There are quite a few popular links doing the social-media rounds at the moment on the topic of marriage. These have all got me thinking. You have that giddy “I can't wait to be with you every day for the rest of my life” feeling leading up to the BIG day. You have that “I am so glad you’re mine” feeling for a few days/weeks/months after the BIG day. But then one morning you wake up and look at the person next to you in bed and realise: Oh. Heck. This. Is. Forever. FOR. EVER.
Love is not enough in that moment.
Marriage is not for cowards. It takes a seriously brave person to be willing to commit to one person for the rest of their life. Anyone can be happy to flit around when the going gets tough from person to person. Even our pastor told us in pre-marital counselling that “any dog can jump from bitch to bitch.” It’s true. To wake up on the high days and low days next to the same mug and still be willing to wake up next to them tomorrow again, that takes some effort. And courage. Why? Because some days you will wake up next to that mug and want to flit off. The low days can be incredibly low and that’s when you need to put on your big girl pants and brave the storm.
As for braving the storm and waiting for the tide to turn, Marriage takes Faith. You need to believe that God brought you together and that God has a purpose for your union. If you’re not believers, you need to believe that there is a reason for your union anyway. Its difficult to have faith some times, especially when the spouse leaves you feeling like you have married the worst possible match for your soul on the planet. That’s when you need to believe the most. God blesses marriage, he invented it for his purposes and so you need to remember that in your union you already have His blessing. Then you need to remind yourself that there were millions of options, but the one you’re married to is the one that stuck. There has to be a reason for that. Even when they’re being nasty, or forgetful, or selfish.
Marriage really isn’t for the selfish. And that is so hard sometimes. I fear that as creatures, humans are often intrinsically selfish. We like doing our own thing, in our own time. We say it’s to make us better people/spouses/moms/dads; but it’s not always the case. Sometimes, we simply take the notion of ‘me time’ too far. Going for a morning run of twenty minutes or so, for instance, that’s probably doing you some good. Taking a week to go for some ‘boy bonding’ and leaving your wife with two or three kids and a dog, maybe not so good. I don’t think I know all the answers here, because I am a creature of potential selfishness too, but the question we should ask is: Is what I am doing for ‘me’ harming the ‘we’? If the answer is yes, don’t do it. Nothing is that important.
It takes a lifetime to build a strong marriage, but the bricks need to be laid daily. And when I say this, think again about the selfishness question. It may seem innocent enough to do something that harms the ‘we’ once a month or once every few months, but that damages what building work has come before it. Like laying weak cement between a few bricks: the bricks may be good, but the cement won’t hold them in place for long. Gather a few weak spots together and the wall will eventually be unable to stand. Those little unresolved conflicts where harsh words were shared but left un-apologised for; they are crumbly cement. Doing something that makes your spouse feel of lesser importance and allowing him or her to continue to feel that way; these are crumbly cement. Not making love to your spouse often enough to let them know that they are the sexiest person in your life; that is crumbly cement. Choosing your children over your spouse; that is crumbly cement. Forgetting something your spouse told you but remembering in graphic detail the happenings of your favourite soapie or cricket match; that’s crumbly cement. Being passive aggressive and avoiding an argument by turning the TV up instead of having the conversation; that is crumbly cement. Speaking to your spouse in a way that would kill you if your daughter or son were ever spoken to that way; well that’s crumbly cement for sure. There are probably one or two things you could add to this list as well. But my point is, it’s a choice you make daily whether to build with strong cement, or crumbly.
Marriage is about support. What my husband sometimes forgets is that I’ve got his back. One hundred and fifty percent. I am his biggest fan and his greatest advocate and sometimes, yes, his greatest critic. But no matter what, I am in his corner. Not for a second and I saying that I'm the perfect wife and that I haven’t made countless mistakes, (with more to come, I'm sure!) but surely that’s what you want more than anything from a spouse? To know that they are always on your side and that they will be there for you no matter how smelly the morning breath or badly you screw up. If you think of the biblical example of ‘iron sharpening iron’ you need to remember the sound of that iron banging against more iron – it’s harsh. The sharpening process isn’t always easy, but when you believe that your spouse is so completely on your side that they would never do anything harsh simply to be harsh, that somehow softens it. A little bit of love covers a multitude of harshness.
Marriage is not about children. They are a bonus not always afforded to all couples and when you say 'I do,' your spouse should know that the person you're saying it to is the whole deal. If that's not enough for you, then perhaps re-evaluate your choice in spouse.
And as for love. Well that, I have unpopularly been criticised for saying before, is more of a choice than a feeling. And it’s a choice you need to make over and over and over and over.
Having only been with my husband for just over a decade, I don’t think for one second I know all there is about marriage. My ‘expertise’ when it comes to relationships is also questionable. I'm sure the next few decades will come with their own challenges and joys. They will also come with their own lessons. I also acknowledge that there are circumstances that make staying with a spouse absolutely impossible. We all have lines that can not be crossed: adultery, abuse, loss-of-self… and I understand that sometimes these lines are crossed and a marriage is no longer possible. Sometimes marriages simply fail because of all the little things that aren’t done; all the crumbly cement makes for a rather weak wall.
Still, for those of you who are married today because you have actively chosen to be, well done. People don’t always understand how much of a miracle it is. And if you’re still married tomorrow even if you wake up and kind of wish you weren’t, well done again.
Here are some of the articles that inspired this one: