How to Handle Difficult Times in Marriage

I have a hard time believing that there are people who spend years married and never stumble into difficult times in marriage.



Marriage is an awesome adventure, but it can also be challenging and stressful when you hit a bump in the road. Figuring out what to do when marriage is not working, well, that is going to be different for every couple.



And, I can guarantee you that when your marriage seems like it has hit the rocks, there are other couples going through hard times as well, so know you’re not alone.



But, the good news is that there are some things you can do to try and get your marriage back to a point of stability.





The Best Ways to Handle Difficult Times in Marriage


The bottom line is that marriage is hard.



Is marriage hard for everyone?



I believe that at some point in every marriage, things get hard. Sure, there are times when things are easy. In the beginning, for instance, things should feel easy.



At least for the first couple of weeks, you should be so head over heels in love with each other, that you can’t imagine life being any more perfect. That joyful bliss may only last for a short period of time until you start getting annoyed with little things you had somehow managed to overlook before.



Or, maybe you start to realize that finding a balance between the life you had before and the life you have now is going to be a bit more challenging than you had imagined.



Before we dive into things, it’s good to think about the different seasons of marriage.




*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. I only recommend products I love or would personally use.



picture of a set of wedding rings lying on a table





Understanding Marriage

It’s important to understand that there are seasons of marriage.



First, identify which season your marriage is in right now. Be mindful that every season is different, and every season will be different for every couple.



There are challenges and rewards with each one and finding a balance during uncertainty is key.



Keep in mind, I am in no way a marriage expert. I just want to share some things I have learned through experience and through the books I have read.





Season 1: Head Over Heels in Love

Chances are, well at least hopefully, you married your spouse because you fell in love. It doesn’t matter if you dated for 5 years or 5 months, some people just know.



My husband and I knew early on that we wanted to be married. We dated for 8 months and we were engaged for 7 months. We just knew.



Being in love is an amazing feeling. It’s like you have finally found the person you want to spend your life with. You have found the person you want to parent children with, and the person you want to grow old with.



It really is a great gift. But, even the best gifts can be difficult. (Children are a great example of this!)



Difficult times in marriage seem impossible right now, but trust me, they will come. Take note of this head over heels in love feeling, you’ll need it later. So, Season 1 of marriage is great because you’re in LOVE.






Season 2: Reality of Life Sets In

Your partner isn’t perfect.



They leave dishes in the sink (or maybe you do), there’s laundry on the floor, and the bathroom hasn’t been cleaned in a month.



The reality of married life may not be all that you thought it was. There are things that will make you joyful and things that will bring you heartache.



When you start to settle down into your new life of being married to someone, you see just how much things have changed. That can be hard.



This season of life is one that needs an incredible amount of open, honest, and kind conversation. It shouldn’t be attacking or condemning, but rather sharing your feelings of concern.



I found that it was helpful to come into those conversations with a list. Each person writes a list of concerns before you sit down together to discuss how you might make things work better.



Once you sit down together, you can either read your lists to each other or just swap them and read to yourself. At that point, begin to hash out (kindly) who can change what. Hopefully, the conversation is productive and doesn’t end up with one person (or both) walking away upset.



The “reality” season of life can be tough. But, just like anything else in life, it is a season, and it should pass.






Season 3: My Way or the Highway

It’s hard to take two people who have done life alone up until this point and suddenly have this beautiful, picture-perfect, harmonious relationship.



You must find the good in the person you married and accept them for who they are despite their flaws. Your spouse will also need to do the same for you.



Once you start to establish a way of working through things, you may start to feel like you’re right.



And because of this, you will want that person to jump on your side of a disagreement and agree with you. But, chances are, your spouse feels the same way. Boom! Roadblock.



Having an attitude of, “My Way or the Highway”, isn’t productive, and chances are it will end up with someone getting hurt. Marriage is a mutual relationship of respect, even when it isn’t easy.



Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean you have to be disrespectful. It means you have a discussion, and you either come to an agreement, or you simply agree to disagree.



Marriages are not exempt from that result. Agreeing to disagree is ok. However, if it is something that really needs a decision, both people need to walk away, think about things, and then reconvene to try to come to a different conclusion.






Season 4: You Committed Because You Fell in Love

You realize that despite everything you’ve experienced in your marriage that it’s worth it. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the unknown, you wouldn’t want to do life with anyone else.



Marriage isn’t a one-way street. It is a journey that is meant to be shared together. You chose your partner, and you vowed to make it work through good times and bad. That means that even in the bad times, you still LOVE your spouse.



