Recently, I've been feeling like less of a wife or partner in my marriage and more like a roommate. I know that marriage is a two-way street and I've been praying for clarity on how I can better improve the situation. I'm just not sure how to talk with my husband about how I feel without him getting defensive. Lately, I've been having bouts of loneliness that seem almost impossible to bear. I would appreciate any guidance, prayers or advice.
Friend, my heart aches for you. It takes a strong, sensitive soul to recognize when a marriage has shifted, because what's familiar becomes normal, and to disrupt that can be terrifying, even when change is the desired thing. I have the utmost respect for your honesty, vulnerability, and courage in bringing this to light. "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light." - Ephesians 5:13.
The enemy wants to isolate us, make us feel ashamed and that we're alone in these struggles; but know that there are so many of us who experience this in different seasons of our marriage! God wants abundant life for you and your marriage, and I love that you're not settling for the status quo!
Marriages and relationships naturally ebb and flow, and it can feel so defeating to adjust when the other person is not aware or unwilling or doesn't understand. I wish there were an easy formula or a 7-step system to fix things, but the fact that you are aware of this, exposing and acknowledging what Satan wants to keep tight-fisted and confusing is key, and I think the answers lie, as all answers do, in the startling truth of loving God with our heart-soul-mind-strength, and loving our neighbor (husband) as we love ourselves.
We cannot change our husbands, but crying out and unburdening ourselves to the Healer, as you are doing, is critical.
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD
Everything is going to flow from your intimacy and walk with the Lord. E-ver-y-thing. Apart from Him, we can truly do nothing. I want to encourage you to take some time to just be with Jesus and focus on Him and your friendship with Him, before making any decisions or any other steps towards anything else with your husband. Think of it like a date with God. That may look like an evening chit-chat-chai, a weekend getaway, a week, a month, whatever it is that you and God have decided on together.
What does this look like?
This will be a time of focused prayer and soaking yourself in His Words as often as you can. Necessary habits of the Christian life. Any relationship takes time and effort, and it is a process. The same is true with God. If you don't know where to start, here is a good post to perhaps ease your way in. When you pray to hunger and thirst for God, rest easy, He's not going to deny you that! Eat it up! Pray for wisdom and understanding from Holy Spirit before reading Scripture: "What message does my Lord ask of His servant?" - Joshua 5:14
Consider asking trustworthy friends to pray for you and for your marriage. You don't need to give a lot of details if you'd rather not, but like a soldier asks to be covered by their fellow soldiers, we need that comradely in our battles on earth.
Here are some things to consider in prayer during a season of loneliness and heartache, as it can be helpful to have guideposts:
1) Pray that you are given the strength to surrender whatever this time together looks like to Him, that He gives you ears to hear, the ability to discern His voice above any lies, comparisons, and manipulations the enemy may try to whisper, convince, or trap you in: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me ... " - John 10:27.
2) Ask for a journey to fall more in love with WHO God is, to reveal His character to you more fully and deeply as you go about your days. Worship and praise Him - maybe it's through song or journaling or whatever! He is the only one that can truly fulfill our needs.
Ask Him to give you a willing heart to receive His love for you. He may guide you to Scriptures that express His loving thoughts toward you, and while that can sometimes make you squirm, as C.S. Lewis once penned, "to love at all is to be vulnerable," pray that He would allow your identity and worth to be rooted deeply in Christ.
3) Reflect and evaluate your own heart. Ask the Lord to expose anything that may have come between you and God. Have you made your husband, or something other than the Lord, the one thing needful? This is not to be hard on you, friend; I know I have had to do that in my own life, in moments and in seasons, where I have made my husband the wonderful counselor or the mighty god. I've run to him first instead of to Christ. Our husbands are not meant to bear that responsibility. Repent of any sin - counterfeit comforts or idols - and pray that God would be your One and Only, the Love of your life, and that He alone would fill voids. He promises to always be with us, and although our emotions can betray us, and it can feel like He is absent, He IS present!
