Jun 192016 1 Response

How Great Couples Handle Failure

Failure is not exclusive to unhealthy couples. Every married couple will experience failure. Many shortcomings will be insignificant in nature. Others may threaten the foundation of the relationship.

Every married person fails, therefore, every marriage experiences failure–even healthy relationships.

The difference between marital bliss and marital destruction is not simply the absence or presence of failure. It’s the difference between how those failures are perceived and handled.

Don’t Underestimate This…

While failure is present in every relationship, don’t downplay its effects. When we do not live up to the vows we made to our spouse, those choices have negative consequences. We can’t minimize, downplay, or deny them. We can’t just brush them off because they are a part of life.

Yes, we are all imperfect, but our imperfections hurt others. Those hurts matter. They must be recognized, admitted, and properly handled. If we do not do so, we will heap sorrow upon the sorrow our spouses already feel.

Just because failure is universal does not mean we can ignore it.

But we can try to avoid it. It is far easier to stay out of trouble than get out of trouble. Wise choices before we make mistakes, far outweigh wise choices after a bad decision. Because we are destined to fail, we should work even harder to prevent failure. We can’t just throw up our hands and do nothing since we know failure is guaranteed. We must prevent as much failure as possible because we know there are some failures we will not be able to prevent.

Do Understand This…

While we must do everything in our power to avoid failure, especially in marriage, we must understand that we can’t completely eliminate failure from our lives or the lives of others. We will fail our spouse. Our spouse will fail us. At times, our marriages will be disappointing.

When failure does occur, we must respond with one specific action–mourning.

Mourning is a foreign concept in modern society. Over the past few decades, we have slowly pushed mourning from the public eye into private moments. Some do not even know how to mourn. They feel as though any sadness is a sign that something is terribly wrong and must dramatically change. They don’t appreciate that sadness is a natural and necessary part of life. (See: Not Every Tear Needs a Diagnosis)

3 Areas of Mourning

Sources of grief within marriage fall into three major categories.

I mourn because:

1. I’m not the man I want to be (or she wants me to be). Despite my best intentions, I do not always do as I want. I fail to live up to the standard I want to attain. This causes me sorrow, but it also causes my wife sorrow. We can both compare me to other men and in some areas I’m lacking. I wish I was better. She wishes I was better.

2. My wife isn’t everything I want her to be. No matter how great she is, she can’t live up to every expectation. On one hand, she isn’t everything I want because my expectations are wrong. Sometimes I want more than just a woman, I want a savior. I expect her to be more than any woman could be. On the other hand, she isn’t everything I want her to be because she is flawed. She can’t be perfect. She has many strengths, but she also has weaknesses.

3. Our marriage is not perfect. As two imperfect people, we produce an imperfect marriage. We miscommunicate, struggle, and fail. We desire an easy marriage, but it’s not easy. We expect more from ourselves, but we can’t live up to our own standards. (See: You Aren’t the Perfect Couple)

Mourning that Heals vs. Mourning that Kills

Not all mourning is equal. Some will see the failures within their relationship and recognizing those failures will further injure the relationship. Others will see the same faults, and the awareness of their imperfections will lead to a better marriage.

The difference is in what mourning causes us to do.

Unproductive mourning leads to apathy. Some wrongly conclude that since we can’t be perfect (or our spouse isn’t perfect), we should stop trying. Often out of fear, they refuse to learn, grow, and improve. Instead, they blame, accuse, and whine.

Productive mourning leads to action. Seeing our failure in marriage should empower us to do better. Even as we know we can’t be perfect, we strive to improve. Because we know we will fail, we work hard to succeed in those areas we fully control. When we do fail, we attempt to learn from it so we do not repeat our mistakes.

Contrarian Advice

It doesn’t sound right–healthy couples mourn their marriage. But it is true. To live in denial of our imperfection furthers the imperfection. To embrace our failure empowers us to appreciate what we get right, learn form what we get wrong, and give grace to one another in the process.

Unhealthy couples deny their failure or blame their partner. Healthy couples accept their failure, mourn it, and get better.

One Response to How Great Couples Handle Failure

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.