What Should My Perspective Be When Marriage Isn’t as Fulfilling as I’d Hoped?

Question from a reader:

My husband and I have been married over 50 years. We married young, and weren’t saved until a few years later. And we’ve come to recognize we didn’t have a clue what love and marriage really were.

We love each other but when it comes to filling each other’s love tanks, we are both failures. Both of the homes we came from did not model “love.” It was a word we never heard. I want so desperately to be appreciated, verbally encouraged—ANYTHING that would indicate that I was even noticed. I have tried to be what I would call loving to my husband, but I am sure he thinks I am exasperated with him most of the time.

I feel like a lost cause and this is just the way it will always be. I believe the Lord is coming (SOON and very soon) and that is where my hope lies! Longing for Heaven!

Answer from Kathy Norquist, EPM board:

I’m retired from EPM but one of our staff asked me to respond to your heartfelt question. We have some things in common. I was 19 and my husband 20 when we married 53 years ago. So I can identify wholly with the stage of life you are in. Since it’s difficult to get a complete picture of your situation, I’m just going to offer a few thoughts and perhaps something here might be helpful to you. I was encouraged to read at the end of your note that your hope lies in the Lord’s return and longing for Heaven. That is the right focus for sure. But God still has you here for a reason, and one of those is to glorify Him through your relationship with your husband. And you can do that no matter what your husband does or doesn’t do, which is such good news! You will be rewarded in Heaven by how you are living your life here which is amazing to think about. God promises rich rewards for us

Ultimately, only God can fill your love tank. However, He does use people to help in this process. But when there is a deficit such as what you are feeling, I wonder what God wants you to learn about Him through this? You cannot change your husband as I’m sure you’ve realized after 50 plus years! But God can change you as you focus on His love for you and trust Him each day for what He brings your way. Ask Him to show you ways you can respect your husband since that is God’s command for us as wives (Ephesians 5).

If you focus on getting something, you will fail. If you focus on giving something, you will succeed no matter what the other person’s response is because you will be pleasing and honoring God. I love Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

One practical question that comes to my mind is: do you know each other’s love language? Is it acts of service, physical touch, gifts, words of affirmation or time spent? (This is from the book The Five Love Languages, if you’re not familiar with it.) We all probably like each one of these “languages” to some degree, but for most people usually one or two stand out as the way we feel most loved. Are you and your husband able to have a conversation about this? Do you show love to him by ways you would feel loved or ways that make him feel loved? A young woman I mentor really values time spent with her husband, and that’s the way she feels loved. He, however, is task oriented and he shows his love to her by what he loves, doing projects. While she appreciates the projects, she really doesn’t feel loved the way she would if he were to spend quality time with her.

You said, “He thinks I am exasperated with him most of the time.” Are you? If so, then God can give you a different perspective about your husband if you ask Him and trust Him. Look for the things you like about him, what are the qualities that drew you to him, etc.? Focus on those and thank God for them. If you are dissatisfied with your husband, then you are actually saying you are dissatisfied with what God has in His sovereignty allowed: your marriage to him. Confess this to God and ask Him to give you a grateful heart for all He has given you.

My husband and I check in with each other from time to time: how do you feel about our relationship on a scale of 1-10? That really helps us to see where we’re at and gives us an opportunity to find out what we can do to make things better.

Have you ever had marriage counseling? Or personal counseling? If not, I highly recommend finding a biblical counselor who could help you navigate through some of these emotional hurdles you are facing.

The very bottom line to all of this is to focus on the Lord and His Word and not on your circumstances. He will walk with you and give you the strength to persevere as you pray and seek Him. I’m so glad to hear you say that you love each other. Good for you for keeping your commitment to your marriage even if it isn’t nearly as fulfilling as you would hope. That doesn’t mean it can’t get better, but I know that God wants to bless you through your obedience to Him no matter what the circumstances. Colossians 3:1-15 is such a rich passage on what God wants for us. I encourage you to meditate on this passage and maybe even memorize parts of it.

Finally, I loved this quote from Nanci Alcorn’s journal: “Trust in the Lord. He has set you apart for himself. You are His, you have been united to His Son, and the sufferings of this present age can only heighten your future glory and joy.” —Ray Ortlund

God bless you.

Photo by Nani Chavez on Unsplash

Kathy Norquist was Randy Alcorn’s Executive Assistant from 1997-2015, then worked in Ministry Development up until September 2018 when she retired.  Kathy remains on the EPM Board of Directors.