Ultimately I want this post to be encouraging, but in order to reach the level of encouragement I’m hoping for, it first needs to be honest. Here it goes.
I do not know how any couple stays healthily, joyously married.
Correction: I do not know how any couple who does not keep Christ at the center of their marriage even attempts to stay healthily, joyously married. And for those couples who do attempt to keep Christ at the center of their marriage – could one of you please say “amen” and then travel with me to the bottom of my pit to swim around a bit without offering advice? Let’s just swim here for a minute.
A significant disclaimer before we begin. I am writing this from the perspective of a painfully opinionated, independent #8 on the Enneagram scale. I am someone whose core narrative is “I cannot and will not be controlled by anyone or any thing.” This is evidenced by, quite frankly, all of my life choices, including the following:
- Not getting a degree. I refused to buy into the cultural narrative that I could not be uncommonly successful without one. Looking back my decision had little to do with wanting a degree or not (I did and still do), and more to do with proving others wrong and silencing the “shoulds.”
- Working 60+ hour weeks regularly. The more time I spend honing my knowledge and skills the higher my proficiency, the more likely I am to be promoted above my peers, the faster I rise and increase my salary, the quicker I get to the point where I am free to make decisions others may not see for a decade. (Side note: working longer hours is more likely seen in men, as opposed to women, because men, if I recall correctly from Jordan Peterson lectures, are higher in the neurotic personality trait).
- Spending $250/month to park in the city instead of using public transit, which could save me $150 or more, because I feel the need to control my mornings and evenings by gripping the wheel of a 5,000 lb. machine, pretending I’m in the Daytona 500 killing it.
- Developing a psychological disorder when I was 14 because, essentially, I was bent out of shape by being unable to escape my skin if I needed to. Yep, it doesn’t make sense because you’re of sound mind. They put me on anti-panic drugs for a while. It got really ugly. Thank the Lord for Jesus, Dr. Rita and modern medicine.
Items 1-4 above should give you a picture of the person who entered my marriage almost 3 years ago. Plus, I don’t like or try to do any of the following: (1) cook meals, (2) plan meals, (3) sit down for meals, (4) think about meals, (5) think about ever trying to get better about numbers 1-4. My handicap is the attitude from which I approach providing daily sustenance to myself and my other half. So at level 1 I am failing. You get the idea.
The aspects of marriage, however, that I think everyone can agree are difficult, include laying down one’s own demands and/or needs for the sake of the other. When the opportunities to do this arise in moments of vulnerability it is just… so achingly difficult to lay yourself down. And if you’ve been subconsciously score-keeping? Forget it.
Almost three years have gone by. So much goodness has flown from our marriage. That said, there are circumstances that spread us thin, individually, and big gaping wounds developed in my heart. Into those wounds I fed my work, self-praise, my image, worldly highs, self-assurance, medication, blaming my partner beyond his share, becoming indifferent… so much more. It got ugly and, in a lot of ways, it still is.
The beautiful thing about Sunny & Joe is that we adore each other. We are consistently excited to see the other person when they get home from work. We play and laugh together every single day. In the midst of major disagreement we can be sweet. The phrase “endeared to each other” best explains it. I think it has little to do with our strengths in loving each other, I think it’s our natural chemistry.
The difficult thing about Sunny & Joe is that they sometimes view timelines, realities and priorities differently. Which are critical items to ensure alignment for marital success. In the words of Jim Collins, “Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.”
Aligning is so damn hard. Knowing how to operate while out of alignment is so much damn harder than not being aligned. And it’s that part I speak of. It’s the part that is crucial to navigate well, detrimental to navigate improperly, and insanely hard either way.
How does anyone do this well?
If I believe what I say I believe it is only possible to do this well in Christ.
In Christ I have a person who laid down His life for my brokenness, my unfaithfulness and my folly. Without Christ I have no one on my side, no one in whose identity I can walk, no one to unconditionally love me. Without Christ NO ONE UNCONDITIONALLY LOVES ME and no one tells me I am worthy because I am not. Without Christ how could I actively love someone if I am not aligned with them? While misalignment handicaps me, and telling myself I can hold out for reform becomes harder each day, I have no choice, without a Savior, than to remedy the discrepancy by cutting off the non-compliant.
What is the alternative?
I hold out daily for reform because the remedy of our discrepancy is the Hope I already have. Instead of focusing on alignment with my spouse I can focus on alignment with the true Bridegroom. In Him I have all that I need and in Him I am able to love at all.
One day, years from now, when my marriage is 50 years old or so, I want to be able to say: I did not always align with my spouse. There were seasons where we did not align at all. And there were seasons I decimated the sweetness on the ground, because of my folly and stubbornness. But if ever I loved well, and if ever I laid myself down, it had nothing to do with me, but for the fact that I am loved everlasting by a Bridegroom who is never unfaithful and whose love is never not aligned to me.