When I find myself frustrated in a situation with my husband, I have started trying to do this exercise. I sit down and re-think our wedding day.



I think about what it was like getting ready and knowing that I was going to be walking down the aisle. It takes me back to a moment in time when all I wanted was to stand before our friends and family and say, “I do”.



I can still recall how I felt when I walked down the aisle. It wasn’t butterflies. It was a feeling of great joy knowing that I was going to be spending the rest of my life growing our family with the man at the end of the aisle. And that IS beautiful.



You committed because you fell in love. Remember that.








What to Do When Marriage Is Not Working


{I need to say something before I continue. If you are in a relationship that is abusive, get help. You need to seek help from someone outside your marriage. NO ONE deserves to be abused, even if you think it’s your fault. LOVE never comes in the form of abuse.}




Begin Praying for Your Spouse and Your Marriage

Praying for your spouse can be a challenge when you find yourself in a situation of frustration and disgust. Chances are, the last thing you want to do is pray.



But, I firmly believe that having God as the foundation of your marriage is the greatest thing you can do for yourself and your marriage. Allowing yourself to pray bold prayers of forgiveness and redemption is powerful.



Stop being upset with the situation and start praying that God would show you how you can work on your own heart instead of trying to change your spouse’s heart. Pray for your spouse.



And I don’t mean pray that they (your spouse) would begin to see things your way. I mean to pray that your spouse would grow closer to God’s heart and that God would begin to work there as well.



Prayer is one of the most powerful things in marriage, remember that.






Work on Yourself First

Contrary to the fact that you think you aren’t part of the problem, I need to tell you that you might be.



Sure, there are circumstances where one person messes up and the other is faultless, but in many examples, both people could’ve done things differently.



It’s wise to evaluate the current situation and see what you could’ve done better or differently and to make sure you change your own actions the next time.






Be Patient with Your Spouse

Everyone deals with stress differently. Some situations are more high-stress than others.



For instance, someone having an affair is going to cause a lot more stress than someone leaving the sink full of dishes.



In either situation and so many others, patience is needed. Some people take longer to process situations while others need a resolution quickly. That’s tough, I know.



My husband and I are like that. When my husband and I have a disagreement within our marriage, I want to fix the problem quickly and move on, and he needs more time to process it.



Both are OK.



It can be hard to be the person who wants a quick resolution, but once you realize you get a better outcome by giving that person some space, you feel more comfortable letting things rest for a day or so. Be patient.







Keep Talking to Each Other

When things get rocky, it can be so easy to shut down and walk away. But, that is only going to make things worse.



If there is one thing I have learned in my marriage up to this point, it is that communication is 100% key to the success of any marriage.



You must talk to each other. Failure to do this can create fictional feelings that aren’t there. You imagine that your spouse is feeling “this way”, and so you, in turn, take actions based on how you think they’re feeling. It just doesn’t end well.



Continuing to talk to each other may not be easy, depending on the circumstances. I think it is totally acceptable to speak only about the things that are 100% relevant until each person has had enough time to really think about what they need to say without emotion getting in the way.



There isn’t much point in having a discussion until a decent conversation can be had without yelling or tears. Neither of those is the end goal of any conversation.



The end goal is to re-establish open lines of communication that once existed by putting out the flames of any fire that comes your way.






Spend Time Together

You may not always like your spouse.



But, you should always love them.



When you decided to get married, you made a lifelong commitment to be faithful to this one person.



Making time for each other is critical, whether you have children or not. I have shared about the ways I make time to date my husband after having kids, but I also did that before we had kids too.



We went on date nights often. And, when we couldn’t go out, we stayed at home but spent time together.



Sure, that has been much harder now that we have kids, BUT it is still one of our greatest priorities. With the fast-paced world we live in, spending quality time with the person you married is crucial.



You need to feel connected for your marriage to work. Life must be shared with this person. That means the good, the bad, and the not-so-pretty.



Regardless of any of those things, be present with your spouse.






Reminisce about the Good Times

I firmly believe that figuring out how to rebuild your marriage begins with going back to a time when things were good.



Go back to the times when you went on dates and spent time together. Take the time to send flowers or gifts to each other that mean something. Look at photo albums of when your kids were born.



Share the emotions with each other that you remember feeling in those moments. Laugh at the funny things that happened on the day of your wedding.



Find something that will bring a common emotional connection between the two of you. There had to have been some good in your marriage at some point.



Making the time to sit down together and go back to the good times in your marriage is critical to getting through the rough times.



There are going to be times when you must be reminded of why you got married.



