When your spouse isn’t on board with your goal, you can give up on the goal, or give up on your spouse. At first, I thought I was the only person to struggle with this, but I’ve seen it so many times now, I’ve decided it’s one of those “life packages” that shows up when one person in a relationship decides to grow.
Is there a third option?
Before I get into my message today, let me say this first:
If you are in an abusive relationship, get safe. Get yourself safe. Get your children safe. Pray for your spouse from afar. You can still hold the image of a happy marriage and apply whatever you may find useful in the article below, but get safe, get HELP and let God do with your spouse what he will. The following message is NOT for those whose lives are legitimately in danger. If you have experienced violence, but you’re not exactly sure if your life is really in danger, your situation may be worse than you think it is. It’s hard sometimes to see it for what it is when you’re in the middle of it, so I implore you to seek help now, seek the perspective of someone outside of your situation who can give you an objective opinion and help you get the assistance you need.
Now, my message:
For nearly twenty years, it has been my passion to show people the true power of effective goal achievement. And like I said in my earlier post What You can Learn From a Locksmith, there are a finite number of “tumblers” that need to fall into place before a person “gets it”. Each book you read, each mentor you learn with, each challenge you conquer brings you one dial closer to having your lock spring open.
So among other things, challenges are indeed part of the process. And there is one challenge that seems to be universal, specifically for those who travel the “goal achiever’s” path with a spouse. You set a certain kind of goal, and here comes the package.
Related: How to Know if You’ll Reach the Goal
I’m not going to define which kinds of goals trigger the delivery of this package, because I don’t have that figured out. I have my suspicions, but I don’t have enough data to say either way, because most of the time I only hear about the person’s struggle. I’m not always privy to the goal that triggered it.
All I know is that in MY case, it showed up after:
- I had a belief and understanding of Rare Faith (the kind of faith that causes things to happen, according to Boyd K. Packer)
- I had had some success with it
- I felt a calling from God to help others understand it
- I was ready to apply the principles again to make even more changes or improvements in my life and family
- My spouse wasn’t ready to make said changes
I’ve seen this so often with so many people, the outcomes have also become predictable:
The person hits a point where they feel forced to choose between: their relationship, growth, or even a God-given calling to pursue their life’s purpose.
For whatever reason, it feels like keeping the following commandments at the same time is impossible:
- Stay married: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder,” (Mark 10:9) and
- Bear good fruit: “[G]o and bring forth fruit… whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you,” (John 15:16).
This conundrum typically plays out in one of two different ways:
- She leaves her spouse. The person gets so frustrated with the lack of progress that “living the principles” becomes more important than preserving the relationship, and she eventually leaves her spouse. (Or his. I’m going to stick with one pronoun for consistency, but these ideas are applicable for either gender.) Don’t be shocked. It’s more common than you may think, and sadly, it’s socially acceptable. Divorce is at the other end of the stick she picks up when personal progress becomes more important than a marriage covenant. Personal progress feels good! A stalled marriage feels horrible! She knows God wants her to grow, so if she can’t grow with her spouse, she believes the marriage needs to end. It’s not a quick process. It typically takes a number of years before the fractured relationship becomes permanently broken. Of course, there are usually a number of other factors that play into the disintegration of a relationship, but a large part of it can be pointed back to her feeling “unequally yoked” with a partner who doesn’t want to move forward at the same pace, or at all. Or…
- She gives up on her dreams. She gets so frustrated with her spouse that she eventually gives up on her dreams, in order to keep the covenant. She accepts the fact that the growth and progress she desires cannot be hers, and she comes to terms with it, but secretly resents her spouse for not being willing to run with her toward a better life, or worthy ideal. This is probably more common, but in its own way, equally devastating.
So, the package shows up. Maybe it’s showed up for you. Is there a better way than the choices described above?
Is there an option #3?
What else can you do?
I hate that this is a thing. I haven’t wanted to write about it, because I wanted to pretend that gaining an understanding of the Rare Faith or goal achievement principles isn’t at the root of some broken families. Granted, some people have have already decided to divorce before finding this work, and then are grateful to discover it, because it helps them get out and even thrive, which may have previously seemed impossible. If a marriage really does need to end, then I’m grateful it helps, I guess. But I never set out to help marriages end. How can the principles I teach lead to such a thing? I don’t want play any part in creating the collateral damage that comes with divorce.
So when I had yet another conversation with a woman who was at a beginning stage of this dilemma, and she said, “I thought I was the only one to struggle with this,” I knew I had to shine a light on it.
