Have y’all ever met a couple whose marriage wasn’t messy?

If so, I’m gonna need their number so I can learn a trick or two.

I don’t think any of us really expect marriage to be messy. I mean, even if we are super healthy and go through counseling and know what “could be,” a lot of us probably are naive enough to think that our maturity in thought will protect us from the potential mess.

But the problem is, no matter how mature you are, a relationship that goes as deep as marriage is likely to be messy.  It is perhaps even true that the more mature you are, the more prone you are to mess in relationship.

Because the more mature you are, the more likely you are to actually confront problems rather than running from them.  And we all know that running from problems is just as messy, but in a completely different way.

So we know mess is a possibility in marriage, but what happens when the shit really does hit the fan?  What do we do and how do we clean up the mess and move forward?

First and foremost, we breathe.  We have found in our marriage that pressing the pause button and taking a breath is so beneficial.  We have walked through some hard stuff and I can’t think of a single time that reacting immediately was beneficial for us.  I can, however, think of plenty of times where reacting immediately did more damage than good. Pressing the pause button and taking a breathe is a huge tool for success.  Pushing pause, however, does not mean that we ignore the issue and sweep it under the rug just because we may have cooled down in the pause period.  Pausing requires the commitment and maturity to come back to a situation after we have had the chance to think and breathe, and to work it out at that point.

But sometimes we forget to press pause.  And then a messy situation ends up messier.  In all of our attempts to press pause and prevent a messier mess, we still sometimes fail.  When that happens, we need the tools and tricks to wade through the mess and somehow start a cleanup process.

But how?

For us, listening without a defensive stance is probably the single most beneficial trick we have up our sleeves. We have found that when we listen with a goal of proving our point, we aren’t really listening at all.  We are basically waiting on the defense while the other person talks. When we forget our own motives to defend and justify, and we simply listen well, we are able to come to an understanding of one another a lot faster.

Finally, whether we are successful with our pause buttons, or we are in a deeper mess, we always remember to keep loving well.  We remind ourselves of the who, the what, and the why.

Who did I marry?  Who is my husband in the Lord?  What is it that we are trying to accomplish, and what is our end goal?  And why?  Why do I love him, why do I want to work it out, and why is it important?

Reminding myself of these things gives me greater perspective and helps me see beyond the mess of the moment.  It helps me remember the beauty of our marriage.

When marriage gets messy: Pause. Breathe. Listen.  Love.