Lessons from Marriage
Again, a couple of clarifications. And I didn't think I'd been inspired by a song lyric in this one, but once again I was. Man, they're good!
December 23, 2009
Here I go again. This one I’m inspired to write because recently, I’ve received a series of phone calls from a friend who shall remain anonymous here. He’s expressing myriad issues in his marriage, and I’m driven once again to draw on my experiences to hopefully and prayerfully help him and others. I planned to wait until closer to Valentine’s Day or something, but why bother? We’ve all suffered from the fallout of too many acrimonious divorces and horrible relationships. Add to that the upcoming stress of holidays and the headaches already created by this economic downturn. It seems the whole matter is reaching a crescendo which threatens to push society towards a point of no return!
It’s ironic that I originally studied psychology in order to pursue a career in counseling, but certain events in my life sidelined that idea. But in retrospect, I needed to experience a lot of life before I could say I’d gained sufficient wisdom to do anyone any good. You simply cannot learn some things academically!
First of all, my disclaimer to my friend is that he’s most unusual because he possesses some qualities that defy our general understanding of the genders. Yet in some respects, he’s exactly what you might expect in a guy. So there will always be exceptions. With that said, my education advanced by leaps and bounds between 2006-2008. I’ll just present some examples of events both good and bad that taught me huge lessons.
I try to tell my friend to simply love his wife. What does that mean anyway, practically speaking? Two things my husband did really stay in my mind. One was early on when we were barely getting to know each other. I was still attending college. I may have mentioned what class I was attending that day, but I don’t think I ever mentioned where I might be in between classes. Somehow, he bought lunch, ran all the way from the newspaper where he worked and found me sitting outside the main library. He only had half an hour, so there went his lunch. He said he just came to bring me lunch and had to get back. That blew me away!
The second incident really pointed out the need to build trust and how to do it. My husband worked for Apple at one time, and one day someone who happened to live nearby called with an issue. Going above and beyond the call of duty as he sometimes did, Ray agreed to meet her one Saturday to try to fix the computer. Because it was going to be a lady, he asked me to come with him because he didn’t want me to get any wrong ideas about his intentions. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life, and I know that even with many other imperfections, I didn’t have to worry about faithfulness. So to my friend and other guys who find themselves tearing their hair out or even driven to drink trying to figure us women out, it’s really pretty simple, isn’t it? Just convince us that we’re the most important thing in your life!
Now for the part I had to learn! I thought I’d successfully deprogrammed my mind from the garbage that culture and college had shoved down all our throats concerning what women should expect out of life. But I didn’t realize how deeply ingrained this poisonous thinking had become. By my 20’s, I thought that if you didn’t have PH.D. after your name, use the title Ms., spend as much time at work as possible, rejecting taking your husband’s last name, etc., then you just weren’t advancing the cause of women as you ought. So I entered both my marriages with that mentality. The first ended for other reasons, and I hope he’s doing well now. But when I decided to follow the Christian faith, I realized much of this thinking didn’t align with certain values. But I think these values benefit not just those professing some kind of faith but the entire society.
In my marriage to Ray, I set about purging much of this thinking. I vowed never to threaten divorce, never to use terms such as “my old man”, and most difficult of all, never suggest that his worth was somehow related to what he earned, because unintentionally, I ended up earning more than he did except for those 4 years at Apple. So I thought I did all the right things until we hit the patch in which we lost our apartment. But alas, the brainwashing proved very deep.
About the time we lost our apartment, I began frantically calling for any resources for help, doing ridiculous amounts of overtime, anything I could think of to fix things. Then my good wise friend Diane said, “I hear you saying you’re doing this and that. Where is he in all this decision-making?” I stopped short, and the light bulb went on. All the OT I’d been doing, all the “suggestions” I made to him regarding ways to find employment, whatever I tried to do to solve the problems, only served to diminish his confidence. I resolved then to turn it around. Taking cues from my wise friend, I started by giving him a nickname that helped me recall the confidence I needed to rebuild in him. Soon, he owned the name and began signing his e-mails with it. Anyone who knows me knows what that name is. The 2nd thing was that I stopped the overtime and began to ask his opinion on how we should proceed. The 3rd test was so unique to us and outside the box that I know God directed it. I'll share that with people as appropriate. Now I know how precious his protectiveness was. I’ll miss the way he called me precious cargo when we were in the car or the way he expressed concern if I did overtime that put me into commuting in the dark. As I learned these things, I know the final 2 years vastly improved, and it's because of those lessons learned that our last conversation wasn't an argument!
Judging from our conversations, I think my friends the couple believe they may have acted in haste and married too quickly. So to my friends and everyone else, hold on! I used to believe each person would find one special mate who was meant only for him/her. I no longer believe that. If that were the case, there would be entirely too much risk of never finding that person. Experience has taught me that if you follow the order that God designed, you practically create the real thing. To take another line from a Nickelback song, “Gotta Be Somebody,” it’s about “Someone to love with my life in their hands”. Boy, they’re hitting the nail on the head. That’s how I knew it was the real thing. When I suddenly had to go to the emergency room on Labor Day 1999, I called him instead of calling 911, against all sensibility. Our pastor used to hold us up as an example, much to my embarrassment, saying we were a beautiful model because I trusted him implicitly to lead me safely. That trust developed because underlying everything was the knowledge that neither of us was going anywhere. I will always remember Ray’s words, “You have a 99-year lease with an option for 99 more.” Or “I’m here for the duration.” So it’s really clear. God spells it out:
Ephesians 5:22-33 (King James Version)
22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
I think that about summarizes God’s instructions for relationships, among many other passages. I can almost see everyone’s hair stand up, so I welcome any comments. Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!