Marriage relationships come in all forms, each with its own set of challenges. No couple gets through life without experiencing a potentially relationship-altering situation or dynamic. Some are temporary; others are long-lived and may last for the rest of your lives.
Luckily, there are constructive ways to approach these situations. It might require a little creativity, a lot of strategy, and an overabundance of grace, but you and your spouse can navigate major challenges, overcome them, and continue to cultivate the lifelong love we all desire. Let’s dive into three possible scenarios today.
1. We got married not wanting kids…but now my spouse wants them.
When you got married, you shared the same life dream. Part of that dream included the decision not to bring children into the world. Maybe you wanted to focus on other priorities, or perhaps the two of you decided together that parenting wasn’t something you wanted to be a part of your life. But somewhere along the way, your spouse has changed their mind.
It’s rare to have the same vision for your life, but you two did–and you thought you were the perfect partners. Now, you’re not so sure. You can’t pretend your dreams line up with your spouse’s newly-voiced desire. And you also can’t expect your spouse to suppress what they want by pretending it’s not reality.
You’ve already committed to this marriage. Now, it’s important to adapt to the new dynamic between the two of you. If your spouse wants to be a parent, that means you’re going to have to continue this conversation over time. But because it’s a negotiation, set some boundaries around when and where you’ll communicate about it.
A topic like this is too sensitive to be brought up at random, whenever it crosses one of your minds. Work together to agree on scenarios where you’ll both feel comfortable bringing it up, and stick to the rules you’ve created. That might mean you take a break from the discussion–maybe for a few months–with an agreed-upon time to bring it up again. Whatever you decide, our number one rule here is to be honest and share your desires with one another.
The question of whether to become a parent is a deeply-felt issue that should also be a matter of personal prayer for you and your spouse. Through prayer and fasting, you can ask God to work in your lives to help your desires align once again–whatever that may look like for you. Above all, peace and harmony in your marriage are the most important end goals.
2. We have completely different political views–help!
Political disagreements can lead to heightened conflict in the most casual of acquaintances. Imagine what opposing political beliefs can do to a marriage! Unfortunately for you, it sounds like you’re right in the middle of a very uncomfortable situation with your spouse.
When you’re entrenched in different points of view, it can be difficult to move beyond your respective scripts. Neither of you is willing to budge on your beliefs. So your path forward depends on how you choose to handle the disagreement.
You already know you’ve both made up your minds, at least for the time being. So can the two of you be open for debate, looking at one another as worthy opponents? Or is this a highly emotional divide for you that causes you distress? (In many cases, political disagreements feel like fundamental, moral divides that cause visceral pain to one or both spouses.)
If you’re open to debate, make a sport of it. You might find it fun to come at it like a sport; some couples feel sharpened and more attuned to one another when they’re challenged. On the other hand, if your disagreements cause you emotional pain, you should probably table the discussion.
If political arguments are just going to bring pain and discord into your marriage, there’s no need to make them a part of your relationship. You can choose to agree to disagree when it comes to politics; instead, focus on the things you do agree on. Maybe you share the same faith, love for your children, or other interests. Whatever those things may be, make them the center of your focus–not politics.
3. My spouse had sexual experience before our marriage, and I’m afraid I’ll never measure up to the past.
A person’s sexual history will haunt your forever if you allow it to. If you waited until marriage to have sex, but your spouse had one or more partners before you ever met (or if, perhaps, your spouse was married previously), this can be a source of major insecurity for you. However, there comes a time in marriage when you need to start over with a fresh perspective.
The past doesn’t need to contaminate your relationship. Your spouse has chosen you, and chances are, he or she is not comparing you to past partners. Love doesn’t work that way.
Instead, your spouse may have a sense of sadness or personal failure when it comes to past sexual encounters that don’t involve you. Regrets lead to guilt, and guilt leads to shame. And you don’t want your spouse to be in a place of shame. Shame and guilt are destructive, self-centered, and counterintuitive to a healthy, selfless relationship.
You may need to cope with your own emotions surrounding your spouse’s sexual history through prayer, journaling, and talking. From time to time, it’s okay to ask if you can talk about it. You could approach your spouse with something like, “I don’t want this to happen, but sometimes I feel insecure. I know you have experiences beyond the two of us, and sometimes that makes me feel upset. It’s hard for me, and I know you wouldn’t choose for me to feel this way, but I still struggle with it.”
Invite reassurance from your spouse, not comparison. Over time, this reassurance will serve to calm your anxieties surrounding the past you both you and your spouse can lay them to rest.
Have you and your spouse experienced a major relationship challenge? What’s your story? How did you move forward in your marriage? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.