I married the wrong person

I may as well get that right out in the open.

I did not marry my "soul mate", nor did I marry someone who completes me.   He doesn't make me happy.  He wasn't my ticket to a better life.  He didn't  make me want to be a better person, in reality, marriage tempted me to become a much worse person.

{August, 10 1996}

It didn't take long into my whirlwind engagement and marriage at the age of 19 years old to realize these things.    However, it took me at least a decade to figure out that "making me happy" wasn't  a part of my husband's job description or even a healthy way to look at marriage.   When two needy people run toward each other like human vacuums it doesn't create a self sacrificing, servant hearted, loving atmosphere...it creates life sucking chaos.

  Contrary to what popular romantic culture, and the Bachelor, would have us believe there is no perfect "soul mate" waiting to "complete" us.   In reality marriage is two kingdoms colliding, but there is a third Kingdom that enables us to become one...even if that oneness is still sometimes messy.

 I should probably break it to you now....you didn't marry the "right" person either. "The one" who will make your dreams come true doesn't exist. You most likely married someone with baggage, selfishness, unhealthy coping skills, and pride.   The most astonishing news of all might be that...your spouse married that wrong person too!   We ALL marry the "wrong" person because we are all wrong people.  Two sinners doing life together most certainly does NOT equal happily ever after without a whole lot of effort.   This doesn't mean being married to that person is wrong.  Just because marriage isn't always sunshine and roses, doesn't mean that God doesn't have a glorious purpose for your relationship.

  "I married the wrong person", "love shouldn't be work", and  "I deserve to be happy".  I've heard even Christians say these things as they walk away from a marriage.  If these lies are becoming a regular part of your thought life and you are tempted to give up hope... the good news is that a great marriage doesn't come without the bad times, it comes after them...when we are willing to do the tough stuff to get through it.  A good marriage comes from years of perseverance, sacrifice, and tenacity.   It is shaped in the fires of mistakes, disappointments, failures, repentance and humility. (Of course, if one person selfishly walks away there isn't much the other person can do but pick up the pieces.)

In all truth, I will only ever need one "soulmate".   There will only ever be one who fulfills me.   There is only one who can bring me true joy.  There is only one Savior and one God who will love me perfectly.  Out of that perfect love I have been given all I need to love my spouse.  Instead of bitterly focusing on what your spouse doesn't do, or who he isn't like, focus on Jesus ...what He did, who He is.

"Because Jesus has done everything for you, you can do everything for others without needing others to do anything for you. That's freedom!"  Tullian Tchivijian

We can't continue to view marriage as a 50/50 arrangement.  Both the husband and the wife will keep score differently and become frustrated when they don't see the other pulling their fair share.  Marriage has to be 100%.  We have to give 100% regardless of what our spouse does or doesn't do.  In time you might just love her into being  lovable, or respect him into being respectable.  

 When we expect things from our husband that can only come from God, we have turned him into our god, our functional savior.   He becomes our idol.   That which we idolize we will also come to demonize when they fail to rescue us, perfectly love us, or live up to all our expectations.   It won't take long before all we see are the failures. Our vision becomes colored by our own bitterness.  Sadly that's where most people lose hope, count their losses, and bail out.

I remember specific days, months and years that I assumed this would eventually be our tragic end.  I thought about it, expected it, and sometimes even prepared for it.   Although I didn't ever leave the marriage legally, I did bail out emotionally....and that's really not much better.  It was a lonely place to be.

By God's grace our story didn't end there.

There is hope for renewal.  There is hope for a beautiful, deep, soul nurturing friendship with our spouse.
Instead of saying "I deserve a new spouse" or  "I deserve to be happy".  We should start with the question  "How can I BE a new wife to my husband?"
"How can I BE a better friend?"
"How can I love him like Jesus loves me?" (even when you don't even like him all that much)
Start by praying that your own heart would be changed....then pray for him in an unselfish way.

After all, love isn't a feeling that we passively fall in and out of.....true love is a choice, it is an action.   True love isn't following our shallow little hearts it is purposefully leading our hearts.   True love isn't doing what feels "right", it's doing right even when we don't feel like it.

