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On marriage

July 20, 2015

As some of you may or may not know, my husband and I have struggled quite a bit in our marriage, to the point of almost divorcing several times. I believe I was the first to mention the word while my husband has been the one ready to actually follow through with it; but whenever it has come down to the point of deciding whether to go “to the big D” (it’s a country song) or not, one of us has always put our foot down and fought against it.

Beau and I could not be more different than night and day, which is why we stuck together for long enough to get to this point: despite continuing to date one another while at the same time thinking to ourselves that a relationship with the other could never last, it remained interesting enough that we never let it go. So here we are, trying to make two complete opposites become one in a process that has been quite painful.

What I’ve come to realize, however, is that the pain isn’t a result of the process of merging—it’s a result of the process of resisting. Even though we both like to think we’ve given up a lot in order to try to make our marriage work, the truth is that all along we’ve been resisting the need to release our expectations of the other and to simply love one another unconditionally as spouses should. We have conditions, and we don’t want to let them go.

Here again is an aspect of my life in which my Christian values have come to surprise me. I wasn’t raised in an especially religious family, but I find again and again that the lessons I learned in church and in Sunday school somehow embedded themselves deeply in my fiber. Where contemporary culture would condone divorce and encourage me to search for someone who is a better match, something within me continues to resist the temptation to let go and move on; and this something is my deeply held belief that love—real, true, unconditional love—really can conquer all.

I’m not talking about the love that conquers all of fairy tales, where the prince and princess (or cowboy and cowgirl) ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. I’m talking about the love referred to in the Bible, the sort that is patient and kind, that does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, rude, self seeking or easily angered; the kind that keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth; that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13). The kind of love that I have tattooed on my back—literally; 1 Corinthians 13:13 is etched there in ink.

Neither Beau nor I have shown this kind of love to each other because we don’t fully understand this kind of love—none of us humans do. It is a perfect kind of love that we can only mimic imperfectly, BUT that we can always strive to mimic just a little bit better. I could throw in the towel and allow Beau and I to get a divorce, and none of my friends or family would fault me—but I would know in my heart that I hadn’t truly given it my all before allowing it all to end. I would know that there were too many days when I allowed resentment to replace acceptance, when I let my expectations push out patience; when I said something critical instead of something complimentary, focused on the negative instead of the positive.

Ultimately, it takes two people to make a marriage work—but in every individual instance when somebody is ready to give up, it just takes one person to hold the door open for long enough to let light back into the other person’s heart. How long is “long enough”? Well, according to the pastor of our church, God is patiently waiting for us humans to figure out our $@#! and repent of our sins before sending Christ to earth for His second coming—and that could take eons. So if I want to love like God, then I have to be willing to be patient with my husband indefinitely and not get a divorce just because things aren’t going my way.

If I believe, as I do, that the only true salvation for this world—whether or not there is even a heaven—is to live by the Golden Rule (to do unto others as we would have them do unto us), then I’d be a hypocrite not to apply that rule to my own marriage. It may be more appealing to apply politics to a situation (whether in war or in marriage, as the two sometimes seem one and the same!) to achieve an agreeable resolution to a problem rather than to live selflessly for the greater good, but in the end, politics only pushes problems under the proverbial rug and prolongs everyone’s suffering.

So I must love Beau as I love myself and do unto him as I would have him do unto me—for more than just a few days or weeks or even years—in order to be able to claim that I’ve truly done everything I can to try to make our marriage work. I must stop resisting the desire to have any selflessness on my part be immediately reciprocated by him; and stop resisting what we are all truly called to do in a marriage, which is to make our spouse our number one priority in life: every day, in every way. It’s a hard pill to swallow in our self-centered culture that exalts personal satisfaction, but when it comes down to it, I don’t believe that life is about the pursuit of personal happiness anyway. It’s about something far greater and grander: the pursuit of a collective happiness that will never be achieved if we can’t first achieve it in our own homes.

Note: My husband and I eventually did divorce. Read here for my reflection on why we did.

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From → Relationships

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