I have recently had occasion to talk with some men about one of the biggest problems in marriages, and biggest causes of divorces and affairs. The problem, put simply, is unhappiness.

When we get married, we often have the idea that our married life will be one of constant joy. That is what we are told, anyway. "The Joys of Wedded Bliss" is a frequent theme of wedding homilies. Marriage is "given" to us, we are told, to bring us joy and fulfillment. "It is not good that the man should be alone," we are told again and again (forgetting that no one is ever alone in our modern world). Each of us promises to love and honor and cherish the other. 

Then, life intervenes. 

The concept of a seven-year itch is an old one. The idea is that at around that time, marriage ceases to be the joy we were all told it would be, at least on a 24/7 basis. This has a lot to do with children, but also with other things that complicate our lives. When we are first married, everything is new and interesting. After seven years, there is not a lot new anymore about our spouse. Our jobs tend to be more demanding. Our children are now around and take up a lot of our time. Wives, in particular, tend to focus much more on their children and husbands feel left out, unloved. Sometimes, the wife feels unloved as well. 

We take nice photos of smiling wives and husbands and children, but the next day we have to get up and fix meals and go to work and do laundry. 

At some point, each partner will realize that he or she is unhappy. I do not mean just "kind of unhappy," but really and seriously unhappy. Their home life is not satisfying. Their sex life is not satisfying. They get very little attention from their spouse. They seem to spend so much money on this whole "family" thing and get very little out of it, they think.

They often leave at these times. They are so unhappy that they believe that the wedding was a lie and the marriage was a lie and that no one loves them anymore. They want something more. So, they leave. They blow up the life of their spouse (who may have been very happy). They blow up their own lives. They want happiness more than they want to stay married. 

I can tell you all kinds of Hallmark Card junk about marriage, but here is the reality. You are married. One of the keys to surviving bad times (and unhappy times are bad times) is to remember that you are married. The option of "I will leave and be happy" is not an option. In the absence of adultery or abuse (and inattention is not abuse), you are married. 

A person who has a disability is in an interesting spot. He can spend his whole life being bitter about his disability or he can accept the reality of the disability and seek happiness anyway. If he chooses to be bitter, to live his life dreaming of what it would be like not to be disabled, then he will never be happy. The disability is what it is. 

As much as you might dislike the comparison, marriage is the same. You are married. That is the end of that issue. There is no option of divorce. There is no "if I left her" option. There is no "if I left him" option. You are married. You begin your life, every day, with that understanding. I will find happiness within the reality of my marriage because I am married. I am not a child to take back my promises from long ago. I am a man and I live within the life I have built. 

When you find yourself unhappy in your marriage, remember that the solution is not leaving the marriage. The solution is fixing your life. The solution is understanding that you are not married because you "made a mistake," but that you are where you are for good reasons. God is sovereign. You are precisely where you are to be. 

Leaving is not the answer for an unhappy married person. Leaving is never the answer, in the absence of adultery or abuse. 

The answer is trusting in God and recommitting yourself to the person to whom you are married.  
In talking with husbands, I am struck by how little they realize about one of the great difficulties with being a wife, especially a "stay at home" wife. You see, wives do not know what we (husbands) are thinking. 

Men and women tend to be very different in responding to issues. Women like to "talk things out." Men do not. Women seek wisdom in conversations, in sharing, in listening to each other's ideas. Men do not. Men just think about things. Men prefer to consider issues privately and to speak only when they have an answer or, if pressed, only when they realize they have no answer. Women, therefore, often talk about options that even they reject, whereas men think of such conversations as a waste of time. 

For wives, this is a big problem, because you never know what he is thinking. You may think you know. Our culture is filled with the idea that we "really know" what other people are thinking. This is false. Scripture warns us of this reality. "Who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?" 1 Cor. 2:11. We may have some idea about what someone else is thinking, but we do not know. 

And he won't tell you what he is thinking. Asking him "what are you thinking" is not going to get you a truthful answer, because once you ask the question, he is then thinking about your question. 

I think this is a real challenge for wives. So much of your life is dependent upon your husband (just as his is dependent upon you). Loving your husband means living, every day, with this little bit of a lack of knowledge. You will catch yourself trying to guess what he is thinking and often judging what you think he is thinking. I remember my wife once accusing me of looking at another woman inappropriately and I was puzzled because I could not remember the other woman even being in the room. I was looking at something else where she happened to be. 

But how was my wife to know that? And how could I possibly convince her of it?

Loving anyone requires us to accept that we do not know what they are thinking. It doesn't matter how many clever shows we have watched, or how much "Oprah" we have seen, or what the latest magazine article says, you really don't know. And he does not know what you are thinking either. 

Every day, you live with a man you do not fully understand. This is one of the great mysteries of marriage. It requires patience, including the patience that allows each of us to have our own thoughts. It requires faith that God is sovereign and that He is in control of what happens to us. It requires love, to accept and serve someone as fallible and as secret as our partner in life.