“Marriage is a very difficult relationship for nearly everyone and I’m sure you shouldn’t do it if you want a quiet little easy life.” Fay Weldon
Before our wedding day, almost every married couple we met told us it was going to be really tough. This is the last thing you want to hear when you’re starry eyed and in-love. I remember being freaked-out but also wondering, as I regarded my fiancé, Akshay, suspiciously, “How tough can it really be?”
People told us the first year would be the most difficult one. So when we celebrated our first anniversary together, I was like, “Chalo, that wasn’t too bad.” As it turns out, our honeymoon was just a little longer than we expected because we were still getting to know each other.
Akshay and I met in 2009, became friends in 2010, and got married in 2011. We didn’t have many mutual friends and our families did not know each other. Everything was new and our arguments remained at the skin-deep level.
One of our first fights was about how Akshay treated my cat. I was highly offended and Akshay was extremely annoyed . . . at my cat. I think the fight lasted an hour, after which we laughed about how silly we were.
Things went slightly downhill from there.
Akshay and I discovered we were completely different in our personalities, family backgrounds, interests. Though we didn’t know it at the time, we had the same heart-idols. Both of us value affirmation and control in our lives and react badly when we feel rejected or out of control. Add that to our broken stories and past hurts and you get a perfect recipe for chaos.
Akshay and I, being the people we are, would have avoided marriage altogether if we knew how tough it was going to be on us. God, in His wisdom and grace, didn’t let us find out until we were in the middle of some of the most troubling and dark times we have ever experienced.
We live in an age when we are constantly trying to find ways to make our lives easier and happier. I think that is the reason most people get married. “Now I will finally feel loved,” we begin marriage thinking, or “I will never feel alone and insecure again.” We look at other couples who have problems and think, “I won't let that happen to us.” We look at our spouse and think, “Here is my saviour.”
In Marriage, A History, author Stephanie Coontz says, “today people expect marriage to satisfy more of their psychological and social needs than ever before.”
In The Meaning of Marriage, author Timothy Keller writes,
“Both men and women today see marriage not as a way of creating character and community but as a way to reach personal life goals. They are looking for a marriage partner who will fulfil their emotional, sexual, and spiritual desires.”
When our spouse isn’t able to meet all our needs and save us we begin to feel dissatisfied, despairing and lonely. I think most fights and marriage problems are rooted in this feeling that our partner isn’t measuring up to be the saviour we thought they would be.
John Gottman, a couples therapy researcher, write this about unhealthy marriages that are headed for divorce,
“They take the problem and they put it on their partner: ‘The problem is you, and your personality, your character; you're a screw-up.’ That's an attack, and that's the fundamental attribution error that everybody's making: ‘I'm okay, you're the problem, you're not okay.’ So then their partner responds defensively and denies responsibility and says: ‘You're the problem; I'm not the problem.’”
That’s what a downward spiral looks like. After that first honeymoon year, Akshay and I started on this downward spiral. We would stay on it for the next two years. Sure, we had great times as well, but the theme of our marriage was looking at the other person and asking them to make us happier.
In the midst of this chaos, we were recruited to plant a church.
Planting a church was the best and worst thing we ever did for our marriage. It was the worst thing because it put so much pressure on us we were forced to deal with issues we had been avoiding or unable to overcome. It pushed us to open up to our mentors, to be accountable to a community and to face up to our self-centeredness. While all of that sounds good, it was tough. There were times when we wondered if our marriage would make it.
And it was the best thing we ever did for our marriage because when I look back now I can see how God took us through the storm and brought us out on the other side. He gave us mentors with whom both Akshay and I have been able to learn, grow and experience real healing. We have learned to share our struggles with them and intentionally make time for them to speak into our lives.
Today we stand together more in-love, more committed and more dependent on our Father. We have learned to look to our True saviour, our Greater Bridegroom, our Elder Brother to find in His love for us the deepest sense of approval and the deepest sense of trust. From that place, we can give as freely to the other as we have freely received from Him.
Marriage has been difficult but it has been beautiful. It has caused me to grow up, to be stronger, to face my own darkness and take responsibility for who I am.
Marriage has broken me and then put me back together - and it keeps reminding me that I am broken and I am married to a broken man. But it also teaches me to look to the One who was broken on the cross for us. We can constantly take our brokenness to Him and be set free of it’s power over us because He was broken so we can be healed.
Marriage has helped me to find my true Saviour, the One who can truly satisfy and love me in the way I long to be loved. And because of His love for me, I can seek to love my husband and serve him, free of my desire for him to save me. As it turns out, we are both happier this way.
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