Crowds of our closest friends and family roared with excitement as we pushed open the door and stepped out onto streets of Downtown Portland! Gwen Stefani’s ‘Sweet Escape’ played out in the open air as we made our way down the steps, where a Volkswagen convertible waited for us -the backseat filled with beautifully adorned presents.
After last hugs and well wishes, we waved until everyone lining the streets behind us had faded into the distance. I let out a deep sigh of relief and grabbed the hand of my new husband. A perfect end, to a perfect day!
At the stoplight, a flood of panic ensues! He looks at me, You grabbed my bag right? The one with all my clothes? I have no idea what he is talking about. WE HAVE TO GO BACK THEN! He persists. I instantly burst into tears at the thought! He turns the car around and I literally scream out to him, YOU ARE GOING TO RUIN MY EXIT!!! I plead with him to turn the car around, imagining the embarrassment of going back to face our guests just to casually grab a bag, when we had just previously exited so dramatically- so perfectly!
He turns to see tears streaming down my face, his eyes soften when they make contact with mine. This is not how you envision your first moments together as husband and wife.
He ends up giving in to my demand and leaves his bag behind -And our wedding night is instead, spent searching for a gas station in an attempt to find toothpaste!
But I was happy-
because at least everything looked perfect from the outside!
Isn’t that how marriage so often is? We are content so long as we look perfect.
So long as our family doesn’t suspect anything has gone awry, and so long as our Facebook profile represents what a picturesque family should look like to all of our friends.
Though our tear stained faces, and nightly yelling matches may prove otherwise!
After celebrating my 6th wedding anniversary last night, I got to thinking about the most significant lessons I have learned over the last few years. And believe I am in no way saying that I know it all in our mere 6 years, or that the lessons I share are ones that we have mastered. ‘I speak from scars and not theory…’
Lesson #1: Practice Fighting
My husband and I were doing premarital counseling with a couple just months before they were to get married, when on the topic of ‘conflict resolution’ they brought up the fact that they don’t often get in arguments and even when they do, it’s always about something petty.
The couple then described their last disagreement which was about whether Sweet Potatoes were the same as Yams. We laughed with them as they described how the conversation actually got heated! They couldn’t agree, and it resulted in the both of them getting frustrated with each other!
Those of you who have been married for even a month, know that married couple have no problem finding MUCH more to fight about then just spuds! But I have found for my husband and I, it’s not what we fight about or even how often, it’s how we fight that is most important!
If my husband and I have a differing opinion on who should take out the trash, and every time its brought up I shut down and he leaves the house in a fit of rage, then how do you expect we will handle a different – more serious – conflict?
In our case, we resorted back to what we knew – to the unhealthy fighting habits we had put into place from the beginning! And because of that, our lack of communication skills nearly threatened to end our marriage before it had truly even started!
I don’t care what you are fighting about potatoes, pa-ta-toes, or who’s choice in carpet matches better with the curtains; Practice fighting each fight as if its a BIG one, because the truth is, one day it will be!
Life can bring deaths in the family, children, surmounting bills, and debilitating illnesses -all of which make effective communication more difficult. But if you allow yourselves to struggle in the beginning – doing your best to make a habit of good communication and problem solving in the small areas – when difficult circumstances arrive in the future, you will have already worked out most of the kinks that will help you walk through the most daunting disagreements a little more effortlessly!
Lesson#2: Say Nothing Negative to your Spouse
Two years into our marriage, my husband and I were at a crossroads; He had hurt me, and I had forgotten how to love him. We didn’t have children yet, and were considering our options of walking away from it all and getting a divorce.
We wanted it to work, it just didn’t seem likely that it would.
It was around that time, that we picked up the book “Love Dare” from the movie Fireproof (that I’ll admit, had me falling asleep due to incredibly horendous acting. No offense Kirk, my heart still skips a beat for you on ‘Growing Pains’)
The reason I bought the book though, was because it was a devotional that each day gave you an assignment on how to better love your spouse – which is exactly what I was struggling to do at the time!
The first assignment: For the next day resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If temptation arises, choose to not say anything.
