Marriage Often Follows the Unplanned Route

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—  
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost

 

A young, married blogger friend has written eloquently and honestly about her recent struggle to become pregnant, and her search for her current marriage identity as she awaits their desired child. It called to mind so many interviews with wise couples who have walked the unplanned path in marriage. Kathleen graciously offered me a guest post so I could share these thoughts with her readers. The wisdom I learned from these couples may be able to give insight to other struggles you may face.

The following post was published Feb. 3rd at www.ProjectMonline.com.

During the last two years, I’ve interviewed happily married couples who improved their marriage through adversity. If you ask around, you’ll find nearly every marriage eventually faces adversity. All are changed by it. Some marriages use it as a catalyst for unity or growth, and some are so devastated they do not survive.

Their stories convey that life does not always (or even usually) go as planned. They all had a vision for how their life would go, and the vision was far easier than the reality. That is not to say that having a plan didn’t help some of them get back on track, but we don’t control when life veers us off our planned route.

When these couples got married—some more than a few decades ago—they didn’t plan on having a child with autism, or learning their husband was addicted to drugs. They didn’t plan on having a miscarriage or struggling for 12 years with infertility. They didn’t plan on being separated for three years during a war, or suffering from depression or cancer. They didn’t plan on periods where the passion leaked out of their relationship. They didn’t plan on overcoming infidelity or recovering from stranger rape. They didn’t plan on losing their bank accounts and real estate assets in a financial crisis. They didn’t plan on their parents not supporting their marriage because of the color of their spouse’s skin. They didn’t plan on having their own baby die in their arms.

The couples I interviewed experienced all of these things. They didn’t just survive; they became great love stories of resilience and hope. I share their stories, their failings, and their near failures, because I think we doubt we could survive given the same obstacles. We think they must be somehow better than us. When we follow their stories, we learn how success is possible.

Thankfully, most of us (we hope) will not experience the level of crisis many of them did. But don’t kid yourself into thinking your marriage will be easy and bump-free, that there will be no valleys next to the hills. Even when things do go right eventually, they often don’t go right in our perfect timing.

For many of these couples, the depth of the valleys only heightened their hilltop experiences. For example, the couple who was infertile for 12 years now has three children (one adopted, two born naturally). They don’t take any minute of time with their children for granted, and they created a ministry to support other couples struggling with infertility. The couple who overcame infidelity now teaches other couples how to affair-proof their marriages. They completely rebuilt their marriage into something much stronger than before and have a love and passion most would envy.  Even the couples who lost children said the painful lessons in their lives have taught them immeasurable lessons—and that they wouldn’t go back and remove the pain if it removed what they had learned. I was truly amazed by the grace shown by them.

Another lesson coming out of this: When you are tempted to be jealous of an especially unified or loving couple, be aware that they have probably traveled some rough roads together to get there. You have no idea of their journey, so don’t be envious of their destination. You also don’t know the pain they may be hiding.

All these couples did plan to spend their lives together. That’s one plan that worked out—as a result of their commitment, love and hard work. While they didn’t always come together initially, they did become more unified by learning their spouse understood their suffering better than anyone else. Their bonds were strengthened; their love was heightened.

If you are facing difficulty in your life, share your sorrows and challenges with your mate so he or she can walk through it with you. Consider that this valley, while you would never choose it, may be something that makes you stronger as a person and as a couple.

Lori Lowe is writing a narrative nonfiction book called First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: How to Improve Your  Marriage through Adversity. She also blogs at www.LifeGems4Marriage.com. Lori has been happily married to her husband, Ming, for 14 years. They live in Indianapolis with their two children, a crazy cat and two aquatic frogs.

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