Other Husband & Wife Articles

When You've Tried Everything

By Danielle Bean

Whenever I offer advice for couples to improve their marriage, I am sure to hear from some frustrated folks.

“But I do all that stuff already,” some men protest, “and she’s still not happy!”

“I do everything I can for my husband,” some women tell me, “but he never reciprocates!”

Sound familiar?

When we experience these kinds of frustrations – and let’s face it, we all do from time to time – I think that what we are forgetting is the other half of our marriage vows.

Remember what you promised? For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In good times and in bad. In sickness and in health. Are you seeing the pattern here?

All that ugly foreshadowing of trouble is right there in the vows you took on your wedding day. No one ever told you that married life was going to be an endless stream of candlelit dinners, sparkling conversations, and rose petals in the bathtub. Everything just felt so lovely and right in the beginning that you figured it would last forever. After all, you’re in love, and all’s right with the world!

When times are tough and we make sacrificial efforts to improve our marriages, it can be tempting to look for instant results. After all, these kinds of heroic efforts cost us plenty in terms of time, effort and ego.

When your relationship has been rocky and you decide to bring her home a gift of flowers – even though it really was all her fault this time – you should get an instant happy wife in return, correct?

Or conversely, when you go out of your way to prepare his favorite dinner – even though he has been a bear to live with all week long – you should be rewarded with an instant grateful husband, right?

It would only be fair.

The problem is that life is not fair. And in my experience, marriage is even less so – to both spouses. But I notice most when it’s unfair to me.

Most marriages go through seasons. There are times when you are so crazy in love with each other that you make your friends and family roll their eyes. There are times when you are so busy with work or raising a family that you fail to slow down and notice one another. And then there are times when one or both of you might become selfish, immature, indifferent, jaded, angry or bitter.

Are you married to a selfish jerk? Maybe. I don't know the details of your relationship. What I do know is that marriage – to a selfish jerk or not – is a lifelong commitment.

I also know that, barring mental illness, most human beings respond to repeated kindness with more of the same. The person you married is not an ogre. If it feels that way, God might be calling you to be patient, humble, and faithful through these bad times.

For her entire life, St. Monica remained faithful to a pagan husband who abused her. Because of her prayers on his behalf, at the end of his life he converted to Christianity. I am not advocating remaining in an abusive relationship, but imagine the reward in heaven that awaits that kind of fidelity!

Any time you find yourself lamenting a lack of love, reciprocation or affirmation in your marriage, turn to God instead of your spouse. Ask him to meet your needs. He who sees all and knows all will reward even your smallest efforts. He alone will never fail you. And maybe your impossible spouse will begin to catch on.

St. Monica, patroness of difficult marriages, pray for us!

Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of  Faith & Family. She is writing a series of columns for Fathers for Good that explore the relations between husband and wife