Does that mean your marriage is over? ABSOLUTELY NOT!



It just means that you and your spouse are in a tough season. It doesn’t mean you give up. You will just have to try a bit harder to move past that by remembering the good.






Encourage Your Spouse

One of the best things you can do during difficult times in marriage is to encourage one another.



Wives, I am going to speak to you hear. Your husbands thrive on hearing you say that they are doing something right, or that you appreciate them. I know it’s important that you hear this from them as well, but, if you have to, say it first.



Men, tell your wife often that you love her. She is going to have more respect for you when she feels secure in the way you love her. Figure out her love language and nurture that.



There is a great book, called Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately He Needs by Emerson Eggerichs that I discuss a bit more in this post about how to prioritize your marriage after having kids.



It’s all about how men need to feel respected to better love their wives, and how women need to feel loved to better respect their husbands.



When neither party is participating in these actions, you end up on something called “the crazy cycle”. And this cycle of negativity goes around and around until someone decides to step off and provide their spouse with the love or respect they need.



Seriously, buy this book and read it! It will change your marriage.






Utilize Your Knowledge of Love Languages

We were lucky enough to take an assessment of our love languages during our pre-marital counseling.



The assessment showed us how each person felt loved best.



For instance, one of my love languages is quality time. My husband’s love language is gifting. Basically, it means that I feel most loved and valued when he makes time for me, and he feels the most love when I give him a gift.



What does this mean for you and your marriage?



I would HIGHLY SUGGEST that you read the book, “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It will help you identify your own and your spouse’s love language and it will also help you better understand the ways you can show love.



When you can love your spouse using their love language instead of your own, good things will happen. Chances are, you won’t be shocked when you find out what theirs is, but you just haven’t thought about using it.







Things to Remember When Things Get Hard


This season is temporary.

It’s hard to be mindful that in 5 or 10 years, many of the disagreements you have today will be forever forgotten. You must remember that difficult times in marriage will come, but so will good times.



And seriously, sometimes the only thing that pulls you through the rough times is sitting down together and re-living the good times.






Be intentional in showing love and attention to your spouse.

Take the time to identify each other’s love languages. Showing your spouse love is essential in making your marriage work. Be sure that you understand what love looks like to them and to you. Get on the same page and be intentional.






Remember you aren’t perfect either.

If that came as a shock to you, I’m sorry to be the one to break the news.



No one is perfect, and you will both mess up. It’s ok.



In fact, your imperfection isn’t a bad thing.



Your relationship will grow stronger with each hurdle you overcome together.






Work through your difference of opinions together.

You are a team. You chose your team and you need to figure out how to make it work.



Teammates don’t always agree on things, but they ALWAYS figure out a way to make it work. Sometimes you will have to give in and let the other person have their way. Other times, you will get yours.



Work through these issues together.






Choose to pursue your spouse every day.

Every. Single. Day.



If you wake up every single day of your marriage and have that incredible, starry-eyed love feeling towards your spouse, you are blessed!



For everyone else, which I think is most of us, there will be days when you have to wake up and remind yourself that you love this person. And on those days, figure out a way to pursue your mate.






Keep positive people in your space.

One of the worst things you can do for your marriage and yourself really is to have negative people in your space.



Don’t hang out with people who have an ill view of marriage or your spouse. Those people will start to get in your head and it’s un-telling what they will be able to convince you of.



Instead, surround yourself with people who desire your marriage to be successful. Hang out with people who want to build you up in your marriage instead of tearing you down.






Take life one day at a time.

You guys, marriage is a journey, not a one-day trip.



Every day will not be roses and butterflies.



Some days it might feel like you are trudging through a garbage pit with no end in sight.



Hold fast to your spouse.



Each passing day will get you closer to another season of good. It can be a tough pill to swallow, but you wouldn’t really appreciate any of the good if you didn’t have bad days to remind you of how incredible the good days are.






Keep Going.

At the end of the day, it’s about endurance.



Will you find it within yourself to keep up your endurance?



Do you want your marriage to work so desperately that you are going to figure out a way to keep it together?



Choose to keep going. Day in and day out. Keep going.



Marriage is hard some days and amazing on others. That is what makes marriage beautiful. It is a special journey that is meant to be shared between two people. You chose that person. They are your person, and you are theirs.



Make it work.



If you could give couples one piece of marriage advice, what would it be? What is the best marriage advice you have ever been given?



MORE Helpful Posts on Marriage

How to Date Your Husband (so things don’t get stale!)

How to be a Wife and a Mom



blessings to you, Lisa







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