I can be pretty stubborn. I always have been. My mom said I've always been her most difficult child. Once I'm on a path I want to take, it can be hard to get me off it. This hard-headedness can sometimes be to my detriment, but I've found that it can also be an asset.
When I got married, I knew it was forever. I promised we'd make it work and that divorce was not an option. People told me marriage was hard, but I thought they were just doing it wrong.
I haven't been married that long (just three years), but wow. They were right. Though it's wonderful and I wouldn't trade it for anything, marriage is difficult. Between financial difficulties, chronic pain and a job in law enforcement, our marriage has a lot going against it. Our combined chances of divorce are somewhere around 90 percent. Yikes.
How about you? Is your marriage considered high-risk?
High-risk marriages include (but are certainly not limited to) the following:
Those in which one spouse (or both) works as a firefighter, police officer or paramedic.
Military marriages (which are 250 times more likely than civilian marriages to end in divorce).
Marriages where one spouse is dealing with chronic pain or serious sickness, like cancer.
Couples with an annual income under $50,000 per year.
Couples who have recently lost a child.
Couples dealing with the aftermath of infidelity.
You might recognize a few of those risk factors in your own marriage. But don't let this stress you out! Don't lose hope. You just need to recognize the reality of your situation and adapt accordingly.
How can you protect your marriage when it's considered high-risk?
This is the number one thing I depend on. When you're at odds with your spouse, when you're feeling unappreciated, and your patience has all but run out, there's one person to turn to who will always have your back. That person also happens to have a vested interest in your marriage working out.
What should you pray for?
Pray for the guidance to know how you're falling short as a spouse and how you can improve.
Pray for opportunities to serve your spouse in the way he wants to be served.
Pray that you and your spouse will be able to communicate effectively and understand one another.
When your husband has wronged you, pray for him to improve as a spouse.
Pray to forgive your husband when he's wronged you.
Pray to have a deeper understanding of your husband.
In addition to praying for these things alone, pray as a couple. Let him hear you pray for him and for your relationship, and listen as he does as well. It will strengthen your marriage more quickly than any other change you can make.
Have a support system outside of your spouse
One issue that affects marriages, particularly first responder marriages, is loneliness. It can be hard when your spouse is gone so much and so unexpectedly. It's hard when you can't plan events far in advance like your friends whose husbands have jobs with more regular hours.
Because of this, it's even more important to have a support system, whether that means family, friends, your church community or your neighbors. It's also great to get to know other wives from the department because you'll have a deeper understanding of what the other is going through.
If you're currently living far away from family or friends, that can be an added stress. It's something we're currently dealing with, and it's tough. Especially as a stay-at-home mom, it can be tough to find opportunities to meet new friends. I've said many times that it feels like dating all over again.
What are some ways to meet new people to make up your support group?
Find a local playdate group.
Visit a local library for story hour.
Go to the park.
Be active in a local church.
Take a class at a community center.
I'm even a participant in an online mom group for women whose due date was the same month as my son. Some of us are stay-at-home moms, some of us are working moms, some live in the United States, some don't. It's just a fun group and something I highly recommend if you're struggling to build a support system.
The point is, it doesn't matter what your support system looks like, it just matters that you have one.
If you don't currently have a support system, what are some steps you can take to build one?
Discuss expectations about money
Disagreements about money are the number one cause of divorce. The health of a high-risk marriage is going to depend most heavily on how dedicated you are to discussing money, preferably before it becomes a problem.
The first step to doing this is making a budget together. List all your monthly expenses, figure out what you have to spend, and if cuts need to be made, make a plan to do so.
Make sure you include in your budget a way to save money in an emergency fund. A fund of at least $1,000 is ideal, but do what you can. Any money you have saved will help when unexpected expenses come up. If you can save more than $1,000, then by all means, go for it!
It's also important that you don't go into debt. I know it's sometimes easier said than done, but don't spend money you don't have. If you can use a credit card responsibly, that's great! If you can't, don't. Use cash or a debit card instead.
This is another reason your emergency fund is so important: if a big expense comes up, you won't have to take out a loan or put it on credit. That means you're avoiding unnecessary debt and potential arguments in the future.
Again, this is skimming over the surface of how to be financially healthy. It's enough for several posts (or even a whole blog), but the point is, being smart with your money is one important way to protect your high-risk marriage.
Be loyal to your spouse
Obviously, if you want to divorce-proof your marriage, you want to have complete sexual fidelity to your spouse. But that's not the kind of loyalty I'm (specifically) talking about here.
Are you being loyal to your spouse in word and deed, too? Be careful what you're saying about your spouse behind their back.
Instead of complaining about them to your friends, build them up in public. What you say about them will eventually make its way back. Do you want them to hear that you've been talking them up, or that you've been saying nasty things about them?
Here are things you should be saying behind your husband's back:
He works so hard for our family.
He's such a good father.
He treats me with respect.
He always helps out when I ask him to.
He really cares about making a difference in the world.
He's my hero.
Of course, this is also a good list of things to tell your husband to his face.
Additionally, cheating isn't always physical. If you're focusing flirty/romantic energy in a direction other than your spouse, you're doing something wrong. If you feel the need to be secretive about who you're texting, what you're saying to them, or when, stop and think about the potential ramifications and change what you're doing now.
Serve your spouse
This can sound like the last thing you want to do when you're feeling unappreciated and resentful. You might think, why should I give more when I'm already not getting enough back? How does that make sense?
It's because marriage isn't about you (and neither is life, really).
You're both in this together. You both have to make sacrifices to make it work, and there will be times that your sacrifice seems greater than your spouse's, but this goes both ways.
You'll get what you give to your marriage.
What are some ways you can serve your spouse today?
Make his favorite meal or dessert.
Plan a date.
When he's working an odd shift, make the effort to stay up late with him once in a while, even when you have to be up early.
Leave a note in his lunch or under his pillow.
Wash his car.
What you choose will depend on his love language. You want to choose an act of service that communicates love to him in the way he wants to be loved.
Marriage can be tough sometimes, but I think you'll agree: being happily married is worth the investment.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Leah Elwood's website. It has been modified and published here with permission.