MARRIAGE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL, but it’s tough. Yeah, romance is nice – but when real-life challenges arrive, too few couples survive. So, what’s the key to saving your marriage?
“Friendship,” says Kayla Tucker Adams, an author and popular speaker on marital restoration. “Couples need to be friends from the beginning. They need to enjoy each other’s company. They should like hanging out together, talking about their dreams, sharing their challenges, and being emotionally intimate with each other. A solid friendship helps a marriage thrive and survive. Without it, it will be tough to deal with the challenges that will come.”
That advice comes from a woman who divorced her husband, then remarried him four years later. “My husband and I were married for nine years before we had our only child, Brooklyn. She was born sixteen weeks premature, and spent five weeks in the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit]. During that time, my husband and I were constantly at the hospital. I remember the doctors telling us, ‘Be sure to make time for your marriage. Don’t put everything into being at the hospital, because there’s a very high divorce rate among people who have babies in the NICU.’ My husband and I laughed about it, because we didn’t think that could happen to us,” Kayla reflects.
But it happened. While coping with their stressful situation, and taking care of their premature baby around-the-clock (with a heart monitor, a pulse oximeter, oxygen, and several therapists), Kayla’s husband had an affair.
“People were concerned about me, because I was sick. After giving birth, I spent 3 1⁄2 weeks in the hospital – flat on my back. I was on complete bed rest. So our friends and family were concerned about me, and they were concerned about our daughter. But no one gave my husband the emotional support that he needed,” Kayla confides. “People [tend to] think that men are always okay. Looking back on our situation, I would advise women to pay attention to what their husbands need. Make sure that he’s getting the emotional support that he needs. And if it’s something that you can’t give to him, reach out to your pastor, or mentors, or other male- figures, or friends who can help.”
This clear-sighted perspective didn’t come overnight. Kayla was initially angry, bitter, and hurt. So much so, she filed for divorce. However, her friendship with her husband made the unexpected possible. “Because we were friends, we were able to heal and become co-parents to our daughter. We made every decision about her health together. We made every decision about her education together. We made every decision about her childcare together. Every decision that needed to be made about our daughter, we made it together. We never spent a Christmas or Thanksgiving apart, because we wanted her life to be as normal as possible,” Kayla explains. “Lo and behold, somewhere along the way, God crept in and softened our hearts. I don’t even know when my husband and I started dating again. It just happened! During that period, we decided to start over from Hello my name is ... because there had been so much damage done.”
According to multiple studies, approximately 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Several causes have been cited (such as financial stress, a neglectful spouse, physical abuse, infidelity, and traumatic experiences). But those are all symptoms of deeper problems. “I remember reading a New York Times article that likened the NICU experience to war – because there is constant death, and beeping, and buzzing around you,” Kayla says. “The article stated that a lot of men experience PTSD [post- traumatic stress disorder] after having a premature baby, because they often bottle their emotions. I absolutely believe that’s what led to my husband’s affair. The ‘other woman’ was someone he talked to about everything that was going on, and everything he was feeling.”
A listening ear can repair a marriage. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give a spouse who feels misunderstood, neglected, hurt, or alone. “I wish I had taken the doctors seriously when they said, ‘Make time for you marriage,’” Kayla reflects. “Before our daughter was born, doctors tried to get me to terminate the pregnancy. They said that the baby had a 10 percent chance of survival. They also said she was breached, so I couldn’t have her naturally. And they said that, if I had a cesarean, they would have to sever my uterus. But I said, ‘So you just told me that I can’t have her naturally, and I shouldn’t have a cesarean. Let’s wait and see what God says.” My doctor left to go home and, shortly after, I went into labor. They had to grab a doctor out of the cafeteria. To this day, I don’t know who delivered my daughter, because she was coming so fast. She was breached, and she was a pound – but I had her naturally.”
What would happen if we had that same response to our marriages? What if we said, “Let’s wait and see what God says ... about our challenges ... about our pain ... about our mistakes ... and about our future.” What if we refused to believe the reports that were delivered by our negative emotions? What if we refused to give up?
“These days, people go into marriage with divorce as an option,” Kayla says. “We think, ‘If I don’t like my job, I can get a new job. If I don’t like my car, I can get a new car. If I don’t like my friends, I can change my friends. And if I don’t like my spouse, I can get rid of my spouse, too.’ Marriage is taken so lightly. Most people don’t understand that, when they get married, they make a covenant with their spouse and God. It’s a three-way commitment. God is there during the good times, and He’s there to help during the bad times. Unless you’re in a dangerous situation, don’t sign those papers – and don’t even file for divorce – until you’ve done everything in your power to save your marriage. Fight for your marriage. Get counseling. Build a real friendship. Pray for your spouse. And always remember, with God all things are possible.”
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