Marriage. I don’t write about it all that much.
Last summer I had the privilege of attending a conference where I heard a very talented speaker names Whitney Capps speak. She made the comment that if you want someone to talk about marriage, she isn’t your girl. In fact she went on to say something along the lines of, “I love my husband and I mean I think we’ll make it, but that’s about all I got.” Of course the audience roared with laughter, but as I giggled along I thought- YES.
You see I have sat in church offices doing marriage counseling with couples. I have listened to all of their marital problems, and in many cases I’ve thought, “HELLO, us too.”
And, I’ve reached out to other couples. The ones who appear to love each other so well. The ones who seem to really have strong relationships. And, you know what they have said? “HELLO, us too.”
Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is NOTHING new under the sun.
The reality is this, my marriage is not perfect. BUT also, no marriage is perfect! None of us have this thing figured out, and so I write from a place of encouraging you to continue making right choices to love your spouse well, and from a place of wanting you to know that there isn’t something exceptionally wrong with you, or your spouse, or your marriage.
Basically, We ALL got problems!
Relationships in general are hard. Marriage is hard.
Marriage is the taking of two individual people with different backgrounds, different experiences, different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, different preferences… and then uniting them together as ONE through the bond of marriage. If that’s not a little bit painful, I don’t think we are doing it right!
Because in the becoming of one, each individual will have to give up some of their old self and grasp on to some of the self that is their spouse. If done right with both husband and wife letting go and reaching out this uniting leaves the best of both individual intact to make one strong unit, but that doesn’t negate the reality that it requires a lot of hard, selfless choices along the way.
With all that being said, as the non-expert on all things marriage, let me share a few tips I have learned in order to help with this uniting process in the last 10 years of this marriage journey:
1. You don’t have to be right, even if you’re really right.
I know. It makes absolutely no sense to the human brain. But, just because you know you’re right on a certain matter or decisions doesn’t mean you have to be right. It’s hard to allow someone else to feel right when in the back of your mind all you want to do is scream, “I’m right and you’re wrong!!!” Trust me. I’ve tried that method. It doesn’t seem to evoke much unity.
Society will tell you the absolute opposite of this.
But, sometimes, especially in trivial things, it’s ok to take on the perspective and mindset of your spouse, EVEN IF that’s not how you would have typically thought on your own.
AND sometimes, when you just KNOW you’re right, it’s ok to just let it play out and see what happens rather than insisting on being the right person at the onset of a situation.
2. Be willing to break the ugly cycle.
As newly weds, my husband and I read a portion of the book Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich. To be honest I’m not sure that I remember much about what this book had to say, but there is one particular portion of the book that has always stayed with me throughout these years of marriage.
In one chapter the author writes about what he refers to as “the ugly cycle”.
This is the cycle that we often get stuck on in our relationships, specifically our marriages.
Think about it like this: I take something my husband said out of context and make it personal (which I often do), and so I respond in a hateful tone, in response to my hateful tone my husband responds with a nasty comment, and so I poke back with a unkind remark about him, that unkind remark leads to a full fledged yelling match, back and forth bickering, as a result I am now ignoring him completely, so he continues to give me the silent treatment, I go out of my way to make sure he knows I do not care for him right now….. And round and round we go.
This cycle could go on and on and on. Back and forth. Back and forth. One unkindness being repaid with another unkindness until that’s all the relationship becomes. One hurt person hurting another person over and over and over again.
BUT see, at any time, either party has the power to break this cycle.
Be willing to be the one to break the ugly cycle. Be willing to be the one to repay unkindness with love. Be willing to be the one who might be hurt, but chooses not to hurt another.
This makes all the difference in the world. Again, it’s painful. It goes against the grain of everything we’ve been taught in a society of “looking out for #1”, but it’s right.
3. Lean into one another.
Some of the hardest scenarios in our marriage have been those which affected us both, for example, dealing with the severe medical issues of our daughter.
When things get bad, or decisions get hard, or life gets really heavy, we have the tendency to go against each other. We have the tendency to fight. We have the tendency to need to take it out somewhere and if we are not intentional we end up taking it out on each other!
We are learning to lean into each other instead of pinning each other in our individual corners at odds with the other person.
I’m learning that if my heart is struggling and I’m feeling like I need some extra love and grace, he is probably feeling the same way.
Sometimes it’s as simple as a discussion hashing out “Hey, this is how I’m feeling- how are you feeling?”
Sometimes it means finding a way to just be together without the noise of the world.
Sometimes it requires re-focusing the relationship on God and His will.
But, leaning into each other in difficult times is ALWAYS better than being at odds, even in situations where both individuals are still not in full agreement.
4. Choose to release expectations.
I was recently speaking to a wise friend of mine who shared that in their pre-marital counseling she
remembered discussing the pattern of marriage. The first couple years are often still “honeymoon” phase years. They are new and exciting often filled with first vacations together, first homes together, planning for kids together, etc.
And then comes the “Valley of unmet expectations” (Haha)… in other words, the weight of real life kicks in. She shared remembering that this specific section of marriage was said to last something like 10-17 years. 17 YEARS?!?! Like YEARS….
I laughed and cried because that means we still have several to go.
BUT, this made me really stop and think about the power of expectations, or more likely unmet expectations. In our human stubbornness, we often feel that if we let go of our expectations we allow the other person to win--- to get away with it. BUT, often times this is what leaves us in misery.
I am learning more often than not to simply release any expectations that I have. And I’m also recognizing that many of my expectations were likely unrealistic to begin with. We live in a world where we see the highlight reel of other’s lives. We watch way too many romance movies where the prince charming does it all. And we set our expectations in line with that. BUT, if you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s not life.
Be willing to release your expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised!
5. Love them anyways.
Honestly, my husband is not everything I thought he would be. He doesn’t always meet my needs. Sometimes he makes choices that I don’t like. Sometimes He’s a big meany face. Sometimes he’s selfish, and sloppy, and absolutely maddening. And, he’s not the deep feeling, romantic, sweep you off your feet kinda prince that I expected…
But, I love him anyways.
(FYI I’m sure he could also offer a long list about me... The point is not of my husbands failings, but that we are all failing.)
I was discussing marriage with another friend of mine who is in the same phase of life as me, and full disclosure, we were initially discussing all the ways in which are husbands were driving us bonkers, but then she said this, “BUT I’m not going to divorce him, I’m staying married so there is no point in me constantly dwelling on the ways in which he isn’t meeting my expectations, I’m just going to love him anyways.”
WISE, wise words friends.
If your spouse is letting you down. If they aren’t living up to what you thought this marriage gig would be like. If they work too much or not enough. If they want sex too often or never. If they NEVER pick up their dirty socks or they expect you to keep the house squeaky clean. If they don’t parent quite up to your standard. If they are annoying, or selfish, or careless, or lazy….
Love them anyways.
There are only a couple of situations where I would really ever justify divorce. That is my Biblical worldview.
Aside from that- Are you going to get a divorce?
If not, Why are you continuing to dwell on how horrible your spouse is?
Is it benefiting anyone? NO.
Is it helping your relationship? NO.
Is it making you better? NO.
Is it making your spouse better? NO.
So, why continue to allow the negative to take away from any positive?
You never know, sometimes someone just needs to see that they are loved in spite of themselves.
SO, do it. Just love them anyways.
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8
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