I told you a few months ago that I was performing a 30-day attitude adjustment. What I didnâ€™t tell you is that I’ve had to check my attitude several times throughout my marriage.
In this series on marriage, we are about to get real (if I could drop a mic, I would right now). Iâ€™m going to share with you some of my ugliest moments early on in marriage, and some marriage stories from other contributors.
I know this fact: if you are married, youâ€™ve had dark times. Period. Itâ€™s not always what itâ€™s cracked up to be. Iâ€™ve been there.
I am here to say that I love being married to Kevin more than I ever have, and our marriageâ€”although full of ups and downsâ€”is better than ever. God has been good.
The best marital advice Iâ€™ve ever received came from my mentor Shannon Ethridge; She says to put all of your eggs in one basket. I know that sounds simple. But, the point is to put all of your heart, soul, and mind into intimacy with your spouse.
That simple act changed my entire attitude about marriage. But, before we talk about reward, youâ€™ve gotta read about the trials (and errors)â€¦
â€œA Manâ€™s best fortune, or his worst, is his wife.â€ â€“ Thomas Fuller
â€œThatâ€™s not exactly what I said.â€
â€œI know. You said â€˜Marriage is hard work.â€™ But letâ€™s cut the crap. Letâ€™s call it what it really is. â€
â€œWell, thatâ€™s not how I feel. I love you. I love our life. I love being married to you. Weâ€™re just in a difficult season.â€
â€œItâ€™s been a tough season for a long time. Itâ€™s not our season. Itâ€™s our marriage.â€
A couple years into our marriage, I threw a water bottle at my husband. Iâ€™m a pastorâ€™s wife. But youâ€™d never know it based on the full-water-bottle-flying-directly-at-my-husbandâ€™s-head-incident. Thankfully, for both of us, I have terrible aim…
Before getting married and having children, these were my presumptions of marriage:
I would fall deeply in love with a good man, marry that man, and have sex with him all the time.
- I would have a boy and a girl child and all would be wonderful and peaceful.
- Iâ€™d be a proverbs 31 womanâ€¦.
- My husband would be my perfect compliment.
- Marriage would make me happy and fulfill my emotional needs.
I have studied Theology, I’m married to a man with two Masterâ€™s Degrees in Bible. We’ve done pre-marital counseling for many a newly-engaged couples. So, I know the truth that marriage is work. Love is sacrificial and active. I am well aware of the fact that you are supposed to stay committed to your spouse for the long-haul because emotions come and go, but true love is a choice.
Knowing that truth is an altogether different thing than acting on it, and as a newlywed, my attitude towards marriage and towards my husband werenâ€™t pretty.
When I expressed my frustrations to girlfriends, weâ€™d all just laugh or speak in superlatives as if we were talking about our children. Oh Men. They are so frustrating. They are all forgetful. They are so thoughtless. They just donâ€™t know any better. And weâ€™d encourage each other to keep going, They are good men after all. When marriage was talked about in church or small group, it always came back to the same bottom line: Love is not an emotion. Itâ€™s a choice. Marriage is hard work. Marriage is longsuffering. Marriage is a sanctification process.
But what I couldnâ€™t say, what I never spoke aloud until the infamous water bottle fight, is that I felt like I was in marital purgatory. I was ashamed to admit itâ€”because I married such a devoted, loving husband and godly manâ€”that I was disillusioned and disappointment with how my life had turned out.
I was tired of attending weddings where the minister hardy-har-harred, â€œWell, you may love this woman now, but just you wait ten years…when she shows up with fifteen more pounds on her and her hair in rollers, thatâ€™s when you gotta choose to love.â€
When I looked around at those weddings, at the couples holding hands, celebrating wrinkles and anniversaries, pounds gained, hairs grayed (and rollered), children borne and lost, I wondered if it was worth it. Were they glad they got married? Did they experience joy in their longsuffering? In their work of marriage?
I sought help from marriage books; I generally adore marriage books. They are good reminders, full of skills-given, lessons learned. But as I read them, I only got more frustrated because no one was truly opening up their own marriage. Authors shared about silly arguments over who cooked breakfast, but nobody wrote about what to do when you felt like you were stuck.
So, I began to pray, seek guidance from trusted mentors and counselors, and search my own heart to see where I needed to change. As you know, I am a list person. After our big water bottle row, I made a list of lies I was believing about marriage that were affecting my attitude:
- We got married too fast and too young.
- Another man would be easier to deal with.
- We are not soul mates.
- He is not the one.
- I made a mistake.
- Movies and novels are an accurate portrayal of love.
I also made this revelation about myself: I had spent the first year of marriage desperately trying NOT to be a stereotypical fifties housewife. I shuddered at the thought of getting dressed up and putting on makeup just because the man was coming home from work. I would have never dreamed of having a hot meal on the table right at 5:30pm just because he expected it.
But what if my rejection and reluctance of a being a woman who serves her husband was getting me nowhere? What if my own ideals of femininity and justice were getting in the way of my personal happiness? I know how this sounds. What I am not saying is that being inauthentic is a good option, nor am I saying that being a doormat is at all reasonable. I’m still in my pj’s sans makeup every time Kevin comes home from work (poor guy). That’s my season of life.
But what if choosing to put him first, choosing to show him kindness, encouragement, and yes that might even include cooking for him, were actually miracles? What if they were the quotidian magic that Kathleen Norris writes about, whereby we experience God in the repetitive and mundane tasks of servanthood?
In her book Sexuality and Holy Longing, Lisa McMinn writes,
â€œThe pairing of people as husbands and wives is a practice as old as the Garden of Eden. Marriage provides a temporary home, one that will never satisfy completely our deepest longings for home, but nevertheless, is a place for sexual expression and celebration, a place for forgiveness and grace, a place to love and be loved. As fallible humans, we do not love perfectly; we disappoint our spouses and they disappoint us. But those who marry can yet discover a fragrance of Eden in marriage so long as they do not presume that marriage will fill completely the aloneness of their souls and their longing to be loved and known,and to belong.â€
Could I let go of my failing presumptions about marriage and experience those “fragrances of Eden” instead?
I set out to make (and experience) a new list of truths about marriage:
- Reality can be better than my fantasy, because romantic fantasy is a lie.
- Because I am married to Kevin, that means he is Mr. Right. By virtue of our vows, not by virtue of my fluctuating emotions, he is my soul-mate. Period.
- I can enjoy sex more fully by investing in emotional intimacy with my husband.
- My husband cannot meet all of my needs, but that does not mean I am alone.
More on how my attitude-journey unfolded later.
Next up: A Marriage That Survived, My Marriage and Other Dead Things, from blogger, Bill Scarrott
And in honor of Valentine’s Day, if you haven’t seen this Starbucks coupon: Enjoy!
 A wife of noble character, a woman whose children and husband praise her. In other words, the perfect woman.