Why is marriage hard work? Should be difficult? Or are we missing something about relationships that make it combative and difficult? In this article we explore reasons we need to work on our marriage, and the benefits of making it work.
Ever see the TV show Accidental Fortune?
It’s about regular people who stumble into fortune on accident.
For example, one episode was about a man in Ohio who wanted to build a small golf course on his property. While digging around with his backhoe, he struck something odd in the ground.
It looked like bone. So he called the authorities only to discover he had unearthed an 11,000 year old Mastadon skeleton.
He later sold it to a Japanese museum for over $600,000.
He wasn’t searching for a Mastadon skeleton. He just found one on accident.
Although the series is about these accidental fortunes people find, it is very rare to stumble into wealth of this nature. Most people will tell you, wealth and success come from disciplined work and investment.
It’s the same with relationships.
I’ve met couples who found accidental fortune in their marriage. Things just seemed to fall in place and they live(d) happily ever after. But that’s rare.Most couples have to work and invest in their marriage to make it (and keep it) healthy. Click To Tweet
Most couples have to work and invest in their marriage to make it (and keep it) healthy.
3 Reasons We Have To Work On Our Marriage
Before we dive into the reasons we have to work on our marriage, I want to remind you that marriage should not be a constant battle. If it is, something is wrong.
If you are in a war for your marriage, go here to get help.
Here are 3 reasons why it’s necessary to work on your marriage:
#1: We Are All Human
I don’t say this to justify bad behavior; merely to point out the fact that none of us is perfect. This means we can have a tendency to be selfish, stubborn, and difficult at times.
As a Christian, my view of mankind looks like this:
- We are created in the image of God (which makes us have incredible potential for good)
- We are all sinners (which means we do not live up to our potential; at least not consistently)
- Through Christ we can be forgiven and restored (brought into favor with God)
I realize this is extremely over-simplified. I mention it because, regardless of your ‘view of people’ (whether you are a Christian or not) we can all admit we fall short of our potential on a regular basis. Mankind can be incredibly selfish. Because of that, we have to ‘work’ on our relationships.Mankind can be incredibly selfish. Because of that, we have to 'work' on our relationships. Click To Tweet
Again, being human should not be used as an excuse to take advantage of people, hurt others, or live selfishly. We are responsible for our character and integrity.
Being human simply means, since we all have faults and weaknesses, we need to work on them.
#2: We All Have Needs
We all have needs. And sometimes those needs conflict with each other. These conflicting needs teach us how to give and take in a relationship. This keeps our marriage in balance.
A quick illustration my help:
Have you ever watched a tight rope walker cross Niagra Falls? It’s amazing. They have skill, focus, and unbreakable nerves of steel.
Have you ever seen someone walk a tight rope with only one end fastened? Of course not. It doesn’t matter how brave a person is, how focused they are, or how much skill they have, if both ends are not fastened, the rope will not have the tension it needs to sustain the person.
There is a principle here we often overlook.
The proper type (and amount) of tension is required to keep life in balance.
I’m not talking about issues we fight over. Or problems that arise. I’m talking about the tension that exists between giving and receiving. Marriage requires both. Without it, the relationship is unhealthy.
2 Categories Of Needs
There are two basic categories needs fall into:
- God Needs
- Human Needs
I am intentionally over-simplifying this to drive home a point.
God needs are those that only God can fulfill. Human needs are those people can meet.
It’s vital to understand the difference and keep them in their right place.
If we try to make our partner fill a need only God can fill, we run the risk of ruining the relationship.
We will either put undo pressure on our spouse to be something they are not designed to be, or we will put them on a pedistol and set them up for failure.If we try to make our partner fill a need only God can fill, we run the risk of ruining the relationship. Click To Tweet
For example, while I want my wife to have a sense of purpose and identity, only God can give that to her. I can reinforce it; but this is something that comes from outside of me. My role is to validate who she is, not create who she is.
I hope you can see the difference. I’ll say it again, my role is to reinforce and validate who she is, not create it.
Having said that, there are needs I must meet.
I must provide her with an atmosphere (culture) of trust, security, and love so she can flourish. She must provide the same for me. That’s where learning to give and take comes in.I want my wife to have a sense of purpose and identity, yet only God can give that to her. I can reinforce it; but this is something that comes from outside of me. My role is to validate who she is, not create who she is. Click To Tweet
#3: Life Throws Us Curve Balls
When you look at a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you see a lot of ups and downs. The image below is the DOW over the last five years. Notice that sometime during 2020, it crashed…then recovered.
The lesson is, business does not grow or move in a straight line. Neither do marriages.
