Aaah! Young love. It is like a wonderful dream filled with cotton candy and kisses. It seems like it will never end......until you wake up.
In my last post Fighting to Stay Together, I discussed some of the difficulties a marriage can go through in the early stages. My marriage was definitely one of those that needed to be worked on from the beginning and it really wasn't because of lack of love. It was due to lack of work and patience. What do I mean? The first few months to a year of marriage can be the best experience or the most challenging. It all depends on your intentions for getting married how much work a couple is willing to put into the success of a marriage.
A Little Background
The work I'm referring to can come in different forms depending on the couples past habits, up bringing, culture, etc. Let me use a personal example. Both my husband and I are from the Caribbean. In that culture it is tradition for the woman to take care of the home and the husband to bring home the bacon. I know this is cross cultural so maybe you can relate but I don't want to assume so I'm only speaking about my culture. As youngsters the boys were allowed to get up and go play whilst the girls had to stay inside and do chores, then go play. There was definitely a double standard which was and still is widely accepted. As we women grew up we were taught that we must know how to cook, clean and take care of children. It didn't matter if you worked outside the home, you must know how to do these things or you are not a good wife.
These requirements are ingrained in our daughters through upbringing and correction. This was one of those things that was challenging in my marriage because I come from a single parent home where I learned to do everything on my own. My husband comes from a more traditional home. So when we came together, I had completely different expectations than he did as to who took what role and we clashed big time. This was one of the issues we had to work on. Yours maybe different.
Now I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with this type of upbringing. Actually I don't see anything wrong with it at all except when it doesn't work for the marriage. What if the formula for success in your marriage looks a little different from what tradition has taught you. What if the work you have to put in doesn't include cooking, cleaning and sex? Here is where a lot of young couples get confused. A wife may say, "I've done everything my mother taught me to do and he still left. Why?" A husband may say, "I work my fingers to the bone and brought home my check to her every week, but she still left. Why?" It is very easy for someone to walk away when we do things for our spouses out of duty as opposed to doing them out of love.
I've come to learn that we miss the mark when we don't apply the principles of a successful marriage. These principles are the blueprint that we must work with in order to get it right. God gave us the example. He set the blueprint for marriage as he does with everything else in our lives.
LOVE - To be as plain as I can. True love requires sacrifice and sacrifice takes work. We don't like to sacrifice because it hurts and we didn't get married to feel pain right? Most of us get married to satisfy our needs, not necessarily to satisfy our spouses needs. Our initial motivation sounds something like "I feel lonely and I need someone to be with me so I don't feel lonely anymore" or "I'm having sex anyway and I need to get married so I don't feel guilty about what I'm already doing". Some of us want children, houses etc. The point is we want a spouse to fulfill our needs not really thinking much about fulfilling theirs. We don't like to say it but this is selfish thinking. Wow that's harsh Stacey, why would you say that? Well it's selfish because if the person does not fulfill what we wanted them to fulfill and that was our motivation for marriage, we then start the divorce campaign, pack up our bags and move on.
Jesus made it very simple for us. He loved us, therefore he sacrificed his life for us. If you want to continue to be joined as one, you must sacrifice your own will and needs for your spouse. If you are both sacrificing for each other then you are being taken care of by each other. That is the beautiful thing about sacrifice. When you give up what you think you need, you end up gaining what you actually need and more. Sacrifice will mean giving up a few important things but it's necessary. Sacrificing time with your friends to spend time with him is necessary. Putting down that book or stop bringing work home for a little while to tend to your relationship is necessary. If what you are doing is causing any kind of disconnect between you and your spouse, it's best to sacrifice it and put it aside because it's necessary.
FAITHFULNESS - Faith is the substance of things hoped for........... Faith without works is dead. You've heard of those scriptures right? We usually apply them to believing in God for healing, financial "breakthroughs" and the like. We never really apply the same meaning to our relationships. Being faithful in a marriage usually refers to not cheating on your wife/husband, but it means something a little different to me. Being faithful means believing that this man was placed in my life by God and our marriage is God ordained. Therefore, I will do what needs to be done to keep the institution in tact. Even when it gets shaky I hold on to our marriage, the vows that we made and will be faithful by consistently and continuously playing my part in the success of the marriage. I will not do anything to destroy, discredit, disgrace or dishonor my vows because of my faith in God and what he establishes. So you see how faithfulness takes on a deeper meaning than "not cheating", it is believing in a God ordained institution and the important role you play in upholding it.