4) Pour out your heart to Him. Your grief, anger, disappointments, loneliness. Psalm 143, Psalm 139:23-24, Romans 8:26 are beloved sections if I can't form the words. Pray to keep in step with His Spirit over the course of time, and that He makes your spirit sensitive to His leading, for wisdom, and for hope.
YOU will be changed in the process.
5) Consider fasting. When I am facing huge decisions, difficult conversations, needing His leading, or just during a intensely stressful, taxing time, I will fast. Not as something that wins points and favor, manipulates the Lord, or one-ups other Christians, but helps to drain me of my desires so I can better rely, submit, and hear from Him as I go about life (Esther 4:16). John Piper describes it as making God "the supreme hunger of your heart." This may look like a partial fast (for me, it's often giving up sweets for a time frame), but maybe that's TV or coffee or snacks, or full meals for you. When I am craving for what I have let go of, it becomes a prayer prompt to remind me to pray about whatever or whomever I'm focusing on in that time. Those times of fasting have always been sweet and strengthening times with the Lord; like any friendship - those heart to heart, intimate moments of bonding.
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF: SURRENDERING & PRAYING FOR YOUR HUSBAND
You will need to share your hurt with your husband. Conflict/confrontation is difficult, but so very necessary to grow and heal. As you are responsible TO your husband (not FOR him), take then the time to pray for him. Jesus is already King, but when He is placed in your heart as King over all, you are then capable of loving, supporting, and responding to your husband with the supernatural love only God can supply, whether or not your husbands responds favorably.
1) Release him over to God. After some time with the Source, relinquish in prayer your husband, your marriage, expectations, responses, formulating imaginary conversations in your mind (because, you know, we do this ;), resentment, whatever it looks like in your circumstance, to Christ. It puts things in it's proper place as Jesus is the Only One that can heal and restore, and when we are the ones reaching for control, we can't be God's vessels. It becomes a role-reversal - we then play the role of God. Releasing your husband (and his response, whether that's defensiveness or not) to God for Him to move in his life and to allow Him to place the understanding in your husband sounds counter-intuitive, but it's the most powerful thing you can do.
2) Take then time to pray for your husband, your marriage, and your words/conversation/meeting, as you fear offending or hurting him. Again, however long you and God decide. Consider the 30-day guide to praying for your husband.
The discussion with your husband may spontaneously arise as God opens conversation, or may it be something 'planned', but you can rest in knowing you've been training and preparing for this with the Lord. I would encourage you to read this great resource in learning to navigate well through conflict.
PRACTICAL TIPS & HELPFUL RESOURCES
1) If you husband is willing, pray with him. Often. This is also a journey in intimacy. Ask God together to rekindle your friendship and your marriage.
2) This is a great post with some solid wisdom, and honing in on #1, a purpose/mission-filled marriage is revolutionary. For additional thoughts on this subject, check out Gary Thomas's books, Sacred Marriage, A Lifelong Love, and Cherish.
3) Consider attending a marriage event or retreat together.
1) Authentic Intimacy. I can't suggest it enough -- pay the $8/month to become a member so you can have access to all their material (especially podcasts ... if you like podcasts that is ;). It is worth it!! Dr. Juli Slattery, who used to be with Focus on the Family (below) for a long while, now co-leads AI, with Linda Dillow (Calm My Anxious Heart, anyone?). She has truly been influential in mentoring and discipling me over the years as a wife and mother.
2) Another resource that has been invaluable to me is Focus on the Family. Their broadcasts/podcasts, blogs, and other resources are a beautiful support. As large as their organization is, I have written to them numerous times asking for prayer, and have received a personal letter back stating they have been praying for my requests.
The Lord has already ordained how your conversation will go, and hopefully it will be life-long series of continual conversations assessing your marriage and growing in intimacy with the Lord and with each other, but know there is also never any shame in attending couples counseling. This season of life could unearth some deep hurts, habits, or hang-ups in you or husband, wounds that may need addressing and special care, and having someone sit, listen, and process with you in your pain, is such a picture of Christ.
Our prayers are with you!