Can a Marriage Change at Its Core?

Can a Marriage Change?
Many years ago when Jim Bob and I had just met, I had all sorts of romantic notions about what a good marriage should look like. I honestly thought that the fairy tales were true: That one could find the perfect guy, get married, and “live happily ever after.”

Fast forward a few years into marriage and I could tell you honestly that I was wrong.

Marriage was a lot of hard work… especially since neither one of us knew how to do it right. Growing up, neither of us had seen a healthy marriage. In fact, divorce goes back two generations on both sides of our families. The odds were definitely stacked against our fairy tale.

When the Fairy Tale Becomes a Train Wreck

We hit a wall about 6 years into it.

It was ugly.

In fact, it was my worst nightmare. We were going down hill fast, with no brakes, and with only our own hearts to guide us.

Off the rails 2

But our hearts are full of passion, self-will, and only our own perspective. With only our hearts to go on, our marriage would have crashed and burned…

Recently, we were asked a very important question: “Do you really believe a person can change the core of who they are?

If someone had asked me that question 20 years ago, I probably would have replied with a blissfully naive, “Yes! We can do whatever we set our hearts to, right?” At least that’s what all the movies told me.

However, life has a way of hitting us over the head with a sledge hammer and trying us to the limits of our existence so much that it changes our perspective on the fundamental questions everyone must ask themselves at one point or another along life’s journey.

Can a Marriage Change at Its Core? (a 5-part series by AmyJoeJimBob)
Can a Marriage Change at Its Core? The 'S' Word God's Best A Heart of Stone But God (adapted from Danger by Whistling in the Dark, on Flickr [])

Can We Redeem This Marriage?

Six years into our marriage, we were suddenly faced with the same question: “Can we change who we are—at our very core?”

We had really botched things up in a bad way, and we knew it.

Saving our marriage and making it all we had dreamed it to be on our wedding day, would require work.

Soul-wrenching, Gut-wrenching work.

Self-abandoning work.

It would require a complete overhaul of our hearts, our thinking—our very relational dynamic.

This would be no small undertaking.

And we couldn’t do it alone.

At the End of Ourselves

Each of us had tried to live up to the fairy tale we had dreamed about. We tried to be a better wife; a better husband; a better mom; a better dad. The harder each of us tried, the more the other one let us down.

That was because we were playing from two different sets of plans. I had mine, Jim Bob had his.

It was like a conversation we had early on in our marriage, making plans to go camping.

We were talking about how great it would be to be out in nature, enjoying the sounds of a river, or the wind in the trees. We’d sit around a campfire and roast marshmallows. We could go hiking or swimming in a stream.

“OK,” I conceded, “but I want a bathroom—with a shower—inside the cabin.”

Jim Bob just stared at me. Slowly and with great confusion, he said…

“Cabin? Shower? Bathroom?”

Apparently, his idea of camping involved sleeping on the ground, in a tent, with no plumbing facilities. Why would anyone want to do that?

See, we thought we were talking about the same thing, but our vision and goals were completely different.

And the same was true in our marriage.

I had a pretty strong idea of what kind of husband Jim Bob should be; and he was sure what sort of wife I should be.

Though neither of us had a clue how to fill our own roles, we knew in our heart of hearts that the other one was not living up to their full potential.

But no matter how hard I tried to coerce, convince, and manipulate Jim Bob to be a better husband, it just wasn’t having any effect.

Every time I tried to help him see how he handled something poorly or inconsiderately, he always pointed out what I was doing wrong.

Like I was the one who needed to change!

It was at this point that we realized that neither one of us had the answers we so desperately needed.

Following our hearts was getting us nowhere.

We were at the end of our own abilities to make things work.

Next time, Jim Bob will share the story of what finally changed for us

Your Turn

Can you relate to our frustration?

When have you sought different goals together?

Ever found yourself working from two different sets of plans?

What did you do?

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5 thoughts on “Can a Marriage Change at Its Core?

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