There are ups and downs in any relationship. Things happen. Like the couple I mentioned above who lost their child.
Sometimes life throws us a curve ball – something we weren’t expecting. These events challenge our relationship. Sometimes emotions run raw. They demand we invest energy, time and effort to keep the marriage moving forward.
These are times we have to work on our marriage.
It doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is in trouble; it just means it requires extra attention.
3 Hidden Benefits Of Working On Your Marriage
Most of us were raised to believe fighting is bad. I agree. In part. There is certainly a bad kind of fighting that we should avoid. But there is also a good fight that is healthy and neccesary for a strong relationship.
Remember, I’m not referring to marriage as a constant battleground or war. That’s unhealthy. It’s also a sign something is terribly wrong.
There is a healthy fight; one where you fight FOR not IN your relationship.
Here are 3 benefits you might overlook as you work on your marriage.
1) Value Increases When You Fight For Something
Fighting FOR something indicates an investment. When we invest in something, it’s value increases.
For years I’ve given books away. My wife and I both are readers and love books. Especailly those that have impacted our lives. When we are at garage sales or discount stores, we often buy books we’ve already read so we can give them away.
The irony is, people rarely read the books we give them. However, when we recommend a book to someone, and they buy it, the odds of them reading it increase.
It’s the principle of investment. We value the things we have an investment in. Whether it is a book, car, house, or relationship. Where there is investment, there is value.
I’ve met couples who have gone through incredible struggles and come out on the other side with a stronger, deeper marriage than before. The struggle increased the value of their relationship.
We have friends who lost their son to an addiction. (You can read their story here) Walking through the pain of that event made their relationship stronger and deeper. They didn’t fight against each other, but for each other.
2) We Protect What Matters To Us
If I value something, I will do what is necessary to keep it safe. Protecting implies safety. That’s the key.
There are two kinds of protection: Overt and covert
Overt means actions done that are plainly and readily apparent. If someone tries to harm my wife or famiily so I go into ‘fight mode’ to protect them. It happens quickly and in the open. It is not hidden.
Covert on the other hand implies something behind the scenes or concealed. This happens when the threat is not necessarily visible or outward.
For example, if Social Media is taking away family time, I will put things in place that discourage internet use and encourage personal interaction. I won’t go to war with Facebook or TikTok, but I will limit their ability to influence my family.
The point is, when we love something we fight for it. We do what is necessary to keep it safe (overt protection) and meaningful (covert protection).
3) Struggle Always Presents Opportunity
Within every struggle is an opportunity to grow. The question becomes, do you recognize those opportunities? And what do you do with them?
James and Suzann Pawelski offer good advice on how to capitalize on these opportunities.
1. Building and Broadening
Every person has 3-5 signature strengths (attributes that make them unique). To build and broaden your relationship, they recommend creating activities that center on your partners signature strengths.
They give a great example:
If one person’s top strength is zest and the other’s is love of learning, they could take a Segway tour around a historical city to engage both.
This is powerful because it creates a shared experienced around things that could potentially drive a couple apart. Instead, when you look for the opportunity, you broaden your relationship and build something shared by both.
2. Lengthening and Strengthing
In simple terms, this means we savor the good things. To do this, we have to reframe situations to find the positive – the opporunity.
To achieve happiness, we focus our attention on the things that bring us joy rather than dwelling on the things that cause us pain.
Relationships work better when you focus not on what you can get out of them but on what you can put into them – and become through them.
Final Thoughts on Why Marriage Takes Work
Married life takes hard work. But it shouldn’t be a warzone. The hard work is done from a position that says, ‘I value my marriage and I will do what it takes to maintain harmony, peace, and love in my relationship.’
When marriage is a constant battle, it indicates something is wrong. While marriage does take work, it is not work in the sense of grudging obligation. It is work born out of love.
In this article we discovered three reasons to work on your marriage, and three hidden benefits.
- 3 Reasons We Have To Work On Our Marriage
- 3 Hidden Benefits Of Working On Your Marriage
We have resources available to help you create the marriage you desire and deserve.
The Healthy Marriage Quiz
If you want specific help for your marriage, or you want to know your healthy marriage score, take the marriage quiz. You’ll get immediate access with suggestions on how to improve your relationship.
The Healthy Marriage Toolkit
Books, Courses, Programs, and Tools designed to help you create the marriage of your dreams.
Five Simple Steps Marriage Course
Marriage doesn’t have to be complicated. In this 5 part mini-series, you’ll discover practical steps to redesign your marriage.
Healthy Marriage Academy
Our courses will help you build a strong marriage. Each course is designed to meet a specific relationship need.
If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.