I have noticed a developing trend in signs of a unhappy marriage in popular, female vocabulary. My friends started referring to what they treasured as “all the things.” For example, “You have to meet Lola, she is all the things!” or “This new oil that makes me think that donuts are nasty and kale is delicious is just all the things!” After some time, “all the things” seemed to evolve into “everything.” As in, “This chocolate cake is everything!” “This book is a must-read; it’s absolutely everything!”
It appears we are living in times when we place such supreme value on some things that we lack the vocabulary to appropriately articulate it. Nonetheless, other women unfailingly understand what we mean whenever we use these expressions.
I’m not typically a person who jumps on bandwagons, but just for kicks, I imagine my own versions of these sentiments. It goes something like this: “My husband is all the things!” “My marriage is just everything!”
But I can’t say these things. What’s more, I don’t know any other women who could honestly say them either. I see you, sweet newlywed, but I’m going to ask you to reevaluate your answer in a few years!
Mending those Signs of a Unhappy Marriage
I’m not in a “bad marriage.” On the contrary, I’ve been (mostly) happily married to my husband for over twenty years. Stephen is one of the most thoughtful people I know. He’s kind, loving, generous, forgiving, intelligent, and gracious. But he’s not all the things, and he isn’t even close to everything. No, my husband, like me, is a sinner, and living with a sinner is difficult. Just ask him!
At the time I’m writing this, Stephen and I are emerging from a relational funk. Recently, we’ve found each other less than. It’s actually one of the signs of a unhappy marriage. He’s failed to live up to my expectations, and I’ve disappointed him. He didn’t respond the way I wanted him to, and I treated him unkindly. It’s taken some time to look at each other through grace-colored glasses, but we are. All marriages come with some ebb and flow, and I praise God we’re less ebby and more flowy today.
Marriage Doesn’t Always Satisfy
The marriage covenant, while a beautiful display of daily grace upon grace, will leave you longing for more. It doesn’t always satisfy. It won’t meet your every need, and it will certainly let you down. Your husband won’t be everything because God didn’t design him to be. Despite the messaging of Hallmark movies and John Legend songs, he is not going to be all the things.
Is it really one of the early signs of a unhappy marriage. So what do we do when we’re experiencing all the ways he’s not measuring up to our expectations? What about when we’re embarrassed by him or disappointed in him? How should we respond when we look at him and find him lacking? Consider the following suggestions for how to love your husband when you don’t feel like it.
How to Love Your Husband When You Don’t Feel Like It
God lavishes His love on you (1 John 3:1). Christ died for you when you still hated Him (Rom. 5:8). He chooses to bless you with His love and presence, not because of how loveable you are, but because it pleases Him to do so. The love from Him you enjoy daily is completely undeserved. You are in no position to deny your husband love, even if you believe he isn’t worthy of it. Recall the love of the Lord and do likewise.
Your husband may have sinned towards you, but you have sinned towards him, too. Ask for his forgiveness and for the Lord’s (1 John 1:9). Pray for the grace to resist the temptation to respond unkindly or hide things from him. In God’s strength, turn from your neglect of him, from your criticizing of him, or from whatever attitudes and actions that are displeasing to the Lord.
You cannot do anything apart from your heavenly Father (John 15:5). Ask Him for help. Pray that He will give you a heart and hands that love in word and deed (1 John 3:18). God delights to glorify Himself, and marriages that adorn the gospel do so abundantly. Approach the throne boldly and find the mercy and grace you need (Heb. 4:16). Go get your grace, girl!
Make fresh commitments to your spouse in the strength God provides. The Lord greets you each morning with new mercies (Lam. 3:22–23). Luxuriate in this grace and extend the same to your husband. Revive your devotion to him with everyday intentionality. Instead of fighting with your husband, fight for him. Fight for your marriage. You’re on the same team!
Wake up and do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Marriage takes work. There is no auto-pilot version. Do the hard work, and do it again. And by God’s grace, you’ll still be redoing it decades from now. You’ve said, “I do.” Keep doing.
Your Marriage Will Fall Short, but There’s Hope
It has to be said that this article is not referring to women married to men who harm, exploit, or lead them into sin. If you are such a woman, I humbly encourage you to address your circumstances with your pastors—or the police, as necessary. I’m talking to the women in committed, God-fearing unions, who wrestle with how the reality of marriage often falls short of the fantasy of married life. To the woman who struggles to love her husband because of all the things he’s not. This is for the woman who’s just not feeling it today.
Love isn’t just something we feel; it’s something we do. And we don’t get a pass on the doing when we aren’t feeling it. We are commanded to love. To submit. When we love and submit to our husbands in the joy and strength of the Lord, we contribute to the rich legacy of faithful wives adorning the gospel. What a beautiful testimony!
“Signs which may be all around you”
Signs of a unhappy marriage may be all around you. But, there is no such thing as no hope in a marriage. If you’re still breathing, you have every expectation in Christ Jesus to hope. Don’t believe the devil’s lie. He hates your marriage and desires you to feel like it’s a cage. Eyes up, girl! Look to your heavenly Father who frees you from the power of the serpent’s deceptive clutches. If you are reading this and cannot imagine how you could possibly love your husband again, I say: hope.
Give yourself to hoping in the God to whom “all things,” including your marriage, are subject (1 Cor. 15:28). Hope in Him who works “all things” together for good for those who love Him and are called by Him (Rom. 8:28). Know God’s good plans for you, and see your husband as a partner in kingdom work. Your husband is not your enemy.
“the thing that makes you more like Christ”
Let your marriage be the thing that bears witness of Christ’s love for the Church. Let your marriage be the thing that showcases the gospel. See God use your marriage as the thing that demonstrates your neediness for Him and draws you into deeper fellowship. See it as the thing that makes you more like Christ.
Your marriage is not meant to be all the things or even everything, but it most assuredly is meant to be the thing that adorns the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dear wife, abound in this adorning! Love your husband, not for what he’s done, but for what Christ has done.
Don’t despair at the signs of a unhappy marriage. Use your awareness of the better relationship which can be.
Love him, even in all the things he isn’t, by remembering the thing he is. He’s yours to love. Yours to help. Yours to partner with to display the greatness of God. Love your husband to the glory of God, which is unquestionably everything.