I kid you not, it took me 9 whole days to sucessfully complete this assignment!!!!
For the life of me, I could not stop making biting remarks towards my husband!
“Don’t say anything negative….Don’t say anything negative…” I would think to myself, and then I’d nag at him about the dirty dishes in the sink.
“Don’t say anything negative…” and then I would bring up his past and why we were in our predicament in the first place!
Either way – whether justified or nit picky – the book clearly said “Say nothing negative to your spouse” -and I even more clearly, sucked at it! I could only wonder how long the rest of the book was going to take me!
But the truth is, once I got past the first assignment, I was surprised to find that the rest of the book – and the journey to learning to love my husband – got a whole lot easier!
Choosing simply, to not to cut each other down, laid the foundation to help us build our marriage back up!
In the book “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts” they discuss a study conducted by Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington. ‘Gottman and his team of researchers have been studying marriages for more than twenty years, identifying which ones will improve and which ones will deteriorate. They are now even able to predict their results with an astounding 95 percent accuracy rate!! ‘
He says it’s all about how the couple can handle conflict within their marriage. And he goes on to discuss ‘the four ways of interacting that will sabotage you attempts to resolve conflict constructively’
The #1 way to sabotage your marriage: criticizing your spouse!
Saying negative things to your spouse is proven in this study to be a gateway for the other things that can creep in and destroy your marriage! (You can read more on that here)
Lesson #3: Admit Defeat
This might not mean what you initially think it means.
Admitting defeat to me, means finding someone you trust and being honest about what you and your husband are going through. Let go of the perfect image you are trying to uphold and reveal your true dishelved selves.
This lesson proved to be one of the most helpful steps we took in our marriage – I only wish, I would have done it on purpose!
I doubt I would have, if it wasn’t for a family friend who came up to me after church one night and asked how Ricky and I were doing, and when without thinking, I responded with a desperate plea for prayer. I can remember regretting my vulnerability almost immediately! Yet because of that vulnerability, God was able to use her as a pivotal piece to getting my marriage back on track!
She met me regularly for breakfast over the course of that year; relating to my heartache, walking with me through my uncertainty, and telling me of the miraculous ways that God had saved her marriage 15 years prior!
In Psalm 145:4-6 It illustrates this perfectly
Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
let them proclaim your power.
I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.
Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
I will proclaim your greatness.
Find someone who can speak up when God seems silent, and remind you of all the extraordinary ways He has provided for them in their lives and in their marriages!
Someone who’s story gives you the hope to hang in there just a little longer – to give it your all until there is nothing left- so that we too, can proclaim His greatness when he transforms our most fragile relationships one day!
But in order to do so, we have to step away from the facade that we have been living behind, and admit we can’t do this on our own.
Lesson #4: Meet At The Cross
I had the privilege of hearing a Pastor by the name of Wayne Codeiro speak just last year in Orlando, Florida. And what he would say in a room of thousands of other pastor’s and their wives would be a game changer for me and my marriage!
He spoke of a prenuptial agreement he made with his wife before they got married:
After asking her what she would do in a handful of different scenarios that could occur over the course of their lives, his wife always responded, “I will follow you”
“What if it gets really tough?” he pressed
“I will still follow you!” she replied with no hesitation.
“We’re going to get lost you know…”
Confused, she asked what he meant.
“We are going to get lost, and there will be be times where you or I might drift… but will you make me a promise?”
“When we get lost and we can’t see the light of day -when we can’t find each other- would you promise that you would meet me back at cross?
He pauses, tears whelling in his eyes as he outloud recalls the conversation he had with his wife 38 years ago,
“And if I stray, will you wait for me?
I pledge that I will come back.
And if I get there before you, I promise I will wait for you.
Just meet me at the cross.”
The truth is, we stand with our spouse before God on our wedding day- dressed to the nines, giddy and clammy-handed, anxiously awaiting our future together- and yet along the way we do get lost, and our future together may no longer seem identifiable.
But I pray in that moment, each of us could stand together in the presence of the same God -badly bruised and broken maybe– but willing!
Expect to lose sight of one another,
but promise even then that you will meet at the cross.