to take care of your home, prevent further damage, and create a safe and reassuring place as best you can.
Hurricane Harvey dumped about 50 inches of rainfall in my area just outside of Houston. A few of my friends, whose homes had never flooded before, had to be rescued. They had every intention of riding out the storm, having prepared well based on hurricanes in the past, but this time was different. It was worse. It was life-threatening. The only answer was to seek rescue, from organized rescue teams or that average Texan guy who brought his bass boat to help out. Once rescued, further relief efforts began, providing shelter, food, and healing to those who had to leave what they’d known behind.
Some marriage problems are life-threatening; not that they could kill you, but they could kill your marriage. And too often in those storms, we wait too long to seek outside help, the blessed rescue our marriage needs. The time to get outside help isn’t when you’re underwater or having to ax through your roof and wave a white towel to a passing rescue crew, but when you look around and realize you’re flooding and the water isn’t going away.
In today’s world, there are so many resources to address problems that plague marriage, from overcoming porn to recovering from an affair to ongoing conflict to loss of sex drive. Books, blogs, online courses, workshops, counseling, and much more are available as rescue you can seek when you need it.
I wasn’t here for the last major hurricane that hit Houston, which was Ike in 2008. My family packed up and went to San Antonio to stay with family. I ventured back after the storm to find a hole in our roof where rain had fallen straight into our dining room, and I was glad we hadn’t been there for the actual 104-mile winds that had struck our home. Sometimes, when the hurricane is particularly bad, it’s best to just leave.
There is so much good about being in this ministry, but one tough thing is receiving a comment or email from someone who describes their marriage and their spouse in such a way that I really, truly believe they need to get out. Ah, the weight of that moment! Do I tell them to leave? No, but I do suggest they do some reality checks and soul-searching. Because while this is a last-resort answer, sometimes it’s best to just leave.
Some spouses are sadly in an abusive marriage (physically and/or emotionally) or living with a serial adulterer, and there’s no indication that their mate will change or even wants to change. When your spouse is a 104-mile winds storm every day, how long can you do that? God knows that you are more important than your marriage, and He has provided that there are times you simply need to evacuate.
I don’t know where you are in your marriage, but most struggling marriages are in the stages of Ride It Out or Seek Rescue. Mind you, with both of these, you should be preparing for the storm, investing time and effort, working together to minimize damage, and pursuing emotional safety and health. That’s why my ministry is here, as well as many others.
♥ ♥ ♥
Since I’m writing this post ahead of time, let me say that I’m praying for all those in the path of Hurricane Irma. I encourage my readers to do the same. Any time there’s a massive storm, there will be a time of recovery and rebuilding.