If I could give advice to an engaged or newlywed couple right now, I would say:
“God didn’t create marriage to make you happy. He created it to make you holy. God chooses marriage in the bible to show the relationship between Jesus and the Church. The bride represents the church, and the groom represents Jesus. The relationship between the two is meant to grow, stretch, develop, and strengthen one another to be more and more like Christ…to be HOLY.”
I would also tell them:
“Don’t expect anything out of each other beyond the requirements to love each other unconditionally and seek ways to build up one another. Focus on your walk with God and ask him to show you how to love your spouse better. Don’t put your focus on what the other person can do for you.”
You see, Michael and I got married straight out of college. We knew it all. Really…WE KNEW EVERYTHING. We were Christians, about to receive a college degree, and had jobs and a house already lined up. All we needed was pre-marital counseling…because that’s what Christians do…duh! 😉 We were ready to be ADULTS! (can you sense the sarcasm?)
The biggest impression that pre-marital counseling left on me was the quiz on what “chores” we each thought the wife and husband should do in the home. Mowing the lawn. Washing the dishes. Cooking dinner. Paying the bills. Doing laundry. Raising children. You get the picture. Can you see where this is leading? Let me just say it – PERFORMANCE BASED ACCEPTANCE.
It started out great, except for the fact that a lot of the “chores” and “responsibilities” that fell under my category weren’t executed often. Or the way Michael wanted them done. The things that I expected Michael to do, I’ll give it to him, he was pretty darn good at. Where did that leave me? Feeling guilty, worthless, unaccomplished, incapable…and unloved.
Frustration surfaced. Throw in bad communication (silent treatment, eye-rolling, sleeping in other bedrooms) along with the disappointment of unmet expectations and we were digging ourselves a big hole.
Did we love each other? ABSOLUTELY!!! Were we showing each other how much we loved one another? Not 100% of the time, and not the way we needed it.
You see…I felt like Michael loved me more and was proud of me when I accomplished my list of chores. When I failed at them, I truly believed that I was not a good enough wife for him. It was a constant competition between us of: “Look at what I did”…”But look at how much I’m doing over here”… “I go to work all day so you can stay at home”… “I’m raising our daughter and you have no idea what it’s like!”
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
Does that sound familiar?
We had expectations. These expectations were not met because we are human and we fail. This “performance based acceptance” was setting us up to lose. Every time.
Because I was not standing firm on the truth of who I was in Christ, I gave the devil a foothold to grab onto. The lies starting to pour into my head: “I’m not good enough for him. He needs a better wife. I can’t do what he’s expecting me to do. He only loves me when I clean the house.” They got worse: “I could’ve done better. I don’t deserve this. He’s made me settle and stay at home when I have more talents than this. I can do this all, alone.”
It makes me cry to think I ever thought those thoughts, and then believed them. That’s what the devil wanted. He wanted to ruin our marriage. And he wants to ruin yours, too.
By the grace of God…HE intervened…and through a series of events including starting a new church, meeting some great Christian mentors, and joining a women’s small group called Warrior Wives (coincidence…I think not), God started healing our hearts. And our marriage.
We needed a mind change. A heart change. An attitude change.
We needed JESUS.
The good news I can share with you now, is that going on 9 years of marriage, we are stronger, more loving, more affectionate, closer to Christ, and proud to say that God was the only reason our marriage is a million times better now than what it was 4 years ago. Praise God!
The expectations have vanished. The cool part about it is that we actually go above and beyond what those original expectations were in the beginning to help each other out. We realize we are a TEAM…we are not each other’s competition.
We both have learned to put GOD first in our heart and look to him to fill us up with LOVE, JOY, AND PEACE instead of looking to each other. We both have learned what each other’s love language is and try to practice it every day. We both know that marriage takes work, and God can heal ANY MARRIAGE if you just put it in his hands. Some of the same struggles poke their ugly heads back up, but we know how to handle them and how to communicate through it and how to keep showing our love to each other.
The power of forgiveness is life changing. I thank God for what he has taught us. The path we were on and our actions brought a lot of hurt into our hearts. Had we known in the beginning what marriage was really created for…HOLINESS…not happiness…we might have avoided some of the heartache.
So that’s my encouragement to new couples. Don’t expect anything but love.
My encouragement to couples who are in the middle of the mess…SEEK GOD…SEEK COUNSEL…HAVE FAITH HE WILL REDEEM YOU AND YOUR MARRIAGE.
Don’t give up hope and don’t give up on each other. You’ll miss the blessings on the other side.
1 Chronicles 28:20 “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”