Maureen and I will be celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary this weekend. Yay! Because of that, and because I’m occupied with the final push on launching my book, I won’t be posting a lot in the next several days. Once my book is published, I will be posting some excerpts here. 🙂
I would like to share a few thoughts on the longevity of love today. I will share this like I’m trying to help a young couple save years of heartache and trouble in their marriage. In other words, this is stuff I wish I would’ve known when I was young, overly-confident, and ignorantly foolish about how life actually works.
The primary thing I have found to be true is that if you want to successfully spend the rest of your life with someone, it cannot be about you. And for your partner, likewise. Your spouse is not there to make you happy; you’re not there to make your spouse happy.
Our fulfillment and affirmation must come from our heavenly Father, as His sons and daughters. And from this place of fulfillment and love, we will become who we should be for the other person. There is nothing more important than this one thing.
His perfect love must be allowed to cast out our orphan-fear (1 John 4:18); otherwise, we will certainly use control and manipulation to protect ourselves in our relationships.
Relationally healthy people make for healthy marriages.
As I said in my last post, love requires self-limitation. Love is given freely; it cannot demand or coerce. It must be free and other-centered. There’s only one thing that kills marriage–selfishness. It’s the deadly disease that we must allow God to put to death.
The life, joy, and fulfillment you’re looking for is on the other side of euthanizing this insidious beast lurking deeply in the darkest part of your soul. And God is quite happy to help you to do just that!
As Danny Silk says, when two powerful people come together, who know who they are, who don’t need the other to be their “happy manager,” who freely give of themselves to the other, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Being powerful in love means that you arbitrarily choose to do the right thing, and act the right way, no matter how your spouse behaves or responds. That’s the only way you’ll survive the worst parts of “for better or worse.”
You don’t turn your love off when things don’t go your way. True love is unconditional love, which means it has no conditions. This doesn’t mean that you become a doormat for abusive behavior, it means that you take responsibility for you in all situations.
The reality is, most of us aren’t that powerful person when we first get married, so our relationship is a train wreck waiting to happen! I certainly was anything but relationally powerful when Maureen and I got married in 1980. But I am a testament that you can not only survive your own issues, you can stay on the path to becoming the relationally healthy person God meant you to be.
Actually, I think that’s part of the purpose of marriage—to help each of us become whole as human beings. That is, IF we cooperate with God’s process and stay humble and teachable when all hell breaks loose.
Another good thing to know is that you both are two very different people for a very good reason. That’s why God put you together..to complete you.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen.2:24 NKJV)
Danny Silk also says that we don’t become “one flesh” by fighting over which one of us we will become! The truth is, the other person doesn’t think like you, process information like you, respond like you, nor should you ever want them to be so. Their weaknesses are your strengths, their strengths are your weaknesses. God put you together to complete one another…for two whole people to become one flesh.
Our problem is that we all start out with some level of narcissism. Narcissism isn’t selfish behavior per se; a narcissist might appear very meek, self-sacrificing and compassionate. That’s just the image they’re wanting to project. The point is, no matter what’s on the surface, when we look under the hood we all find out that we’ve been embracing an image of ourselves and what we think we and everyone else should be like.
For instance, when we first came to Christ, and entered into our marriage, we did so for ourselves…with our own particular self-imaged view of love and how God and everybody else should act.
God is also quite happy to shatter this image for us so that we can see Him and others rightly. This is the process of transformation. It’s not easy for any of us to “face ourselves” in our relationships; for some, it’s a constant battleground. But know this: your spouse, family, friends, your church, the government, a new love…are not your problem nor the solution. What you’re looking for is found in this cooperative process of self-discovery with God. (I devote a whole chapter to this in my book.)
You can run anywhere you want; you just can’t run away from what’s in you.
The only person you can change is yourself. I can’t make my wife change; I can only change myself. No amount of bullying, manipulation or control through fear will change anything except make things worse. But when I change myself, something miraculous happens. Everyone and everything in my “world” changes, too!
Transformation happens in the cooperative process between the Spirit of God working in you and your willingness to change what’s going on between your ears. No one else is responsible for this process but you, and only Christ can free you from yourself.
One more point that will save years of heartache. We need to show the same grace for our partner as we would want for ourselves. The trouble most people have with grace is that it goes both ways. Many seem to think it means that as long as they behave the way we expect them to behave, they deserve our grace. Hopefully, you are seeing the flaw in that logic! Give each other LOTS of space and grace to grow.
Of course, you may be willing to cooperate fully with this whole process and your partner is not, so I’m not suggesting that a happy marriage is totally up to you. But it still means that the only person you can change is you. And even if your relationship fails, you must commit to allowing God take you through this process. If not to restore your marriage, at least to help you with your future relationships.
I pray you find this helpful. There are certainly many practical things I could share about marriage and relationships, but none of them work without doing these things.
Keep your love on!