How is your marriage going so far this year? Thank God the year’s not far along you say? So many couples in 2016 I’ve talked to, including myself sometimes, comparing …… “How come they….? But I….? And yet they’re living their Happily Ever After?!?!!”
I don’t know… Are they though?
The “perfect couples” you discuss are some of the same couples I’ve met on the phone, or over a cup of coffee or wine trying to sort out the same issues as you. Same problems, different people. Or same people, different set of problems, take your pick. Truth is there is rarely a happy EVER after. There are times of happiness, speckled or splotched about between times of trial and error. Welcome to the nitty gritty truth about marriage.
We grow up watching Hallmark style love stories and Disney fairy tales, then picture love and marriage to be a perfect union, where everything goes great from the moment you say “I Do” and everyone is all smiles. Birds are chirping and horse-drawn carriages are carting people around all day-minus the smell of manure. Then we get married. The bills come, the spouse’s previous debt rolls onto both of you, the kids come, the problems come, the disagreements come, the fairy tale bubble POPS and spouses are left with reality, feeling like they must’ve missed their one true love and chosen their spouse in error.
Then they think, “Surely God wants me to be happy, I should leave this situation and find a new one.” Really though, does He? Is everyone you know always “happy”? Since over 60% of marriages end in divorce…obviously God’s criteria for marriage does not begin and end with happiness. Every marriage is different, I don’t know each of your situations, but I know mine and it’s not a fairy tale-it’s turning into one helluva story nonetheless though! I’ve learned over these short years, the grass isn’t really greener on the other side…the grass is greener where you consistently tend it, and even that grass WILL face drought and brown from time to time. There are seasons to everything. Doesn’t mean it’s time to sell the house or replace the sod, it just means it’s time to spend some time sowing in your garden again.
At the risk of pissing some people off, I’m going to be real with you, because marriage is tough. Society’s expectations make it tougher, and you deserve to know the truth of what 80+ percent of married couples have already realized. Don’t throw in the towel because you think you’ve missed the mark of marital bliss. Even the Bible, whose Author IS Love, doesn’t show any perfect happily ever after marriages. Let’s go over some of the classics…
Adam and Eve. Had to be perfect for each other, right? Yeah…yet Eve was still tempted enough and Adam still weak enough to RUIN it for all of the rest of us. Out of the easy-peasy nude garden they went, into the land of struggle and we all went with them. Thanks guys.
Abraham and Sarah? She wanted to become a mother so much. No surrogates to be artificially inseminated back then, so she allowed her husband to physically make love to her maid. Yeah! Great idea…we STILL have a 6,000 year-old war going on between descendants of these half-brothers because of a choice made out of desperation in this marriage. Powerful couple, but obviously they too had their moments.
Lot? That one’s wife probably couldn’t bear a future with him, she turned around to look back at her past life and became a pillar of salt!
Samson…. I believe he knew Delilah was setting him up, but to please her he still gave away the secret to his strength. He paid for his lust dearly…
Jacob, Leah & Rachel? THAT was an odd love triangle. Two sisters whose father made a deal with a man to marry off the youngest daughter, then tricked him into marrying the oldest daughter first. She wore a veil through the ceremony and it was dark at night, but in the morning?!??!?!?
AwwwKKKKKwaaRDDD…. Angry he rightly was, so the father also gave him the youngest daughter as well to marry. One man, married to two blood sisters, who competed for his love and amount of provided heirs their whole marriage. Even allowing the maid to get in on the action to provide heirs. Crazy times.
Ruth & Boaz…you’re right, that was a pretty good match…two words for you: Second marriage. Her first husband died at war, she’d become a widow very young. I’m sure she mourned that loss. Then Boaz saw her. Kudos Ruth, you’d already been through enough.
Solomon and the Shulamite bride?! The one everyone quotes from Song of Solomon’s: “A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, That lies all night between my breasts.” Or the Proverbs 5 quote, “May her breasts satisfy you always…” Yeah, the Shulamite’s breasts AND the breasts of his other 699 wives and 300 concubines! Fight with the Shulamite? No problem. “Bring in concubine number 253.” I wonder if he had them tagged or barcoded! Shulamite wanted him romantically an extra night? Too bad sweetheart ‘get out of the line!’ as the late John Pinette would say.
