When I say that my husband and I have had “two marriages” people think that I’ve been married twice. But, in actuality, it means my husband, of 13 years, and I, have had two types of marriage in one. In the beginning, our marriage was fraught with arguing, crying, yelling, screaming and days on end not speaking — only to repeat the cycle all over again. We would argue at least once a week — sometimes more. Sometimes the arguments would end with us making up, and things being peaceful. Then others, they would end with us not speaking for days on end until another argument was sparked. At the time, neither one of us really had any conflict management skills. We came to the table with selfish motives on how we wanted the marriage to work. My husband was of the mindset that no matter what, we were going to stick it out and work through it. Honestly on my part, I wasn’t so sure. There were plenty of times that I felt like Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad wanting to dig my way to freedom in the middle of the night. I wanted to run away. I felt that if all we were going to do was argue and be mad at each other, what was the use in being married? Who wants to be married when all you do is argue? I know I didn’t.
And there was at least one time I did try to run away. I ran all the way to my air-conditioned car and back to my parent’s house — all 15 minutes away — with my baby in tow and my bag rolling behind me. To my surprise, when I got there, my parents greeted me at the door and my mom stated: “You can stay here tonight, but we don’t condone that. You gotta go home tomorrow!” No better words were spoken. (Let me just say, my dad gave me the once over and my mom asked if I was ok. I explained that my husband and I had an argument and I was leaving.) I went home the next day and was forced to work it out with my husband. I couldn’t run away from our problems. We had to work them out.
Mind you I never went behind her, nor did I call. I knew she would be back and we would work it out. I had promised God that I would do whatever it takes to make my marriage work. You see, both my parents have been married three times, and I vowed to God that divorce would not be an option. I made this covenant with God before I made a decision to walk down the aisle. I wasn’t sure if my future children could handle what I had to go through — different stepparents, different rules, and different expectations. I wasn’t sure if they would have been strong enough. My intentions, in the beginning weren’t purely spiritual. What I have found though, over time, is that I agree with my wife — we have had two marriages in one.
In the beginning I was reacting on the knowledge that I had, with no true guidance — no disrespect to my parents. I thank them for those childhood experiences because they taught me what not to do in a marriage. It wasn’t until I took inventory of myself that I was better able to understand what my wife meant by two marriages. Once I got closer to God and understood my roles and responsibilities as a husband, that’s when everything changed for the better. No it wasn’t — and isn’t —perfect, but it was a vast improvement because what I realized along our journey is that wives want to be led by a man who is led by something greater than himself and not by his own selfish motives.
Fast forward to year four, when we moved to Georgia and we, as Joel Osteen says, got into a bible-based church and began to work out our marriage according to biblical principles. Our church at the time was moving in a direction that was growing the men up to lead and be leaders in their homes and the church. Ben began to go to the men’s meetings and was held accountable for his actions as a husband, leader, protector, and provider of his home. It forced us to do things a lot differently, and by year five, we were teaching pre-marital classes together by infusing our practical, biblical and my wife’s counseling experiences together to give people a no holds barred introduction to what a real marriage looks like.
Overall, we learned that trials are designed to make us, and our marriage, stronger and we’ve grown from the issues in our marriage. We learned to communicate and effectively deal with our conflicts. We also learned to allow God to grow us up so that we can be better people for ourselves, and for each other. Yes, marriage is hard, and it takes a lot of hard work; it can also be the most fulfilling relationship you’ve ever had.
If you are like we were in the beginning of our marriage, here are five tips you can use to divorce-proof your marriage.
1. Allow God to be the head of your relationship, the closer you both get to God the closer you will get to each other
2. Understand what your roles are and use the bible as a guide with practical life application
3. Get accountability partners who will hold you accountable to tell you when you’re right and when you’re dead wrong.
4. Learn to communicate, problem-solve and effectively resolve conflict.
5. Vow that divorce is not an option, stick around long enough to work through your issues and get professional help if needed.
Alisha and Ben Walker are the co-authors of I Love Being Married: A Guide to Divorceproof Your Marriage. Visit their site for more info.