Sunday, March 11, 2012

How Pain Can Divide Us

I recently got an email from a follower who asked if I could share with all of you how my husband and I keep our marriage strong while raising a child with a mood disorder.

I appreciate this question, though I will admit that I felt inadequate in answering it, but then I realized that though things are not perfect and they never will be, after almost 20 years of marriage my husband and I are happily married and may indeed have a thing or two to share. Also, I realized that many of our marriages are at risk because of the challenges we face with our kids. Some studies indicate that the rate of divorce can be as high as 80%. This alone is good reason to get personal in hopes to help others who may be struggling.

Before I share what’s working for us, I wanted to share something that I learned from my pastor about marriages facing crisis. I was moved by this teaching and it’s given me a healthy perspective that I now apply to my own marriage.

My pastor explained that when marriages face crisis, whether it be due to an illness, job loss or any other painful experience, we must first understand that this shared experience of pain can do two things in a marriage, it can unite us or it can divide us.

To investigate this further, my pastor met with married couples in our church who have faced extreme challenges in their marriage and learned from them how the pain of their circumstances pushed them apart. I think this is so important to consider since many of us have faced this same disruption in our own marriage.

First, pain can threaten our safety. As a result, we may blame each other.

Pain can disrupt our life. As a result we may respond by withdrawing from the marriage, becoming no help to our spouse and our marriage goes on the back burner.

Pain hurts. So we hurt one another.

Pain makes us turns inward. So we no longer connect to those around us, instead we shut down.

Pain brings unmet expectations. As a result, we face disappointment.

Pain makes us judgmental because we expect others to respond the same way we do.

Pain makes us vulnerable. So we lash out with anger to one another or become overly sensitive.

Pain is hard to live with. So we leave the marriage to escape the pain.

And the list goes on...

So can you relate to any of these experiences above? I know I can!

Next, my pastor reminded us that we all deal with pain in our own way, so we need to offer grace to one another. Just as we ourselves are capable of behaving badly because we’re hurting, we have to keep in mind that our spouse is hurting too. Pain is the problem, not our spouse. If we start with that, we can create a foundation for our marriage that will allow us to unite instead of separate.

Check back with my next post when I go a little deeper and share with you a hard lesson I learned in my own marriage, then on Friday I’ll share what’s working in my marriage today. I hope it will be encouraging to you if you’re currently hurting in your marriage. Remember, you’re spouse is not the problem, pain is.


  1. This is a great topic. I too have heard the statistics in the ballpark of 80% for divorce. God knows it isn't easy. By no means is my relationship perfect and it takes a lot of forgiving- Lots of flexibility and meeting halfway... We have had some very difficult periods but not giving up has made us stronger. We have been guilty of blaming one another and taking frustrations out on one another too. Thanks for talking about this!

    1. Thanks for sharing, I too believe that forgiving one another is huge in surviving theses challenges. I’m glad your marriage is stronger for it!

  2. Well, let's be honest, sometimes the spouse is the

    Really though, I think a lot of parents of special needs kids get divorced because they want some adult time, a break from always having the kids' needs run their lives and the constant problem solving, and they feel divorce is the only way to get a break. And depending on who you are married to, maybe sometimes it is.

  3. Thank you for writing about this. Over the last half year that we've been on this horrific journey, I can't decide what is worse. The strain of the mood disorder in my child or the strain it puts on my marriage. I feel like my family is coming apart at the seams. While I am not "worried" about my marriage, I am often saddened at the way it is affected these days. I am so tired at night, and all I want to do is escape--in a book or magazine or tv. It's not exactly the most conducive lifestyle for running into the arms of your loved one at night. My hubby and I are all the more committed to one another, but just as parenting my daughter feels like three times the work, keeping my marriage a priority these days is three times the work too. I look forward to reading everyone's comments and hearing more of what you have to say, Mama Bear. :)