Marriage usually does not turn out to be the sweet blissful fairytale we had secretly hoped for. Life happens. Difficulties and challenges come at us from every angle. The result is a lot of unfulfilled expectations and painful disappointments. Combine that with the fact that when we get past the honeymoon stage, and we start to realize that the person we married is as imperfect and selfish as we are and that two lives do not mesh together as easily and comfortably as we thought. Marriage can be a series of losses.
Losses come in many shapes and sizes in marriage. An unfaithful spouse, a miscarriage, a job loss, family illness, addictions, or disconnection in the relationship are just a few examples of the losses we can experience during our married life. Each one has its own degree of pain and hurt.
The scriptures make it very clear that it is better to go to the house of mourning than go to a house of feasting (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Somehow, grief and mourning have a greater value and are more important than laughter and celebration. Grief and sadness is a necessary dimension of a healthy marriage. It is important to identify and acknowledge the losses that occur in our lives and share those with our spouse.
The dilemma is most couples are not comfortable with grief and sadness. We have a hard time listening, understanding and empathizing with the pain our spouse is going through, especially if we are the cause. We don’t know how to hold and contain our spouse’s emotions when they are going through a tough time. Sometimes, our spouse’s pain brings up our own repressed hurts and losses. Or both spouses are going through pain at the same time and are not capable of being there for each other.
Grieving is like breathing. When we grieve, we exhale all the sadness and pain. Then we can inhale all the comfort and care from God and other people. Our hearts can become dull and lifeless without the life giving effects of grief and comfort.
In Matthew chapter 11, Jesus told the crowd that gathered around him that they were like children who neither danced for the wedding song nor mourned during the funeral procession. They were unmoved by joy or sadness. This can happen to any of us if we do not take care of our hearts and allow the healing process of grief cleanse us and refresh us.
As husbands and wives give each other permission to be sad and grieve over the losses in their lives; the ones prior to the marriage and the ones during the marriage… life, energy and vitality begin to reemerge.
Allen Haley, M.Div., P.C.
Terri Haley, MFT