I Have a Question for You

What is so difficult about marriage?


Excuse this post if you don’t think it is difficult.  I do.  At least I have found it to be very difficult at times.  I am sure my wife would say the same.  We have a good marriage.  We love one another and are committed to our marriage.  We find joy in our marriage.  But again–it has been difficult at times.  In fact, there have been seasons when it has been difficult.


I have talked with many men and women about their marriages.  These conversations have taken place across twenty-eight years.  I will tell you that many of these people found marriage difficult as well.


Some of the issues of marriage?


  • Money.  How to earn, spend, and save it. 
  • Sex.  What is normal, right, good, etc.
  • Communication.  How do we understand one another?
  • Expectations.  What do we do with unmet expectations?


Maybe most important: "What does it mean to have a Christian marriage?"  


So I am curious.  If you are or have been married, did you find it to be difficult?  Why?  As you look around, why do you think many couples find marriage to be very difficult? 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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34 thoughts on “I Have a Question for You

  1. Yes…..but I was determined to stay in it and then…..

    Well let’s just say the journey has made it more difficult, more messy and yet wayyy more exciting. Finding out I didn’t know 1/2 of what I thought I knew about, well about anything was hard and yet the freedom in admitting that has changed everything INCLUDING my marriage.

    I didn’t KNOW……my friends don’t know yet……don’t know, haven’t realized how very little they know……we stand on that don’t we what we THINK we know…

  2. Jim,

    Looking back on your married life, I’d have to say that I really was severely lacking in understanding life and in expectations regarding marriage.

    I see the heart to a good marriage is working on living as community, beginning with family, in Christ. I think young couples would benefit so much in seeing their union and communion as the beginning of what their Christian community is all about.

    This is much on my mind, as I’m working on Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, as we’re going through it at a class at church.

    And to accept complexity, and realize at times (maybe oftentimes) there are no easy pat answers to problems in relationship. But to be committed in Christ, as in community, to work out these issues together.

  3. Thanks for such an honest question. I’ve thought about this a lot. Being a pastor in an intentional community, doing pre-marital and post-marital counseling and my own marriage has provided many opportunities to face this question. I think that relationships, in general, are difficult, and intimate ones even more so. Here are some thought as to possible reasons:

    1.Misunderstanding of authority (either equating it with power or thinking there is no need for it).
    2.Misunderstanding the nature of relationships (the difference between manipulative relationships, relationships of rights and duties, and mutual fellowship [see “The Model Love” by Vincent Brummer]).
    3.Equating being wrong with being bad.
    4.Pride and unbelief (what all sin goes back to).

    I guess I would say there are “head” problems (misunderstanding) and “heart” problems (sin); and sometimes the head problems are caused by the heart problems.

    It seems even God has had a hard time with relationships (and marriage for that matter – Israel).

  4. Have definitely had those seasons of difficulty… but I do like my spouse an awful lot… which is good.

    In one particular time of complete impasse (as in, if I believed in divorce, I would divorce you), I found great wisdom in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. And, the work it suggested was so simple I could hardly believe it would make an impact… but it did… in a very big way.

  5. Having been involved in marriage for 32 years, marriage counseling both professionally and as a preacher, obviously marriage is difficult. Two very self centered people seeking satisfaction from a source that inherently cannot give it consistently?! There’s got to be problems. However, I’ve been most blessed in my 32 years with Janice. We’ve had no problems of any severity at all. Not between us. We’ve had problems from outside to solve together.
    Now the 7 years we dated …. hell. And I was the blame for all of it. Seems we had our difficulties in that period of time and worked them out.

  6. My husband and I had a conversation about this recently. I am continually baffled by how many problems people have in their marriages. Not in a “wow, what losers” kind of way but just really honestly baffled. It’s good for me to hear where others are at because we just don’t find it hard at all..but we know so few people like us.

    Response to Adam’s list (3):

    1.Misunderstanding of authority (either equating it with power or thinking there is no need for it).

