Jun 21 2017

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How to weather the marriage storms of life (Three essentials you need)

How to weather the marriage storms of life

Three essentials you need to weather the marriage storms

Lovely weather so far. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.

~Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I'm learning how to sail my ship
The newlywed days feel like a spring day out on the water. Everything’s smooth and easy. We soak in the beauty and drink deep of our love. We know we found our soul mate, our best friend. It’s all lovely weather. The divorce statistics won’t affect us, we say to ourselves, we’re committed for life.

But then something hits our married life . . . hard, and we’re in the middle of a storm that wrecks our paradise. Instead of being in the storm together, we start seeing our spouses differently. Slowly, they become the problem to be solved. They become the storm. We feel lonely and isolated. If the marriage storm doesn’t subside, we know we’re going to sink. Life feels hopeless. The honeymoon’s over, and we don’t know how to stop the storm without abandoning ship.

Is there hope?

What if there was a way to weather the marriage storms of life and come through the other side with a deeper, more committed marriage? There’s a way to learn “how to sail” throughout marriage regardless of lovely weather or storm.

In 21 years, my marriage has weathered many storms. Read more about me here. We didn’t always sail our ship well. God’s mercy kept us when we lost our way. We’ve been to paradise lost and back again. Learn about these three essentials and face your storms with courage.

Don’t be afraid of the storms of married life. Instead, learn how to sail your ship.

The stress of change

Change is a normal part of life. Everything changes. That’s not necessarily bad. But when we aren’t aware of how change affects us, we can easily turn change into a real storm within marriage. It’s not until we adjust that the storm subsides and we feel calmer weather.

Here are a some changes within marriage that have potential to turn into a storm:

  • First child
  • More than one child
  • Stages of change with our children (baby, toddler, preschool, elementary, teen, young adult, married, married with children)
  • Children grown (empty nest)
  • Job change
  • Aging
  • Moving homes

Other kinds of storms:

  • Job loss
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Health problems (of spouse or child)
  • Extended family loss (death of a parent or sibling)

Here are a few of the changes we’ve experienced over the years:

  • Job changes and loss: (for both of us)
  • Moving: We lived in three states (MD, NC, and SC) and two countries (US and Kyrgyzstan).
  • Children: We have four children.
  • Miscarriage: We had two miscarriages between our first and second child.
  • Health problems: Both of us have had ER visits due to an organ failure which resulted in surgery (no appendix for my husband and no gall bladder for me).

Regardless of the origin of the storm, these three essentials will help you weather the marriage storms


Awareness takes intentionality and practice. Knowing what’s happening—like changing jobs from an office to being a stay-at-home mom—isn’t the same as knowing how the change affects us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Awareness was not a strength of mine, and I didn’t consider how changes affected me. As a new mom, I felt overwhelmed. I was insecure in my new role. I dragged through months of waking up throughout the night to feed my newborn. I struggled, but I kept quiet. Motherhood felt isolating. Had I been more aware (and responded in a healthy way to my struggles), I could’ve handled the challenges better. Parenthood wasn’t a storm, but I turned it into a storm by remaining in survival mode instead of being aware and taking better care of myself.

Practice: Ask yourself how you feel? Expand your feeling words with this chart.  When your needs are not satisfied, take ownership. Ask: What do I need from God right now? How can honor God with how I feel? Godly self-care invites God into the process while we take ownership of our care.


Constructive conversations about change and storms help both husband and wife. When we moved back to the United States after living overseas we were recovering from a storm of life while facing huge amounts of change: housing, job, and schooling for the kids. We needed to talk to each other to make decisions and sort through the storm, so we sought counsel. When life blows up don’t navigate alone—get help. During that time, and over the years, counseling has helped us communicate constructively rather than create more conflict.

Practice: Pray before you talk with your spouse. Then practice being a listener. Working together is the goal not convincing the other person to do it your way. Conflict in marriage is normal (no one’s perfect). But if conflict is the only way you know how to communicate, seek good, godly counsel and tool up on your communication skills.

Making Adjustments

After gaining self-awareness and talking it through, the next essential is making adjustments. Sometimes those adjustments are small, like learning how to put events on a calendar so everyone knows what to expect for the week. At other times, the adjustments feel bigger, like living on a budget that cuts down on eating out. Some changes you make within marriage are keepers, like a regular date night. But others are season of life specific, like living with a newborn. When it’s storm, adjusting to the “new normal” is a process. Grieving is part of the adjustment. We don’t all grieve in the same way.

Practice: Adjustments are ongoing are require communication and trial. Put a time limit on a change to see how it works and see how it works (or doesn’t work). When the adjustment is working through grief, be kind yourself and to each other.

Learn to sail your ship well

Life comes with change. Expect it. Storms come unexpectedly. To overcome the marriage storms of life, be aware of changes (and how storms are taking toll), talk about the it, and make adjustments. Pray. Seek help, as necessary. And don’t be afraid because as you learn to sail your ship well, you will not only weather the storms but grow into a deeper relationship with your spouse—much better than those first “lovely weather” days of marriage.

Which of the three essentials is your biggest challenge?

When I look over my life, I’ve stumbled with all three of the essentials. I’ve been aware of the outside realities but not too understanding of my inward realities. I’ve communicated lots but not been a great listener. And with adjusting, I’ve resisted letting go of my perfect picture and adjusting to real life.

I’m better at these essentials than I used to be. I’m practicing and getting better. I’ll have practice the rest of my life.

How about you? Where have you struggled in self-awareness, communication, and adjusting? Where have you seen growth? Which is your biggest challenge? Share in comments below or send me an email.

Disclaimer: I give no guarantees on the outcome of any marriage. If both partners in a marriage are unwilling to do the work needed, a broken marriage cannot be made whole. These essentials will help those who are seeking the Lord and are willing to take steps to heal their own brokenness.

Sailboat Photo by Sonja Langford and Hands Photo by Wilson Sánchez on Unsplash

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