I may not save any marriages, but if I can help people become conscious to a third option, then maybe at least one person can make his or her decision more fully informed.
Since the package has been showing up to so many people so predictably, and since the outcomes are predictable, too (depending on how the person responds to them), I’m convinced the adversary is just following some kind of a playbook for destroying families. But if we’re conscious of his strategies and deceptions, then we can make our decisions more soberly. Marriages may still need to end, but if they must, let the parties involved at least make their decision from a place of TOTAL truth with the lies fully exposed. It’s my hope that I can help someone catch the deception before it’s too late to pick up the other stick instead that lets them keep their family in tact AND still enjoy the progress they crave.
It’s not the easy way. It might not even yield happy results in the short term. But a third option does exist.
I’ve heard people talk about how grateful they were they found the courage to get out of their dysfunctional marriage, and how happy they are having found someone else more equally yoked. They have no regrets because it turned out well, and the children seem to be fine.
But some people choose to terminate their marriage and never find someone else to marry. Sometimes the children are not fine, and the fallout ripples down through future generations.
But for some, even that may not matter, because they feel that no matter how it’s going to turn out, and whether or not they ever find someone else, anything different will be better than what’s happening now.
So the message that follows is not for people who have already decided to divorce.
I acknowledge these decisions run deep and are never taken lightly. Nobody knows the kind of suffering you feel, or the way you feel it. I do not intend to minimize anyone’s pain, or judge anyone’s decision. What I want to share next is for the person who desperately wants her marriage to work, and who also wants to feel the soul expansion and joy that comes from personal growth.
There IS a third option.
It takes humility, patience, long-suffering, sacrifice, belief—and perhaps the biggest dose of rare faith you’ve ever had to muster.
Remember, according to Boyd K. Packer, this is the kind of faith that moves people, and sometimes moves things.
Note: I proceed on the premise that my readers have already obtained a hope in Christ. That I’m speaking to the person who already believes that salvation or exaltation is more important than worldly success, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the World. That the Rare Faith principles are revealed to us so we can use them to further the Kingdom of God, and to bring joy and relief to our families and to others around the world.
“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted,” (Jacob 2:19)
After ye have obtained a hope in Christ, then have some hope that he has the power to lift your marriage. He has the power to heal the emotional and physical wounds that are at the root of your marital conflict. Hurt people hurt people, and a lot of times, a person comes into the marriage already hurt. So you must also hope that Jesus Christ also has the power to heal your spouse of the baggage he is carrying that causes him to behave the way he does.
As long as you are using the Rare Faith principles to create, I invite you to create a vision of your marriage being happy, fulfilled, and victorious. We’re so quick to create visions of the lifestyle we want, but we hesitate to create visions for our marriage relationship. We hesitate to create visions involving other people at all because of that agency thing, and rightly so. But there is a way to see the end that you intend without infringing on another person’s agency, even in relationship matters.
Here’s the secret:
You create a vision for your happiness together, but remain detached from the timing of its realization.
Work on becoming the best version of yourself while you hold a space for your spouse to become the best version of himself. And then let go of how quickly it needs to happen. Plan on unseen help doing most of the work on your spouse, as you wait patiently on the Lord. As my friend Cari has to remind me sometimes when I feel compelled to “help” someone change, she’ll say:
“You don’t have to be the Holy Spirit today.”
At the same time, continue to create a vision for the other changes you want to see in your self and your life. The improved environment. The increased ability to give and serve. The more peaceful relationships with your children. Better health. Increased wealth.
Set the vision for your marriage unity and fulfillment first, and then leave that piece to God while you focus on the other areas of your life for which you have more direct control. You can build that business, you can redesign that room, you can plan that vacation, you can create that family joy. If there’s something you’re building a dream for, which requires your spouse to feel a certain way or do a certain thing, stay focused only on seeing the end result and let God figure out how to orchestrate it. He can soften hearts if that’s what is required. He can deliver alternate resources if that’s a more efficient solution in his economy. He can lead your spouse to new friendships or mentors who will make an impact that you were never able to make. You must let go of your attachment to any particular player doing any particular thing. Remain focused on the end result only, and then do the things you are inspired to do to make progress in that direction.