    See, we don’t have “authority” issues. We’re strictly egalitarian AND mutually submissive. So we don’t struggle with this AT ALL. And we are so flummoxed about why it’s such an issue for others. The idea about anyone besides God being in authority in our marriage is just really foreign to us.

    2.Misunderstanding the nature of relationships

    This is an interesting observation, I’ve never heard this before. I’ll have to look into it more.

    3.Equating being wrong with being bad.

    People really think this way?

    4.Pride and unbelief (what all sin goes back to).

    Well, all sin goes to pride but ultimately stems from shame…that’s the key IMO.

    to Jim (2)
    “I think young couples would benefit so much in seeing their union and communion as the beginning of what their Christian community is all about.”

    Good thinking, I like that. David and I definitely saw our marriage as a shadow of the divine from the beginning. I think it made a huge difference in how smooth everything was from the get-go even though, like Greg, at times, things outside our marriage SUCKED

  7. Marriage would be so much easier if Scott would simply be able to read my mind! We’ve been married for 8 years and it still amazes me that he can’t.

    I kid. I kid. Well, kinda.

    I see a big problem for us and others is conflict resolution. How to resolve the conflict, give forgiveness and move on from the problem.

  8. At this point in my life I don’t find marriage difficult. When I was younger, I did find it quite difficult at times. Unrealistic expectations was largely the reason for the difficulty, I think. As well as self-centeredness and immaturity.

  9. Ted,
    This is a great line:

    “I see the heart to a good marriage is working on living as community, beginning with family, in Christ. I think young couples would benefit so much in seeing their union and communion as the beginning of what their Christian community is all about.”

    I agree completly. Thanks for this reminder that our identity is found in Christ first.

  10. Adam–Thanks for the book suggestion. Sounds like the discussion regarding the nature of relationships would be interesting.

    L.L.–Thanks also for the book suggestion. I am not familiar with the book. This sounds interesting and very practical.

  11. Thanks to each of you who have commented to this point. I find these to be helpful. It is interesting to hear the variety of experiences.

    Our experiences are varied. I am interested in how Jesus works through difficult times and periods to shape us.  We typically appreciate and treasure the great moments of marriage (as we see it anyway).  It would be interesting to know what God has done with the difficult or frustrating times.

  12. Through 27 years of marriage, my wife and I have had very little difficulty.

    I find that the number one key to this – and it shows to be a big problem for those who have problems – is selfishness.

    My wife and I are truly deeply in love with each other and to my amazement, it keeps getting deeper.

    We do almost everything together, we make all of the tough decisions together – without thought of self.

    To honor God with your marriage and to please (1) God and (2) our spouse should be the foundation for any marriage.

  13. After 11 years of marriage and being divorced for a year, this is a question that I have put a lot of thought into.

    I know a big part our our problem was that we were both living for ourselves – and neither of us were saved. I wasn’t saved until about 9 months after we separated, and it has made me look back and re-evaluate so many things. If we had been following God’s plan of how marriage should look, we sure would have stood a much better chance. There would have been a higher authority then either one of us to guide decisions.

    I have many regrets in my life, but I have a new beginning in Christ now, and I’ll try to follow wherever he leads me and do what I can from now forward.

    Don’t know how well that answeres your question, but I tried 🙂

  14. KIDS! We had very little conflict until they entered the picture and began demanding exhaustable attention, time, financial support, developmental entertainment, 4th grade science test preparation….. good dental care, a healthy diet/fitness, engaging literature… ugh…

  15. I am getting married, and that is difficult enough…wedding planning…urgh. My Fiance’ and i have this idea though that somehow life might get a little easier when we get married, and maybe that is wrong, maybe we are just ready to face new and different struggles rather than wedding planning struggles.

  16. Selfishness. I want what I want when I want it. Not just in the obvious areas. Unless I am willing to invest in my wife, without expectations of return all the time there will be conflict. Until I can give up the attitude of “oh man all I do for this this family and they cannot just let me watch this or do this or have this, brother. I have earned it and they had better come through.” Selfishness which in truth is immaturity.