{15 years and more in love than ever}

What if we looked at marriage as a journey toward holiness rather than our recipe for happiness (If that recipe didn't work for us, we throw it out and try another).  As we learn to forgive, repent, and show grace we start to image Christ a little more.    As the years slowly start to chip away our own selfishness and pride we start to view our spouse a little more like Jesus does...and we start to actually see our own sin instead of just magnifying theirs.

Fifteen and a half years after those two starry eyed strangers walked down the isle together, I can honestly say we are more in love, we are better friends, and we actually like each other (most of the time).  We are no longer looking at each other through lenses filled with stars and rainbows, or lenses filled with bitterness and hurt....we are looking through lenses of grace and truth.

I adore my husband, not as my functional savior, but as my best friend.
When he's away, I eagerly anticipate his return.  I feel like a part of me is amputated
we have FUN together.
We laugh with each other.
We are honest with each other.
We enjoy each other's company.
We pray for and with each other.
We serve others together...and we serve each other.
He helps me want to be more like Jesus.

I thank God that my life is blessed by him.

He loves, leads and sacrificially serves his family in a way that reflects more and more how Christ loves, leads and sacrificially serves the Church.  

You can have a new marriage with the SAME spouse too!  It is possible through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work in two selfish hearts.   We are living proof of that beautiful resurrection marriage.

Here are some resources that have recently been helpful in our quest to love each other better.  You have to start somewhere...and that usually starts with one person deciding that the marriage is worth fighting for.

A new book that we recently read together is called "Real Marriage, the truth about sex, friendship, and life together."  It was a very helpful, very vulnerable, very honest, ...and apparently (based on some reviews) even a little bit controversial  look at marriage.  I suppose it's "controversial" because it doesn't shy away from Biblical truth but at the same time it isn't filled with sugar coated churchy platitudes. It talks about real issues that affect real marriages in this generation, within the framework of God's design for marriage. It may not be written for the 80 year old organ player at your church, but in our hyper-sexualized, confused culture...it is very timely.

We liked it.   It's focus on marital friendship was refreshing.

My home church has also started a marriage series along the same themes.  Check it out...so far it's really good.  Seriously, put it on your ipod and listen to it.  You can find the first sermon here.http://gracesask.com/media/?sermon_id=70  . The first message is  "New marriage , same spouse".   If you look back a few weeks there are some really great sermons on things like forgiveness and bitterness that aren't part of the marriage series but are super good....and obviously apply to marriage as well.

Another book , that I haven't read yet but I hear is really good, is a book by
Tim Keller called "The meaning of Marriage"

Looks like it's the year of reclaiming our marriages!

Why settle for a lifeless marriage when God wants to transform our marriages into something that reflects both the beauty of the gospel and the oneness of the Trinity.


Marcy said...

Right on! It is so crazy I was thinking about these same things the last couple of days. It may have been spurred on by an ad on the Edm radio station about a Bachelor-like reality show. They make me gag...can't stand 'em. Anyways, so glad you wrote on this. I am going to share your words of wisdom. We are almost 19 yrs in and a lifetime to go!

Marcy said...

by the way, you guys were so cute! And you ARE so cute now too. Great pics

Jenn said...

Excellent post! A book series we did in Sunday School a little while ago was on the book "Love and War" by John Eldredge which was really good. I too had a whirlwind engagement and married at 19 as well. 13 yrs and counting!

Allison said...

So true, Carla. I think the main difference between those that walk away and those that don't is the CHOICE to walk away or to stay. Just because Ryan and I are still together doesn't mean we haven't been through hard winters in our marriage. But we have chosen to stick together in the bitter cold, knowing we decided, almost 10 years ago, before God, to stay together for life! And I truly believe God blesses that commitment time and time again!

Sherri said...

Very true.
The one major thing that improved our marriage for me particularly was when I realized that I didn't NEED to be married to my husband. I didn't need him for my happiness. I CHOOSE to be with him. I still everyday chose to be with him. It made for a much easier time for both of us. :)

I also wanted to let you know that I linked you up today with my Random 11 blog post. I am really hoping you can join up.