When it comes to your relationship with God let me share what a wise person once told me.
TRUST - Honesty is truly the best policy. Remember in the beginning when I was talking about that love stage? Let me be honest about that stage and tell you the real deal. The person YOU THINK you are falling in love with is not the person you are actually falling in love with. Ladies, that person is a representative of the true man you are dating. You will never fully know your spouse until years have passed and even then they will do something's that will surprise you. Now with that said, I understand that we want to put our best foot forward when we meet someone, but please be honest about who you are. If not for the benefit of the other person, for your own benefit. Practically speaking, it makes married life so much easier when you both are honest with each other about everything. Let's be fair to each other here. Lying to someone about who you are so that they won't leave you or look at you differently is deceptive and immature. It's also a sign that you may want to deal with some personal issues and increase your emotional maturity level before you get married. Honesty in marriage is a necessity, not an option. The day either spouse makes it optional is the day the marriage starts on the road to failure. It is an open door for the enemy to put a wedge between you both and put a crack in that foundation. By the way, if you cannot be honest with your spouse, you cannot be honest with God. So let's keep it clean and simple. It may hurt, it may be embarrassing and someone may get angry from time to time but in the end honesty and trust will keep your relationship in tact and growing.
COMMUNICATION - Great relationship are sustained by effective and consistent communication. Communication is not a monologue, it's a dialogue. If you have an issue, talk it out. Now there is a time and season for everything. If you are angry with your spouse, it may not be a good a idea to have it out in the middle of Walmart or roll your eyes at him while he's preaching or singing that solo at Sunday morning service. The best time to work out conflicts or voice opinions or concerns is in the privacy of your home. If you have children, it's probably best not to do it in front of them either, since they are sponges and will remember everything you said. Those little buggers WILL definitely repeat it and tell on you at the most inopportune time. Bless their little hearts!
I've personally found that I have to schedule time to talk about anything. It works for us because we can both get very busy and move about without addressing anything. You do what is best for your household. Just make sure you keep talking.
Side Note: There are times when you've talked and talked about the same issue and nothing seems to change. I've been there, trust me. With these types of situations it's best to take a step back, stop talking to him and talk to God. Don't hide your conversations with God either. Let him and everybody in that house see you praying. If you have to mention hubby's name then do it. If you pray earnestly, consistently and fearlessly there will be change. I'm speaking from experience.
RESPECT - Unfortunately there were times when I said things to my husband that were not very respectful. I've repented of those things and I believe that God was really testing me and showing how disrespectful I can be when things don't go the way I think they should go. I've learned a lot and have come a long way. Being kind and speaking words of love and grace is what I try to practice daily. I see it as, if I speak to my husband disrespectfully then I'm speaking to myself disrespectfully because we are now one. When I respect him, I respect myself. There are days when I am furious with him but even on those days I take a step back and do not say a word until I've worked things out in my head. To be honest, sometimes I have to talk to God about it and ask him to calm me down. It works! I do whatever I have to do to maintain a respectful household. I do not allow him to disrespect God, himself and others and he does the same for me. You have to be open to correction in order for this to work. You cannot want to do your own thing all the time and you cannot allow your spouse to go rogue either. It's a checks and balances type of thing.
P.S. God set a certain order as far as husbands and wives are concerned. Read 1 Peter 3. Read it, then study it so that you will have full understanding. Respect God, the order and each other.
TEAM WORK - When you tackle life as a team and not as separate entities, you'll learn each others strengths and weaknesses. You'll learn how to delegate to each other and this also builds trust in the relationship. You'll be teaching each other different strategies on how to deal with challenges according to what you've learned. Team work also helps to perfect perseverance and patience. Finally you will learn to protect and defend each other because you need your team to stay in tact.
This one is a little different from the usual, be GRATEFUL. There is nothing that makes a marriage sour more than an ungrateful husband or wife who's always thinking the grass is greener on the other side. When you are grateful for something you cherish it and take care of it. The same thing goes for your spouse. When you are grateful for them, you are kind to them, you are uplifting, you see the good in them, you want them to succeed, you treat them with love and sincerity because you want to keep them around for as long as you can.
The evidence of a good marriage is not how cute you look together. It's how you've grown together through life's challenges. It's how you work together to stay together.
Stay tuned for part 3. Purposed to Stay Together - A Young Marriage.
Until next time,
Live in gratitude. Live in Love.