I posted a beautiful little expose on marriage the other day and it was well received. It was sort of the ‘real deal’ if you know what I mean. But, despite all the kind words towards me, it was written by someone else! So, ready or not, here’s my version.
Having been married now for over 35 years, I can let you in on a few dirty secrets. Marriage isn’t about feeling happy all the time with your spouse. It’s about figuring out when it’s your turn to add the happiness back in. You can’t always control where your partner is in their mind, but you can sure control where your mind goes. What you want so desperately, you have to give. You can spend a whole lifetime mired in that mud. You wait and wait and wait to receive the kindness, yet refuse to share any of yours first! Marriage is a reciprocal deal, but you always have to go first. How you feel about your spouse is a decision you make and make and make. Choosing not to love someone anymore is also a decision. You don’t feel the love because you aren’t thinking any love. Rehearsing everything you don’t like about someone is a fool’s game. The trick isn’t to struggle to find something good. The trick is to stop thinking evil!
If you’ve been married any significant amount of years you can fall into the “cycle.” The cycle is a perpetual, spinning narrative where no matter what you say or what you do, ties back into some former thing you said and some former thing you did. When couples get to this place, and it doesn’t take long, their communication virtually ends. Instead of listening to each other anymore, the communication quickly dives into the rabbit hole of “I already know where this ends.” In this disastrous scenario, neither party has any opportunity to be anything else. No-one can change. No-one can modify their behavior because you “always” do this and “always” say that, thus I already know where you’re going and am not listening anymore. God I hate that! Each day is a new day! Every moment is new in time. The stupid stuff you did three years ago no longer applies unless you’ve been in a coma for three years! Stop and truly listen to what your spouse is telling you. You don’t have to like it or agree with it, but you do need to hear it. The great marriage killer is the silence that follows a resignation from speaking up!
Speaking of speaking up, if there is one thing I can tell you that almost stands above everything else, it is to keep speaking up. Keep communicating what is bothering you. You serve no-one by keeping silence for your marriage’s sake! Keeping silent runs at cross purposes with your marriage, or at best, delays the inevitable. In marriage, as in life, you have got to be honest with yourself. I don’t mean negative and miserable. I mean honest. You have got to be able to have honest conversations with your spouse. In some areas, you will be tempted to quit speaking up as you perceive nothing is changing, but speak up anyway. Any anger you feel towards your spouse is a sure-fire sign there is something that needs to be resolved. So hey, have the damn fight! Do some yelling, add a little screaming and get it straight once and for all. Simmering within yourself or rehearsing every past injustice is emotional cancer and it is going to kill you! But one caveat, you have to fight fair. Your emotions can help you, but not when they resort to attack mode. The stuff you say in attack mode lasts long after the fight is over. Fight fair…
A common mistake in marriage involves compatibility. People think that in order for the marriage to work well, there must be many common interests. The only required common interest is the other person. Marriage isn’t two people turning into one person (usually the more dominant one). Marriage is two, separate, distinct people figuring out how to head in one direction (while remaining distinct). The more difference between you the better, as long as you come together on the important stuff. (This is why married couples need two TV’s – smile) You also have the joy of figuring out your own arrangement. Don’t copy Mom and Dad because you aren’t married to either one of them. Do individually what you’re good at individually. You already know and you may as well make it work for you!
If I could diagnose one shortfall where people go south today concerning marriage, it would encompass one word – commitment! You have to decide first to remain married, then work out how to make it all work. You don’t remain married because everything feels good, the sex is fantastic and your spouse maintains their ideal weight. You don’t stay married as long as there are no fights, no difficult circumstances or no challenges. (Two people can kick much more ass in a challenge than one can) You don’t remain married with an expectation that your spouse won’t change or grow or evolve. What turned you on at 25 is going to feel ridiculous at 50. Side note – no-one really gives you any insight into the weird stuff that happens as you age, you just sort of have to arrive there together. Okay back to the point! You stay married because, by God, that is the decision you made! You may want a divorce today, but as long as your spouse doesn’t want one on the same day, you will be okay!
In the final analysis, the reason my wife and I have remained married so long is because we both love God and rely on Him to help us get our stuff together when it has fallen apart. We need Him to heal our hearts and make them tender wherever they got hard! We need someone bigger than ourselves to lead the way. Marriage was designed by God for His people. That’s a union you cannot easily dissolve. That is a real marriage…
Just some good thoughts..