Adam and I are about to celebrate 4 1/2 years of marriage! And it has been the most stretching, fruitful, and rewarding experience I have had in my life. Every day I become more and more thankful that I married a man like him. I also become more and more aware of how much I had no idea what I was getting into. But we're almost 5 years in here are 10 things I have learned.
1. Marriage is not about me. Really. I don't mean to label humanity, but I think most of us get married, for ourselves. We're selfish beings, but I didn't realize how selfish and immature I was until I got married. Seriously... I have realized in order to actually love my spouse, I need to always be checking my motives. UGH! To do what is best for him, usually means eradicating whats easy for me. I am not entitled to a deeply connected marriage or even a marriage that lasts. I have to work at it.
2. Character always comes forth. The character traits that show up once we're married (i.e. verbal aggression, control, withdrawing, irresponsibility, unfaithfulness, entitlement, self-righteousness, ect.) don't just magically appear because our spouse put a spell on us, they were there all along. Our spouse just brings them out of hiding. We can choose to be a victim and blame, excuse, or deny these weaknesses, or we can choose to be personally powerful by owning them, repenting, then seeking help and support.
3. Boundaries are critical. This has been extremely challenging for me. I actually didn't even know what boundaries were until last year. Healthy boundaries are supposed to be asserted and molded in childhood then cultivated throughout adolescence. I can honestly say my life would be SO different if I had learned how to say no and when to say yes as a child, and I am learning how to be emotionally liberated from co-dependency in my marriage, and it's filled my life with contentment. So if you don't have boundaries, I highly recommend you discover them! This will free you to love your spouse out of compassion and grace, not obligation and resentment. It enables you to give with authenticity. Not out of fear, compliance, guilt, manipulation, or control. The foundation of love is freedom. Boundaries are the path to get there. You can get the book on Boundaries in Marriage here. https://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-Marriage-Henry-Cloud/dp/0310243149
4. My spouse doesn't “make me” feel anything. I choose how I feel. In actuality, no one can ever make me feel anything, my response is my choice. The most powerful people in the world are those who realize they only can control one person… themselves. I am all about living a life of self-control, not other-control. I am not perfect at it, but I am working at it.
5. We are our our own family unit. Ownership of my life has been vital to my marital health. Adam and I have had to learn to create our own family traditions, make our own decisions, and even disrupt the norm for both sides of the family. Sometimes we show up to family events, sometimes we do our own thing. We are married to each other, not to our families. So if he doesn't want to do something, we don't do it. If I am not comfortable in a situation, he respects it. We protect each others hearts, by protecting the unity in our unit.
6. My spouse is not my God. This one seems like a no brainer: God is God, and we are not. But when we were dating, I subconsciously thought he was and I worshiped him. We were going to ride off into the sunset together on a white horse and live happily ever after... Then when reality hit me and I discovered he was "human" just like me, I condemned him. I am still grieving this one. It has caused many unrealistic expectations that I have had to repent for. The lesson learned: Adam cannot and will not fulfill my needs or identity. Only God can.
7. Mentorship is Critical. Our Mentors have been our marriage savers. We cannot do it on our own. I wanted breakthrough, and that only comes through grace and truth via trusted mentors and counselors. We go to counseling together, read marriage books, and are working on developing deep honest connection. That is how we are overcoming difficulties and find intimacy in our marital struggles.
8. Be painstakingly transparent. This one is risky, vulnerability is something I don't like to feel, but love the results. I am learning to state what I need, how I feel, what’s going on internally, or when I am hurt. This enables empathy and personal ownership, not indirect aggression and manipulation. My spouse isn't supposed to read my mind and cater to my immaturity, instead I am responsible to communicate what I need, desire, want, and like. Then trust my spouse to listen and give accordingly.
9.Have a life outside of your spouse. Community is key! You will hear me say that a lot. We need other people. We need to receive love outside of ourselves. We cannot love when we aren't receiving support and love. So I have close friends, hobbies, interests, and goals outside of my spouse and I encourage him to do the same. This is essential to creating safety and freedom in marriage.
10. Respect their no. If Adam say's no, I honor that; even if I am angry. "No" is his boundary and crossing it is violating him. I don't have to like it, but I need to respect it. If I can’t, that is called control. Control manipulates, objectifies, and brings division; it enslaves. but love liberates, it let's go. I am in a season of letting go. (you know your singing the song now 😉
I’ve said this before and Ill say it 1,000 times. Marriage is not about my happiness, it is about my holiness. I didn't learn these things by having a non-conflict marriage or passive-aggressively expecting my husband to read my mind (why do think that will work?!) These lessons came with many tears and vulnerable conversations. We have fought for our marriage. We still have to fight for it; but I have purposed in my heart to cultivate and endure love, not be entitled to love.And there is a big difference.