Related: By small and simple means
We are eternal beings, and this life is just a small blip on our journey. If you cannot see yourself being happy with your spouse now, and if you cannot see yourself being happy with him at the end of your mortal days as old people watching the sunset from the porch, can you see yourself getting to the other side, meeting your Maker, with a completely healed and whole companion by your side, looking back on your life’s journey together and feeling amazed and grateful that you endured through the trials as one? Can you see the victory reunion of that day, with your spouse falling to his knees in gratitude and amazement that you stuck with him when things were hard? That your vision helped him heal from life’s wounds? That your unconditional love taught him what unconditional love looks like? When he was at his worst? Can you imagine the Lord expressing his gratitude to you for suffering long, and being kind, doing what he would have done if he were there, instead of you?
It’s a lot to ask or expect any of us to be like Jesus. To forgive the adulterer. To love the betrayer. To wash the feet of the sinner. To weep with those that weep and mourn with those that mourn. To turn the other cheek. To pray for those who persecute. To serve those who spit on you. I’ll bet nobody in your circle has invited you to stay in a bad marriage, because to do so would require that you be like Jesus, and sometimes that feels beyond impossible. But he set the example. And yes, it’s a sufferer’s path. Society protects us from shame if we choose not to endure the living hell that it could be.
But nobody really talks about the growth, achievement, joy, and victory that might be realized if we live as Jesus lived.
History, however, has provided us with a few examples of people who transcended their circumstances despite their suffering. And like Jesus, their names also went down in history for it.
- Victor Frankl described his life in Nazi death camps and shared the transcending lessons he learned. He lived through Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. He said we may not avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose…. By 1997, his book Man’s Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. In 1991 it was listed among the ten most influential books in America. What story could you tell, who might you inspire, what families might be saved for generations to come if you discover how to transcend your present suffering, and write about it? You can ask for help with that. You can seek for that. Seek for ways and reasons to leave, and that’s what you’ll find. Seek for ways to succeed in spite of what is, and that’s what you’ll find instead. Just be conscious about these options.
- Ammon’s people – (circa 90 BC) After his people became Christians and were forgiven for their sins, they made a covenant, “that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood… vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than [break their covenant]… they would give up their own lives… (Alma 24:18) But when their enemies came against them in war and killed over a thousand of them without resistance, and they realized they “would lie down and perish, and [praise] God even in the very act of perishing under the sword, …[the enemies] were stung for the murders which they had committed” and repenting, joined them in the same covenant. In fact, “the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain;” (Alma 24:21-27, Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ). Do you view your covenants with the same dedication and fidelity? What miracles might God perform in the lives of others who see you keep your covenant? Would you rather die than break yours? If not, then at least make that choice consciously, fully understanding your options.
Niether Frankl nor Ammon’s people had only two options. They each found a third: the sufferer’s path. But I need to clarify something:
Option 3 does NOT require suffering.
In fact, to choose option three means suffering ends. Let me explain.
As Haruki Murakami put it, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
In other words, as soon as you choose what IS, the pain may remain, but you begin to transcend it. Choosing the pain that is, gives you an infusion of unearthly strength. It’s turning a corner from being a victim to becoming a master of your circumstance. It’s accessing a higher level of empowerment, growth, soul-expansion, and victory.
You wanted growth and achievement, and didn’t think you could have it with your spouse. But option three gives you access to a higher level of growth and achievement that can be realized in no other way. It’s impossible to access that achievement without your spouse. And the more difficult the spouse, the greater your potential achievement. (Law of Polarity)
Maybe this was the reason for the new and everlasting covenant, because of how it exalts people if they abide in it.
I have a friend who has been in a difficult marriage for about two decades. She is one of the most wise and radiant people I have ever met. She is well experienced in the principles of Rare Faith, and often feels frustrated that her husband does not believe in himself, or in her dreams. He has fallen into a destructive loop of idleness, discouragement, negativity, anger, illness, and depression, which has plagued their family for years. Their relationship is empty. Her children see it and struggle with it, but they also see how she is transcending above it.
Her community sees the dysfunction and wouldn’t blame her for leaving him. In fact, she’s been advised by well meaning friends and leaders to do just that. They think she’s living a doormat’s life. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it’s beyond frustrating. And yes, she carries an unfair proportion of the load both emotionally and financially. But she has chosen to stay, and she is happy.
She said, “People think I’m not happy. People think I’m weak or fearful. But they don’t get it. They don’t understand what the covenant means to me, and what I’ve gained by choosing to stay. I CHOOSE IT, and I don’t suffer.”
Related Podcast: how to “choose” what is and experience the miracle – Principles of Personal Freedom
The relationship with God a person can gain by walking the path Jesus walked is impossible to explain. It can only be experienced. We have not been called to love as Jesus loved only when life is easy, we’ve been called to love as Jesus loved particularly when it is hard.
