Ways to thrive in marriage might not include the following dialogue in your marriage but I’m sure you have something like it…
“What is that doing in the fridge?” I asked Jeremy who was sitting in the other room. “Er… rather, WHY is that in the fridge?”
“Because there is less humidity in there… keep the door closed.” he said without looking at me but I could see the smirk on his face.
(He has a bug collection and his fun bug finds keep rotting because of the high humidity. Ugh…)
Laughing and cringing inside, I said, “Well, since I’m making dinner, I’ll be opening the fridge but seriously? Gross.”
I have a #marriedtojeremygoodwin hashtag for a reason. Being married to Jeremy is like a brand new experience every single day. I never know what is going on inside his curious, adventurous, mysterious brain.
Being married for 15 years has taught me a lot but I still stop in my tracks sometimes when he shares a new idea or hobby or plan.
Being married for any length of time and moving overseas makes things even more interesting.
Whether your husband sticks huge, creepy bugs in your fridge or not, I’m guessing you know that the learning curve to being married overseas is unexpectedly high and that trying to figure out the daily logistics can take a toll on how well you thrive in your marriage.
Marriage is challenging. Staying married is even more challenging. Staying married and thriving in marriage while living overseas is probably one of the most challenging things you will every do.
Yet, thriving in marriage overseas can have one of the most profound effects on your life, your ministry, your children and your determination to stay for the long haul on the mission field.
It is for sure, without a doubt an area that Satan WILL attack. And you need to be prepared to fight and fight hard for the health and safety of your marriage, your family.
Here are some ways you can do that and thrive:
1} Recognize stress. Stress in marriage is high because your stress personally is also high. Throw those two things together and you have a ticking time bomb ready to go off. Find ways to diminish stress and recognize when you need a break. Be watchful for when your spouse needs a break. Make it happen.
2} Stay friends. You need friends that you can trust on the mission field. Your spouse becomes number one in that department. Be a safe place. Be a friend. Be someone your spouse can trust, be themselves and let their hair down. Relax and be friends. In fact, go on a date. Find things to do in your new country, things you enjoy and do them together. Laugh. Be friends.
3} Realize that your roles often reverse big time overseas. Things that you did, he might need to do. Things that he did, you might need to do. Those ways of working together that worked in your home country? Yeah… they will need readjusting, reevaluating and lots of discussing. Figure out what works in your new country and don’t be afraid to change up your roles to make things easier on your marriage. Let go of old ways and ideas… peacefully embrace the new. It might mean learning new skills or allowing your spouse to do things that you like to do. Changing up patterns and rethinking schedules. Face this head on. Plan well and you won’t feel as frustrated in the moment of change.
4} Learn how to work together. Oh, you thought you’d learned how to work together already? Missions and life overseas will test this theory. Go back to the drawing board. How will you work together in your new context?
5} Talk about goals. Daily, weekly, monthly… for family, for ministry, for your home. Talk these things out. You might be surprised that some of your pulling against each other is because you have different goals, different perceptions, different ways of seeing the who/what/when/where/why of your new life overseas. Talk about these things over coffee. Be open. Get on the same page.
6} Know that parenting is all new. This is something we are working through. Parenting is very different in a lot of ways now that we live overseas. And this effects our marriage in big ways. How do you parent overseas? (another post for another day) But talking this out will go a long way in making your marriage thrive overseas. What are your expectations for you kids? Where do they go to school? How do they interact with your ministry? Who stays home with the kids when one spouse is working? On and on it goes. Safety concerns, ministry challenges, cultural differences… Your parenting deeply effects your ministry. Again, get on the same page.
7} Don’t forget THAT part of marriage. Your marriage will only thrive if you stay close, stay intimate and stay in love. Keep your marriage hot no matter how busy you are on the field is key. Living overseas will cause bigger headaches than ever. Your excuses will be very valid. You have to fight past the real headaches and fight for intimacy in your marriage. You have to make it happen. Be purposeful. Stay intentional.
8} Recognize weaknesses and pick up the slack. Just jump in. Don’t question. Don’t argue. Don’t let it ruin your day. Be a team player, see the weakness and get the work done. Culture shock is hitting you both. It will show up in different ways on different days. See it for what it is and step up. Help. Be there. Support. Without even saying one single negative word. After all, marriage in the desert is nothing to sneeze at. You are doing something incredibly difficult and trying to do it in step together. Weaknesses WILL show up. Just keep moving forward.
9} You don’t know what you don’t know!! Seriously! And your spouse doesn’t either! EVERYTHING about life overseas is truly a big unknown. From knowing what to do in a situation to knowing how the day will go to knowing if plans will change to figuring out finances or grocery lists, you just can’t possibly know all the pieces to the puzzle when you live in a new country. See that. Understand it. Offer grace. Plow through the unknowns, the blank space, together.
10} Keep God at the center of your life overseas. Abide in Him. Rest in Him. Depend on Him. This seems like a no brainer for missionaries but you’d be surprised… don’t skimp on your time with Jesus. Stay focused on Him and rely on Him. He is the source of strength, He is the giver of mercy, and He is the foundation of love for you, for your spouse, for your marriage. I can’t stress how greatly this will effect your marriage for the good. or for the bad if you neglect to focus on your relationship with Jesus on a daily, hourly basis.
So, while you might not have big bugs in your fridge, I’m sure you are facing your own struggles in learning how to thrive in marriage overseas.
What are some struggles you’ve noticed in this traveling, transitional, missions live overseas? What is something that has helped you thrive in your marriage?