March 26, 2017

I Take You, Until You Change or We Fall Out of Love

Bean Marriage

I’m writing this post as I had read a recent post from Matt Walsh on marriage and how he was talking about his wife not being the same woman she was when they married. How that was a good thing and a challenging thing. How if you really expected anything different from your own spouse, you’re probably an idiot (okay not his words, but that’s generally the thought that came to my mind).

Here’s some of the comment I left on his article. As I continued writing my lengthy comment, I decided I should probably just make it a post of my own.

The tide of divorce hit pretty close to home for me in the last few years. It infuriated me that marriages of people I love and care for were crashing on the rocks of life around them. In some cases I realized it was probably the only option, but in others I think the two parties just gave up. I know they had worked on things and ultimately probably didn’t want to get divorced, but I think society and others around them helped push the acceptance of it as the last remaining option (or definitely the easiest), so they took it.

Matt’s post tackled the idea of our spouses changing and that fueling the option of divorce. I think the other fallacy in what people expect in their marriage is the “falling out of love” component. I’ve said very early on in my understanding of relationships, feelings and love that love is by no means a feeling. True love is a decision. A decision that takes work and commitment. Frequently I think it requires us to understand that I may not “feel” like loving some person today, or this week or maybe a couple of years. But the honest challenge of that issue is that it’s YOUR issue. YOU make the choice to stop loving someone, YOU make the choice to give up, YOU make the choice to choose your own happiness over the commitment YOU made to make someone else happy for the rest of your life.

I, _________, take you, ___________, to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), my constant friend, my faithful partner and my love from this day forward. In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.

Those weren’t our exact vows, but they’re pretty close to what most couples state and commit to on their wedding day. I don’t say anything in there about “unless you/I change” or “until I stop feeling like loving you”. Are we liars when we makes those vows or do we just not even think about the words we’re saying?

I understand, I don’t think any of us got married or go into marriage thinking we’ll get divorced like the guy at the grocery in Matt’s post. I think these days far too many marriages start with the idea and understanding that it’s not as permanent as it should be considered. And there, that little crack is a giant part of the problem! And for those that may have entered into the agreement with the understanding of the permanency of the decision, society has definitely promoted the availability of the easier option.

I don’t want this post to get caught in the weeds of the whole marriage debate, but I believe if the Christian community really wants to have a voice in that discussion, we’d better get our own marriages in order! Here’s the deal though, getting them in order doesn’t mean painting a false pretense of what marriage is or should be. Christian couples who make it appear to have a perfect marriage and hide all their issues from their close friends around them aren’t doing us any good. If you’ve got a perfect marriage, congratulations! But I probably don’t want to hear about it, or at least not like you’d think! What I’d rather hear about is how you’re struggling with your wife. I want to know how you’re getting through it. I want to hear that I’m not alone. I want to see you struggle (that sounds odd, but you know what I mean) and I want to see you succeed in working through those areas with your wife. If I see you doing it, then that will give me the strength and hope that I can too.

I remember when my wife and I were engaged. We were sitting in our Sunday School class, it was an “adult” class so there were couples of various ages, many of which were much older than us. I remember one guy would repeatedly make comments of our pending marriage and say things like “it’s over for you”, “say good-bye to what you want”, “getting fitted for the ball and chain”… I finally had had enough of his comments and I looked squarely at him on one occasion and told him I was sorry that his marriage was apparently so horrible that he’s got nothing good to say about it to a young couple who’s about to enter into their own life contract with each other. His wife sent him a quick elbow to the side as a confirmation of my statement. He kept his mouth shut from then on. Hopefully that may have served as a wake-up call to him and he began looking at his own marriage differently.

To that man now I’d like to ask, “How’s your marriage?” Hopefully it’s better than it was if he truly felt all those things he was WARNING me about before my own big day. If it wasn’t that bad and you just thought you were being funny, you weren’t. You were doing damage to a marriage before it even started.

I’m blessed to say my marriage is stronger now than it’s ever been in 15 years. And what’s odd, is my wife and family and I are going through probably the toughest time in our lives. We’ve been “separated” due to career changes, job search and relocation efforts for the last three months. We’re 292 miles apart most days, but I feel closer to my wife than I ever have before. The amazing paradox I’ve discovered in marriage. If I forsake my own desire to fulfill happiness in my own life, and instead focus on doing everything I can to make my wife happy and my kids happy; my life becomes filled with happiness! The motivation has to be true though. It’s a tough area. The caveat is that I somehow, at the same time, can’t hold my own wife or kids (or anyone else) responsible for my own happiness. There’s a mysterious balance that needs to occur there and I think the fulcrum of that balance is God in our lives and in our marriages.

Let’s all continue to be counter-cultural and deny that assumption that what we believe is true and right has to go quietly into the night of popular opinion. Continue to fight for our marriage and the marriages of others. If you’re struggling in your marriage, talk to someone. Find someone you can connect with and share your challenges and be open to that discussion. I recently came across the RefineUs ministry and website, check them out as well for some great stories of grace and redemption in marriage and resources available to you.

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