“For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and blend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: …Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over… For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:32-38).
It has become common in our society for people to think (whether they want to admit it or not) that we should do all of the following, as long as it’s not for a spouse in a bad marriage:
“[W]hosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also [except in a bad marriage]…
“[I]f any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also [except in a bad marriage].
“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain [except in a bad marriage].
“Give to him that asketh thee [except in a bad marriage]…
“[B]less them that curse you [except in a bad marriage],
“[D]o good to them that hate you [except in a bad marriage]…
“[P]ray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you [except in a bad marriage]…” (Matthew 5:39-48)
If you think about it, where better to apply Jesus’ teachings, than in a bad marriage??
The marriage covenant is the promise we make, the glue meant to keep us together, when things get hard, so that we’re in it long enough to really discover what it means to love like Jesus through our own personal olive press.
You wouldn’t need a covenant to keep an easy marriage together (if there is such a thing). No, you need a covenant to keep hard marriages together, else what is a covenant for?
The good news is that Jesus Christ already suffered it all. He overcame the world, and every horrible experience it contains. He descended below ALL things, so that when we faced our own crucible, we could turn to him and let him carry the burden for us. As we discover this miracle, our burdens become light, and our suffering is replaced with awe, gratitude, amazement, and a realization that the difficulty was truly a gift because it taught us transcendence. And after you discover and glean the full benefit from that hidden gift, you’ll look back with gratitude for the time you were privileged to spend in a bad marriage.
Related: Finding Relief From Heavy Burdens
But again, this path, this kind of growth is not something you will ever be forced to pursue, but you are invited to pursue it. Whether you choose it or not, though, at least be conscious that it exists as a third option.
In Option #3, the victory isn’t fixing the problem, the victory is overcoming the suffering we think has to be attached to it.
You want personal growth? You want to feel achievement? You want to have success and happiness? You want joy? Keep your covenant and let God teach you how to have joy in the suffering. You don’t have to stay, but if you do, and if you seek it, you will find the miracle contained in that adversity.
The miracle is that you can be sanctified through the suffering. That you can develop a companionship with God so real and so living that the pain no longer touches you. The miracle is that you can learn how to live in true charity, the Love of God, the greatest of all gifts. The miracle is that you will feel a joy so deep and powerful which can be discovered only through choosing the third option. To lay down your life, your dreams, your desires for another—not permanently—but a willingness to put off your reward until the next life if that’s how long it takes, means the potentiality of more rapid growth, deeper sanctification, and faster progress only offered through the package of pain. I imagine (and have experienced) a God who sees that kind of commitment, that kind of dedication and sacrifice, and is, as a result, compelled in his perfect compassion to pour out an incomprehensible measure of love, mercy, strength, and sometimes (where he sees fit) even rescue. The promise that he will draw near unto us as we draw near unto him is real. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63)
But again, you don’t have to suffer it. Even God understands if you choose not to. He understands your pain and has compassion for you even if you don’t choose it. He wants you to be happy. He will even provide the resources you need to escape the destruction, if leaving is your choice.
But he will also provide the resources you need to experience the miracle, if staying is your choice.
Bottom line: You have a choice, and whatever you seek is what you’ll find.
If you choose to stay and find the miracle, you need to know that miracles come in many shapes and forms. Maybe the miracle will be that he brings you both to the happiness you long for sooner than expected. Maybe the miracle will be that he blesses you with the strength and power to minister to your spouse in spite of the things you’ve suffered, so that you can experience that godly joy and fulfillment you seek. In either case, it’s a BIG WIN!! Nobody loses. Choosing option three means pain, followed by a victory, eventually.
That was the choice that Christ made for you.
The Great Bridegroom suffered it all. He left nothing un-suffered, because of his love for YOU. He endured it all, for you. And what has he asked in return? “That ye love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12) Think about how he loved. One can only truly love like him if they are faced with the suffering he faced, and still love anyway.
You’ve used Rare Faith to get the ideal parking spot. You’ve used it to pay your bills, or decorate your home. But there may be no greater purpose for using Rare Faith than to save a marriage. Go ahead and flex your faith muscles in the little things to gain some experience, but don’t shelf what you know when your marriage is on the line.
- If your spouse isn’t providing, use Rare Faith to meet your needs. See it done, feel the gratitude, and then do the things you’re inspired to do.
