Five Things Every Marriage Needs
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So where did I go wrong? How could I wind up in such despair? My derailment occurred because I was looking for happiness, not joy. There is a major difference between happiness and joy. Happiness in life is transitory, dependent on circumstances. Joy continues regardless of trials. That's especially true in marriage. When a couple discovers joy, they are free to enjoy marriage the way it was designed by God. And they are able to endure all that life throws at them.
Even though I was involved in a highly respected ministry, I failed because I didn't know the source of joy. What's more, my marriage struggled as a result. I believe I violated five principles. These are five things every individual (not just married people) needs in life, but we tend to look for them in all the wrong places. But when we have these five things, we are able daily to experience indescribable joy.
First, I Needed an Energy Source to Recharge My Spiritual and Emotional Batteries
I was looking to Bill and to my job for my energy. Everything that gave my life meaning and significance came from my friend and my work. When I was with him, I was high. When I was on the road planning an event, my life felt important. On those occasions when I was not getting what I needed from work, I would look to Norma to make up the difference. But she was busy with three kids, so my expectations often weren't met. I didn't realize that neither my job nor any person would provide the lasting fulfillment I needed. That had to come from another source.
Second, I Needed Someone to Whom I Could Pour Out My Heart and Talk to About Anything at Any Time
You might naturally think my wife would be that person, and Norma tried to help. But I knew she had expressed concerns about my being involved in this work, so I didn't feel free to completely open up to her. And the problem with having only one really close friend like Bill was that when that friendship changed, I had no one else to turn to. What I didn't know was that I did have this type of friend. He was waiting for me to open up to him, but it took me a long time to realize it.
Third, I Needed to Understand My Emotions, For They Were Warning Lights Telling Me I Was in Trouble
I didn't know it at the time, but there were numerous indications that I was in trouble. My anger at Bill and the ministry was a big one. Fear of the future was another. Loneliness should have been a clue that I was expecting too much from Bill. Depression was a major warning sign that life wasn't cooperating with my expectations. But I didn't understand my emotions, and so I suffered far more than necessary.
Fourth, I Needed to Know That There Is Meaning in the Trials We Endure
The Bible makes a promise—though it is one we don't really want to claim—that we all will endure trials. Trials are an inevitable part of life. But I was totally unprepared for this trauma. Norma couldn't help me either, because my trial had caused a crisis in her life. There was no way then that Norma and I could come together and gain understanding of the situation. Now I can look back and tell you that this crisis was one of the best things that happened to Norma and me. I would never want to go through it again, but I truly wouldn't trade what I learned either. The message of this book, the joy that Norma and I discovered, is a direct outcome of my crisis.
Fifth, I Needed to Have a Shared Mission with My Wife That Was Beyond Us, One That We Could Strive for Together
You no doubt noticed that Norma wasn't a part of my work with Bill. So often we segment our lives, and work stays distinct from family. But by leaving Norma out of this part of my life, I lost something of great value. Fortunately, today Norma and I have combined our talents—and we are a team. You may see me in front of a crowd at a conference, but believe me, without her supportive work, there is no conference. The joy we get out of working as a team is incredible, even though it's not always smooth sailing.
Excerpted from "Joy That Lasts" by Gary Smalley. Used by permission of the Smalley Relationship Center, © Copyright 2005.
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