I’ve attended a lot of weddings over the years. The bride and groom stand at the altar nervous about getting married, having no idea what the future holds. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a number of those couples divorce. I’m convinced one of the biggest things that can crush a marriage is a couple’s unwillingness to deal with baggage in marriage.
1. Childhood Baggage
Our childhoods shape us in seen and unseen ways. Hopefully, you grew up in a happy home with engaged parents. But we know this isn’t the case for many kids. Each year, Child Protective Services works with over 6.6 million kids who had abuse in the home—including physical, sexual, mental, and emotional. Every 10 seconds, somebody reports child abuse. Childhood hurt can last a lifetime and many bring that hurt into marriage.
With the pain of abuse, your childhood can shape how you give and receive love from your spouse. That pain can be baggage in marriage. There isn’t always a great way to talk about possible baggage from childhood. But dealing with childhood issues may be as simple as telling your spouse that you believe him or her when he or she shares about childhood experiences.
Your role as the spouse is to learn to listen, be supportive, and keep lines of communication open. Depending on the childhood experience, you’ll often need to give time, patience, and care. Communication will be essential to your relationship. If you feel like you can’t handle certain issues without help, don’t delay in connecting with your church or a counselor. Find people who have your best interest at heart.
2. Financial Baggage
I’ve also seen financial baggage crush marriages. This can happen when we come to a marriage after a life of not handling finances well. Perhaps it’s because you were raised by parents who weren’t good stewards or you signed up for that first credit card in college for the t-shirt. Maybe you married a spouse with medical bills. Point is, I’ve seen money be the baggage related to many divorces.
Often, while financial issues can be overcome in marriage, they also can crush the relationship with conflict over wants and needs. You can overcome financial baggage by learning how to handle money together. Take classes together that address spending, stewardship, investing, and goal-setting. Get on the same page with your finances. God can use financial problems to strengthen the marriage and help you realize your need to work together.
Depending on your financial issues, part of helping overcome the struggles will involve being open and honest with your spouse about your debt. It may mean identifying who’s the spender and who’s the saver—and letting the saver handle the budget. Communicate often about your spending and saving goals.
3. Relationship Baggage
Whether dealing with past divorce or previous dating relationships, emotional scars can be tough to work through. Being cheated on, having cheated yourself, or having been mistreated in some way in a previous marriage or past relationship ultimately will affect your marriage and how you trust—or don’t trust—your spouse.
If your relationship baggage is affecting your marriage, address it. Make sure you’re listening well to your spouse. Do everything in your power to stay connected and communicate openly about past relationship struggles. Discuss each other’s feelings. It may be that you need to watch how you talk to and about your spouse. We’ve said before that love is an action more than an emotion. How are you treating your spouse?
If trust is the big relationship issue, be sure you do your part to be consistent, communicate, and be on time. Do the small things that tell your spouse you can be trustworthy. Do what you say you will do. In a marriage, each spouse has a choice and responsibility to move forward and give selflessly to the other.
What advice would you give to somebody who needs to address some baggage in marriage but doesn’t know where to start? Share in a comment below.