- If your spouse is unkind, use Rare Faith to see the relationship healed. See it done, feel the gratitude, and then do the things you’re inspired to do.
- If your spouse is lazy, use Rare Faith to see him alive and inspired. See it done, feel the gratitude, and then do the things you’re inspired to do.
But when using Rare Faith in a marriage, and because another person is a part of your vision, let go of the timing.
You’re just creating the possibility, and holding a space for it. It may not happen in this life, and for your Rare Faith to be effective, you have to be okay with that. And then keep calm, and watch what happens. You may be surprised at how quickly the miracles begin to roll out.
So if you do desperately want your marriage to work, and if you also want to feel the soul expansion and joy that comes from personal growth or fulfilling a mission, imagine the soul expansion, joy, and personal growth that could happen if you make it your mission to save your marriage. With God, nothing is impossible, and with Rare Faith, you now know how to partner with him.
That is all. This is what my post is for—to simply let you know that the third option is legitimate. Nobody seems to be saying so anymore.
The adversary wants you believe that it has to be an either/or. That you have to choose between marriage, OR happiness. Between the relationship, OR progress. But it’s a lie. You will find no greater happiness than to let God show you how to find happiness IN a suffering marriage. Believe it or not, the broken, difficult, frustrating person in front of you is a gift from God. To lose yourself in the service of that person is to discover the greatest secret of all. To experience the greatest potential joy of all. To achieve the greatest accomplishment of all.
Even if mentors or leaders tell you that it’s time to leave, just know that you still have a choice. And in some cases, there is no right or wrong—both are worthy and acceptable, even before God. There will be challenges and blessings hidden behind both doors. Ultimately, it’s between you and God alone, and he knows your heart. Whichever path you walk, if you walk it with the Lord, you can become one with him. Just know that if you put your priority on your marriage covenant, and if you trust that the Lord will make a way for everything else to be realized at the right time, then you will unlock the door to blessings that can only be accessed in this way.
Just remember, if the relationship is struggling, your spouse is suffering. What can you do to alleviate his suffering?
(But what if I’M the one suffering??)
I hear you. So what can you do to alleviate your spouse’s suffering?
(You’re asking me to do something impossible.)
Believe me, I know. I’ve been there. But it’s the third option that the adversary doesn’t want you to know about. And the gift, the reward on the other side of it may be beyond anything else you will ever achieve.
This package of challenges you’ve received is a gift, an opportunity to really learn true charity, the pure love of Christ.
“[C]harity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 45:47)
And because of the Law of Polarity, if you choose this path, you will not be left without a reward of equal or greater value than the difficulty you experienced in choosing it.
“Every adversity has a seed of equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill
In other words, the worse your marriage is, the greater the potential benefit contained in it. You can’t access the best blessing without a passage through the worst adversity.
You can end a suffering marriage, and you may be justified in doing so. But what if you’re missing out on the greatest gift God ever tried to bestow upon you? Please, just don’t end a marriage without knowing that this third path was an option. With God’s help you can create something miraculous out of it, even if it takes the rest of your life before you see its fruit.
Nobody else out there seems to dare to declare such a thing. It’s still true that with God, nothing is impossible. A spouse can change, but we ruin it all by trying to change him or her in our way, and in our timing.
As Bob Proctor says it, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”
Surrender to God’s will and let Him teach you a better way.
There’s a path to achievement, and there’s a path to purification. If you put your walk toward purification first, then you will achieve the greatest achievement of all.
I wrote about my own experience with this here: The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Tried to Write
Finally, a word to those who are already divorced:
If you are already divorced and were never truly conscious of the third option, God will never deny any particular blessing to the person who genuinely and humbly desires and seeks it. Turn your heart to him and let him show you how to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Like I said, life is an eternal journey and today is just a blip. No matter where you are today, God is there to walk the rest of the path with you, and to show you how to inherit his greatest rewards.
Related: My Talk on Eternal Marriage
A hope in Jesus Christ can be obtained by reading the Bible (particularly the New Testament) and the Book of Mormon (another Testament of Christ, which documented his visit and ministry to the American Continent after his resurrection).
UPDATE: Wow! Thank you for all of your comments. I encourage everyone to read the additional input below – some important points have been made about boundaries, and what this looks like carried out, submitted by people who have experienced the third option first-hand.
To learn more about how to make forward progress despite relationship problems, click here to read Portal to Genius FREE. (It’s the sequel to The Jackrabbit Factor – which I recommend you start with if you haven’t read it already.)