King David…always my personal favorite, I always pictured him a ruddy heartthrob ranch-hand-meets-warrior type with dark hair and sexy eyes. Great guy David…but how many wives did he have? He had a heart for God and a heart for women too. He was married to: Michal, Abigail, Ahinoam, Haggith, Abital, Maachah,and Eglah (who came up with some of these names?). Anyways, he had eight wives. Then he saw a beautiful woman bathing (BATHsheba-coincidence? Non lo so.) naked on a rooftop and had to have her too. Never mind it was his friend Uriah’s wife. He sent the faithful soldier to battle, called his wife Bathsheba to the palace while Uriah was gone and bada-bing-bada-boom! She wound up prego. When David couldn’t cover up his transgression, he ordered Uriah to the front-line of the battle to be killed, and took his wife for himself. Talk about an ideal start to a relationship. Sexy, powerful man, but no one is perfect.
Hosea? Hosea was commanded by God to marry a whore. Still think God designed marriage for your unwavering “happiness” ? To teach a lesson to the people, a type and shadow of what they had done to God. She cheated on him, she got herself indentured to someone else and he had to buy her back AGAIN. Still think the purpose of marriage is happiness and romance? Well it wasn’t for Hosea…
Mary and Joseph? YOU KNOW they had some heavy stuff to overcome! “Hey Joseph by the way I’m pregnant by God.” Betcha his first thought as a young man was “Oh great, how am I ever going to compare to GOD?!”
Jesus Christ the man/the Word made flesh, he was single throughout this life…not because that made Him more holy, but because His purpose and call was to come and take all of us as His bride. He gave His life for us-we were His bride, Christ Jesus (the Annointed one, became one flesh with US-God only sees the SON when He looks at you because Christ is your head of household). God enjoys relating with His Son and therefore relating with you. God’s POV on marriage was and still remains “It is not good for man to be alone.” Marriage enables you to develop the hidden parts of your character that you wouldn’t ever have noticed had you remained single.
If your friends are constantly encouraging you to throw in the towel or hit the club and cheat, you my friend, are confiding in the wrong people. It may be what a part of you wants to hear, but a good friend is there to pick you up and remind you of what you NEED to hear when the chips are down all around. Society has set people up for failure and disappointment in marriage, Hollywood, Bollywood, Romance novels have put the in-love feeling/infatuation (which neuroscience suggests lasts on average 12-18 months) high up on a wobbly pedestal. The higher the pedestal, the farther and more heart-wrenching the fall. It can be built back up on a more solid foundation, but often only after it’s already chipped away at or entirely obliterated and hopelessness and desperation has set in for the disillusioned couple.
Marriage really wasn’t meant to be a fairy tale of ease.
That was the sound of the fairy tale bubble society has blown you bursting with a pin of truth. It’s ok. You can still read the love books and watch the Hallmark movies, but it’s not always real. The real stuff is what you’re going through. Love is a verb-an action word. It takes daily choices and actions to show it. If the verb stops moving and stagnates, so does the love. It is the same with children.
I love my children with all my heart, but there are times when they exert their independence (rudely) and we disagree on who is going to do what and where. Therefore, there are moments I don’t feel I LIKE them, even though I love them. If parents can at times have these feelings for their children, why would you expect to not have them towards your spouse? Your spouse didn’t come from your body, like your kid did. Yet you two are one flesh now…flesh is selfish and stubborn. Staying united is a challenge you take on when you say I do, and although at times it may feel like it kills you to do so, that’s the point, it’s killing your individual flesh and shaping your character to come together as one.
