My sweet niece will be getting married this summer.This is a big change for our family as she is the first grandchild to get married. Now I guess I really have to admit that I’m a grown up!
I love this girl. I am happy for her and want nothing but the best for her. She has a special place in my heart and I want so much for her to experience a great marriage. But I realize I can’t give this to her. My protective side wants to shield her from any maladies that will come her way. But I know I can’t do this either. Her life is hers to live. Her mistakes and victories are hers to make.
This coming change for our family has caused me to reflect quite a lot on marriage. Two independent people becoming interdependent and merging into one shared life is no small feat. I’ve been married for a while now and this is something I wrestle with regularly. Being married can be such a great source of contentment and joy and it can also be deeply distressing and frustrating. I don’t sugar coat things.
I want to share some things that have helped me be better at marriage as the pages of my life turn.
These are in no particular order.
- Marriage is a team of 3. Me, my spouse and my marriage. It took me a while to realize that our uniquenesses had to be honored and developed and so did our marriage. The relationship needs intentional investment. Two people sharing one life, not two people sharing one roof.
- Watch out for ghosts. Well technically not real ghosts but reflections of mom and dad walk around the halls of your home. My family of origin plays a HUGE role in how I relate to my husband. What was learned from our parents about the roles of husband and wife show up. (Sometimes at the worst possible moments.) Some of what I took from good old mom and dad are great! Some things are not. I discovered that at times I was expecting my husband to be like what I observed in my dad. I’m sure at times my husband assumed I would approach certain aspects of life just like his mom. There have been many, many heart to hearts about this as we found ourselves at relational crossroads. I had to learn it was ok to be different than mom and dad and that honoring my husband and God were the most important. (This one is going to take your whole marriage to unearth.)
- Use all the colors in the crayon box. I am not one color. I need to continue to pursue my calling and dreams. Not in a self-centered or selfish way but in a God honoring, marriage flourishing way. There are different seasons that allow different opportunities. It took me a long time to realize that I can’t really have it all or do it all now. There have been times I have had to say “no for now.” But marriage isn’t a get- out- of- living-free card. A well inspired, educated, interested, passionate spouse makes for a good friend and partner. I can always keep learning.
- Contrary to what he thinks my husband is not a god. No human can meet all of the needs I hunger for. This lesson has taken me a long long time to learn. Only God can meet those needs. Too many disappointments in my marriage lead me to lean into the whisper of God. My husband was never designed to be my god. He was designed to be my husband, my partner, my support. His job is to lead me to God and all that God wants me to be, he can’t save me from myself, and visa versa. (This is another life long journey. If you have a married friend who doesn’t think they have a problem with this, they are lying to you.We all get our priorities messed up.)
- Like treasure hunting. I have learned the value of wearing new lenses when looking at my husband. I have found that looking for new things about him to celebrate and enjoy make me appreciate him. My interest in him grows. This is a good thing.
- Shhhhh. So many of my struggles in my marriage have been rooted in misguided communication. Wow! I have had to learn to understand my husband and how he processes life and how he best feels loved and respected. (And he has worked hard at understanding and communicating with me.) We both have made a commitment to “commit to learning” each others complexities when it comes to relating. EVERYTHING HANGS ON THIS! Huge issue…HUGE.
- Your marriage license doesn’t come with pixie dust. I had unfair expectations on my husband and he on me. For us we had to admit how awkward it was talking about EVERYTHING. And I do mean everything! The magical feelings of love and attraction don’t come with instructions on how to take care cars, preparing spaghetti, cleaning the toilets or managing money….kids…everything. There is no life supply of pixie dust that when you sprinkle it on your spouse suddenly things are clear and wonderful. I thought that just because I had the same last name as John that we would instantly understand and know each others ideas, expectations and needs. Time, illness, job losses, moves, children, the stresses of life can change a person over time. I am different now than I was on my wedding day. A marriage is so much more than a feeling of love, it’s a commitment to stay committed to love.
- Give out free hugs. I need to literally touch base everyday. I need hugs and affection…we need hugs and affection. I don’t do well when we deny one another the comfort of embrace…even with bad breath.
- Get good boxing gloves! I grew up in a home where conflict didn’t exist. John lived with constant conflict. You can guess how well this doesn’t work for us! Studying the Bible, especially the rules for love in I Corinthians 13:4-13, has helped me learn the value of fighting well. To act in love when in conflict. Differences are inevitable. I had to stop being afraid of them and learn to allow good to come from them We are actually closer because of what we’ve worked through. Fighting fair has been important for us. Keeping harsh regret-filled words, actions or body language out of things has made a big difference. Being a fair competitor has not come easily but I want to a good partner, even in the boxing ring.
- It’s not about ME. Marriage is a process of becoming. It isn’t about me or my husband, it’s about what the two of us are together. It is the stripping of “self” and selfishness has been tough for me but crucial in order to discover the power and beauty of God ordained unity. Me getting what I want out of my spouse isn’t marriage…it’s an arrangement.One of the most powerful experiences I have had in marriage is being loved when I am unlovely. Yes, I also have had to choose to love when I really wanted to wring my husband’s neck! Jesus shows me that each person is deserving of unconditional love, marriage is the best and most difficult place to live it out!
You both have a story to tell in life, one that God desires share with the world.
Your story flourishes because of the journey of marriage.