  17. Renee,
    Thanks for your comment. Several people have used the word “selfishness.”. You basically said the same thing whe you spoke of “living for ourselves.”

    It is interesting how so many issues in our lives come back to that.

    I am happy for you in your new beginning in Christ.

  18. Ken,
    Wedding planning! That can be a stressful time of life. My daughter got married 12 months ago and we all went through that. She certainly did.

    Marriage can be such a time of joy and yet there are challenges. If I could do it over, I would still get married to the same wonderful person I married twenty eight years ago.

    You will soon be out of the wedding planning stage. That is a good thing! 🙂

  19. In our 42 years of marriage we had some turbulence.  Something I read when I was younger though changed the way we related to each other.  It was not to ever bring up the word DIVORCE in an argument because just the suggestion could change the relationship a couple has.  So we knew we had to discuss and work everything out bit by bit with four kids and little free time. 

  20. Our life together has been nothing but conflict and nothing but contentment.  The same with the children.  But the conflict is because we live in this world.  The contentment is because my bride is also my sister in Christ.  My son my brother and my daughter my sister.  There are times when I will go to my wife as my sister in Christ and she will come to me- her brother.  Many times my daughter or son have come to my office and said, "I need to talk to you as my brother and not my father."  I have always honored that request and kept their confidence as strongly as I have anyone else.
    My wife and I have always approached marriage as a 100% – 100% proposition, 50/50 is a lie and leaves too much undone.  But the real secret is to understand that rarely are both parties giving 100% at the same time.

  21. Jim, et.al. -Those of us who have done much marital
    counseling realize that most healthy relationships have some common
    factors and dynamics – that is, healthy marriages tend to look very
    similar.Unhealthy marriages, however, are dys- or non-functional
    in myriad ways.  The reasons for bad marriages or marriages that don’t
    work for one or both partners are unique.  If it were otherwise, we’d
    have only one book, one theory, and one approach to helping sick
    marriages.Yes, I know we have one book but the Bible is
    not a primer on marital therapy.  It is a compass, not a map, and since
    people get lost at a thousand different points along the way, we have
    to figure out how to help them get their bearings once again and to
    abandoned the misguided notions that got them lost in the first place.

  22. My wife and I have a good marriage.
    People who come from difficult and abused backgrounds are going to have to face challenges that others do not. This is usually the case, and is a growing reality in our culture. And I must add, it is easily understandable to me. What one has modeled before them, they must more often than not, unlearn.
    Those who have not had any snags or difficulties in their marriages, surely are blessed by God. But people must beware of looking down on others who are not so blessed.

  23. I say that (in my last comment) because I get the sense that some can just shrug their shoulders and shake their heads at those of us who have had to work through some difficulties which are completely foreign to them. God bless them. And thank God for their great marriages. But marriage should be the prime place for God’s sanctifying work. And that work does include forgiving each other, and the difficulties, along with the joys, of such a relationship.
    All good comments here.  And thanks.

  24. I think one of the things that makes marriage more difficult than it needs to be is that we put expectations on it that it may never have been intended to carry.  This seems especially true in the Christian community.
    My spouse is my best friend and we have a good marriage.  We enjoy each other deeply and are 100% committed to our marriage.   BUT the message I hear, sometimes subtly and sometimes overtly, is that he should be my only source of close friendship.
    Many Christian people would get nervous if I had a close girlfriend that I wanted to share life deeply with – and if that friend happened to be male, Christians bring out all kinds of accusations for that.  The intimacy I share with my husband is satisfying and delightful, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t need other friendship (non-romantic) as well. 

