Christmas Night we sat by the fire talking about the highs and lows of 2012 and, as part of the lows, counted six couples in our immediate circle who had either divorced or were in the process of divorcing in 2012.
When one sees a mini-epidemic amongst one’s friends like that, it makes one wonder what’s going on. Why were so many of us able to stay married through those initial years fraught with the stresses of finishing school, starting careers, and buying dinner at Taco Bell with just the change in our pockets? How did we survive the child-rearing years where neither of us got enough sleep, babies got sick, and jobs wobbled? How did we do all this just to end up throwing in the towel in our early 40s? Didn’t the fortitude we supposedly developed during the early difficult years toughen us enough to weather these middle years of marriage?
The longer I travel the marital road, the more I agree with John Eldredge, who in his book Love and War writes that we are foolish if we do not understand that we are engaged in fierce spiritual warfare when it comes to our marriages. Someone, apparently, doesn’t want our marriages to survive. Guess who that is? As my dad used to say, three guesses, and the first two don’t count.
So, if we are in a battle for our marriages, what do we do? Well, what does anyone do when they prepare for war?
You suit up. You clean your weapons. You practice. You come up with strategic ways to defeat the enemy. You guard the supply depot. And when the enemy attacks, you identify what is happening. You don’t just say, “Oh, this (behavior/attitude/treatment) is intolerable, but if I just ignore it, it will go away.” You say, “I recognize what is happening here. The enemy (not my spouse!) is at work. This issue/argument is only going to get bigger. So, let’s deal with it. Let’s get to the bottom of it and work it out. Let’s fight for us.”
Because we’re not each other’s enemies.
I love the scene in the movie The Four Feathers when the enemy surrounds the British soldiers. “Form a square!” an officer yells. The men subsequently place themselves in a “square” where they are protected on all four sides … beside each other. Side-by-side, back-to-back, they keep the enemy at bay.
Maybe we win the battle for our marriages, even in these precarious middle years, the same way.