Friday, October 14, 2011

The Joy of Marriage

God has laid it on my heart to write this for quite some time now and I've been disobedient.  I'm not exactly sure why as I have what I consider the best marriage a girl could want or ask for.  I think it's because I don't want anyone to feel I'm judging their marriage or that I see myself as an expert on the topic because that is so not the truth.  I'm still learning more every day.

I will say this.  I see so many marriages falling apart around me and so many of my friends struggling to keep their marriages together and it saddens me.  I've always said I want to be that old couple you see walking through park holding hands that stops in front of the fountain to take in it's beauty and at that moment, feels their love grow even more and embrace each other for a kiss.  After having 3 kids, buying or building a home, declaring bankruptcy, a child that goes through a teen age pregnancy, maybe even a run away and who knows what other tragic events that have come into their lives and after 65 years, love each other more with every passing day.  I'm not saying they didn't go through struggles but they had and nurtured their coping skills to get them through those rough patches.

It's couples like that that we all need to take a moment and sit down with them and ask them, "how did you do it?  What was the secret to staying so in love and staying together?"  I have heard answers from couples who have been asked this question and by far the top 3 responses are, " Always keep God the center of your marriage,"  "never go to bed angry", and "never forget why you fell in love with each other to begin with."  WOW!  How could anyone forget that?  Unfortunately, it's forgotten more often than you think and here's why.  This was the top answer I've heard when couples have been asked, "What happened?  Why did your marriage fall apart?"  Not always, but a lot of times they say, well, the kids came along and I got so focused on taking care of the kids and he got so focused on providing for the family that we never had time alone together.  Life just got in the way and we lost track of who we were, who each other was, an why we married to begin with.  I find this heart wrenching and sad.

I guess you can say that I'm one that tries to learn from others mistakes and successes.  I'm a people watcher.  I look for those attributes that make someone great and stand out in the crowd and I see those flaws that often times, are the down fall in a relationship.  I watched my grandparents struggle to feed 8 kids, keep up a farm, and love each other.  I didn't always see smiles and roses from them.  But if I could pick any one of their characteristics that I picked up from them, it was determination and a big heart.

I watched my parents who had both been married, had kids, and divorced before they met each other.  They came together as a blended family and added me as the caboose.  I saw them struggle financially.  I even saw some emotional struggles but the 2 things I picked up from them was a grounded faith in Christ and unconditional love.

I was engaged twice, been through some troubled relationships, went through a rebellious phase because of those troubled relationships but when it came down to what I wanted in a spouse, God always reminded me that I was about to settle for less than his best.  That I was about to get myself into the complete opposite of what I'd learned from others who have had successful marriages.  God brought Jeremy into my life at a time where I could have gone one direction with someone else that was "comfortable" but not what God wanted, or I could step out in faith, believe what my heart was telling me and go in the direction I thought God was calling me.

I chose the one that was out of my comfort zone.  And I don't mean that in a bad way.  I mean that sometimes, when you get in a routine and something that's comfortable but maybe not "great", it's easy to go that route than to take something completely new to you.

"Most" of my relationships before had been built around physical attraction or someone that tried to "rescue" me during a difficult time in my life.  Far too many knights in shining armor are really common folk and thieves.  They see what you can do for them knowing full well they expect to get but not give in return.  I'm not speaking in a physical manner, I'm speaking about all aspects of life.  So when we settle, we end up in a routine that usually has a dead end and lacks growth.

HOWEVER, when you DON'T settle, when you don't lower your standards, when you build your relationship around Christ (and for those on my friends list who aren't Christians, well....I'll keep praying for you!  :)  tee, I would say to you to build your relationship around common beliefs and values) and Keep Christ 1'st and your spouse 2nd,...when you learn each others love language and start speaking it, marriage can be the most beautifully amazing thing you can experience on earth.  So many times when kids come along, the moms #1 focus is the kids and the dads #1 focus is bringing home the bacon.  Though those are VERY important things, your spouse should always have place above your children.  I know that's a difficult concept to grasp.  Especially for us moms.  Believe me, I've struggled with this myself but when you take a spouse, he becomes an extension of you and you of him.  Neither one of you function properly and smoothly when a piece of you is missing.  Ask any grieving widow or widower.  It's like you've been amputated.  What happens when you stop focusing on your spouse an start focusing on your kids only, that part of you that he/she has become becomes a stub where that limb has been amputated.  You start learning to function without it.  Naturally when this happens, you become 2 individual units again instead of 1 fully functioning unit.  This (placing spouse before your children) is very much a biblical concept.  One thing my husband and I vowed to do when we got married was, when children came along, we would continue to have a date night.  That is, time alone together without the children.  Time to reconnect and be sure we were still moving in the same direction or get going back to moving in the same direction.  That in no way means that when your husband is at work you sit and day dream about him all day and neglect the children.  The children are an extension of your unit as a whole.  They need to be nurtured and loved and cuddled as well.  What it DOES mean is that you don't let having children cause you to push your spouse to the side.  One of the MOST important things you can teach your children besides to have a strong Christian walk is how to have a successful marriage.  Children who see their parents hold hands, hug, kiss, go out on dates usually have stronger healthier relationships than those that don't.

What happens when you don't put your spouse before your children?  The kids see that.  They see that you don't respect the other enough to talk about important matters together.  Or they see that when you do discuss important issues together, you are quick to shut down the others spouses feelings and have an "it's my way or the highway" attitude.  Which of course "generally" leads them to follow in your footsteps and repeat the cycle.

If you didn't marry for the right reasons to begin with or have let the kids become the center of your life and have "fallen out of love," it's never too late to rebuild and restore.  I'm not saying that divorce is never necessary.  I'm saying, before throwing in the towel because, "he's changed" or "she's changed" or your "bored", pray about.  Start making efforts again to show your spouse you want to try and work on things. Start speaking his/her love language and you will be astounded what God can do!!  Naturally, even I have my limits.  Jeremy will tell you that one of the things I told him before we got married was, "If you ever hit me, or cheat on me, I'm gone!"  I'm not saying that is the right answer either but the Bible does allow divorce in cases of adultery.  There are some super forgiving people that can forgive that and try and work things out but for me, the betrayal would be so hard and so deep, I can't honestly say I could move past it.  I've not been there in a marriage but I have been there in a serious relationship, forgiven, and was burned again and I realize now, I can't keep moving past something that is typically a cycle.  I may be strong in a lot of area's in life but that is not one of the.

If I could encourage couples do and Bible studies together that I think you would greatly benefit from, I have 3.  I know there are more but these 3 have had the most impact in my life and marriage.  "The 5 love languages", "the love dare", and "I marriage."  Wonderful wonderful books!!!  You can find clips from "I marriage" on youtube.  The Author of that one is Andy Stanley.

And Christian couples, pray together!!  Both as a couple and as a family.  You'll never regret giving your marriage and your children that firm foundation to begin life on.

And Jeremy, I'm happy to say that I see us one day being that 65 year old couple kissing in front of the fountain at the park.  I love you more with each passing day and though we have our moments, I feel blessed to say that we've never had and "big" arguments or felt like quitting and giving up on what we have.  I thank God from bringing you into my life when he did and though we have a lot more room to grow, I feel blessed beyond measure to have the beautiful marriage we have!  Thank you for being not only my life partner, my soul mate, my spouse, but being my best friend and a shoulder to lean on.  With all my love!  ~Mary

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