  25. I have found marriage to be the most difficult thing in my life – ever.  It brings me great joy, but on the flipside, it has made me have to deal with both my own sin and that of my spouse.  Being face to face with your own sin and someone elses on a regular basis is difficult.  My sinful pride constantly arises to pronounce judgment on the sin of my spouse.  When pride is not present, I feel upset and frustrated with myself for the way I’ve sinned against my spouse.  It’s almost a small window into the way God must feel.  What love and graciousness he has towards us.  Yet what deep sorrow and pain he feels because of our sin.  Yet we must remain faithful as he is faithful, through the power of the Spirit, and continue to press onwards.  Marriage is difficult, at times revealing, at others too concealing.  I don’t think people are ready for downs. Instead, I fear they enter into it for the ups.  My expectations were definitely shattered, yet, that just meant I had to form new ones.  True ones. Are we willing to do that?  I don’t know.  

  26. My big thing to learn was to accept him as he is, not the things I’d like him to be for what I’d like it to bring to the marriage.  At the time, I thought I was just wanting things to make the marriage better and better.  Thing is, this has turned out to be the blessing for me, to be able to open up and love and accept love as it is now. 
    We had about 4 yrs of troubled marriage, we did marriage counseling and it helped in significant ways – for us to hear each other’s hearts and respond to that instead of what it got covered up with – dishes, dinner, finances, differences in choices.  But one time I would have liked to have left him, I thought (or it was God) – I either accept him as he is, period, for real, period, or I leave him.  Turns out, taking him as he is and being able to love him as he is, is a blessing for me.  It also works out to how to love others in my life, and to broaden it’s implications even more.  Not expecting others to live up to what is considered a good thing.  Not expecting from others more than what they present, and able to accept love in that form and give love. 
    Hubby says our marriage lasted through those really hard times, divorce was being considered, because of stubbornness and the grace of God.  Stubbornness on his part that this would not end, sutbbornness on my part that we would figure out how to operate together. 
    I don’t expect this to be the end.  I think we cycle in and out of harder times in a marriage.  But we are madly in love at this time and I’m enjoying it all I can! 

  27. Becky,Thanks for this comment.  What you say about accepting someone as they are and loving them anyway is so important.  I read this in your note, I thought about how important that is to our friendships as well.  

  28. Annonymous,I really like what you say regarding expectations.  So often we cling to unrealistic expectations instead of, as you say, readjusting them.  

  29. Ted,I talk to many, many people who would echo what you say.  They too grew up in dysfunctional homes or abusive homes.  Children have absolutly no control over the home or circumstances that brought them into this world.  Certainly, as adults, we ought to five one another much mercy and encouragement, regardless of what was lacking in our families. 

  30. Suddenly are you not only rudely awakened to the reality of marriage versus the dream you have created, but you also no longer have only one human being for which to be responsible.  The person you most want to impress now has the opportunity to know the inside of you, which is often the part you most want to hide from others, particularly others whom you want to love you. 

  31. Jim, I appreciate your thoughtful posts. I am wrapping up just over three years of individual counseling; my husband did not go with me.  Nevertheless, things between us are better than they have been for years because I finally believe that I’m ok.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have anything left to work on 🙂 but if there truly is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, what in the world am I doing condemning myself, and buying into others’ condemnation of me?  So I am learning to let go of all that condemnation stuff about myself and allow myself to be a human being.  This has had unbelievably significant ramifications in all my relationships. One other thing that has become clear to me is that "selfishness" is somewhat of a blanket term in Christian jargon that really doesn’t say much.  I find that what is thought of as "selfishness" is actually about competing goods and people’s attempts to get the good thing(s) they want by means of manipulation (sarcasm, angry outbursts, withholding affection, etc etc).  The trick is to discover how to ask questions and tease out which good thing each party wants, and then figure out how to give what the other person legitimately wants.  I think deep down we really do want to live in that sort of mutuality when we love someone. Dana Ames

  32. Dana,So glad you made this comment.  Glad to hear that your counseling work has been helpful and fruitful.  Thanks for your remarks regarding selfishness.  I agree with you.  Far too often, the word doesn’t mean that much in Christian circles.   Thanks for dropping by.