Everyone’s love story starts differently, grows differently, and ends differently. No two stories are exactly alike, each one faces different challenges. Marriage was really meant for seasons of highs and lows, growth, closing down, opening up, and further discovering every bit of WHO You Are; and what you were created to do throughout life’s journey. Together you can make a stronger impact. The bigger your impact will be, the tougher the trials you might face. No successful marriage ever became a success without going through some of these scenarios:
Wishing their spouse was really this or that persons spouse
Wanting to ring thy spouses neck
Eye Rolling, EPIC Eye rolling
Having to compromise
Humiliations, public or private
Welcome to normal. (The only thing not normal is straight abuse. If you’re facing that-get help and get out.) If anyone tells you otherwise or appears otherwise on facebook…rest assured friends, they either have already gone through and overcome it, or have been married under five years. Or maybe, since the experts say it it’s true: they’re “projecting” the image they WANT to have, not the whole truth. You’re seeing the happy moments on social media. No one is posting the videos of the fights or arguments-because that’s not your business.
Don’t inspect the best foot forward of others and assume you’re in shittier shoes. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Love’s tough! Marriage at times is bliss.
But, let’s be honest. Sometimes it feels like hell.
At times it’s a gift, at times it’s a gift you’d like to exchange for a different model. Sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it feels like a ball and chain. As iron sharpens iron, if you let it…marriage can sharpen you as it was meant to. It can make you grow into a more powerful version of yourself as you learn to apply love by choice. Love is messy, it’s ever changing and ever challenging, but it’ll shape you and your spouse, hopefully for the better as you go along. No condemnation towards those who’ve tried, failed and have started trying again with someone new, if we’re honest, we all understand. It’s not easy, maybe the people, viewpoints, maturity level just weren’t there that time around…it is my great hope that this time around you will have a better support system, realer viewpoint, and things will work out better for you both.
“I think most of us who have been married for any substantial length of time realize that the romantic roller coaster of courtship eventually evens out to the terrain of a Midwest interstate—long, flat stretches with an occasional overpass. When this happens, couples respond in different ways. Many will end their relationship and try to re-create the passionate romance with someone else. Other couples will descend into a sort of marital guerilla warfare as each partner blames the other for personal dissatisfaction or lack of excitement. Some couples decide to simply “get along.” Still others may opt to pursue a deeper meaning, a spiritual truth hidden in the enforced intimacy of the marital situation.” -Gary Thomas, excerpt from Sacred Marriage.
Kudos to giving it your all, with whomever you’re married to currently. You committed to building a life with that person, take baby steps to build the life you want. Don’t try to leap if you’ve currently got a relationship-broke- leg. Heal first. Don’t feel you must compete and compare yours to someone else’s relationship-that story is not your story. You don’t really know where they are at, nor do you really know what they’ve already gone through. Take the size steps you can, even if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes the best step forward is a drunken-sailor baby step.
A step like putting the plate down when you want to throw it frisby style at your beloveds’ head. Or NOT adding a laxative to their drink when you know their last excuse was full of crap!
Preparing a meal they like instead of the one they hate or doing an extra chore around the house they don’t like to do for them. It’s choosing to rise-up and take the high road until they (or just your own mindset) eventually joins you there. It’s speaking positive about the future until you really do expect it to happen, even if it takes time (remember your vows; you have “forrrrr the resssst of youuurrr liiiiiife” to get it all worked out *wink wink*).
It’s learning what you can do to rebuild stronger and better. Sometimes a small change in circumstance can result in a big change in attitude. You’d be surprised how you can feel from minute to minute sometimes things can change when you least expect them to. Your spouse was not made to be your source for all things, nor you to be theirs.
Wiser couples who made it to 25, 50, or 75 years of marriage (which is rare in this day) will attest…there were times they wanted to walk away. It’s not abnormal to feel that way, don’t feel guilty if you do. God designed marriage for two people to develop each other. Marriage is like film…some of the most beautiful photos are developed over time, through a process, in a dark room. Don’t lose heart, if it’s not perfected, or even bearable yet, it’s ok, you’re still in developing, and we all always will be. Hopefully we can lift each other up along the way and share some tips and more honest expectations of how to do so with the generations to come.