Nobody said marriage would be easy, but one might think that it would naturally get easier over time. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. I currently have two friends who are experiencing a marital breakdown after their children are now grown and independent. After around 30 years of marriage, a relationship should be strong, but it is not unusual that people find themselves re-evaluating their lives at this point, and deciding it is not what they want. Both of my friends are facing different struggles, but I can see that there is one common denominator for their situations. In both marriages, the couples have been enduring an unsatisfying relationship for many years in the belief that there is nothing they can do to change the situation, but they felt committed to their vows. Often the problems seemed to be more one-sided, in that one spouse is more responsible for the issues in the marriage. However, each spouse has a part to play in the relationship breakdown. At the first sign of a problem, the best thing to do would be to openly address the issue. Unfortunately, this is not easy for some people. For those who fear conflict, perhaps for reasons stemming from their childhood, it is easier to try to tolerate a difficult or unhealthy situation than to confront it. In doing this, the bad behaviour in the offending spouse is never fully addressed, and in trying to keep the peace, the tolerant spouse enables the bad behaviour to continue. The result is that the intimacy and closeness between the couple is damaged. Eventually, the damage can seem irreparable, and the marriage is lost. It is not impossible for these relationships to be restored, but it requires an incredible amount of hard work and outside help to guide the couple on their healing journey. The lesson in all of this is that confronting issues as soon as they arise is a necessary and healthy part of a growing marriage. Attending marriage enrichment programs such as a Marriage Encounter weekend, or enlisting the help of a recommended marriage counselor if the issues are too complex, is an important part of keeping marriage permanent and growing. It was not God’s plan for lifelong marriages to be endured, but rather, to be enjoyed to the fullest!