Tim’s Note: This post is from my friend Michelle who has known me since I was about 12 years old. Michelle and I both were involved with the same organization (CEF) and I’ve come to know he entire family extremely well over the years. Michelle also just started her own blog and you can check that out here (https://mountainsandvalleysofmommyhood.wordpress.com) -TW
About 3 months ago, Tim wrote about watching the perfect marriage while growing up. As I read it I was reminded of my own childhood and living with my parents, who had a great marriage too. Like Tim’s parents, mine were rarely angry at each other and never fought in front of us. They disciplined us, loved each other, worked together, submitted and lead properly and pointed us all to Jesus. So in my naive mind I thought all marriages, with Jesus’ help and a Disney flair of happily ever after, were perfect. But since getting married almost 7 years ago, I’ve realized that marriage is a divine gift given to very fallible humans who have unrealistic expectations and think that they can wade through these treacherous waters by themselves! I’ve also learned that while my parents were great, my marriage will never look exactly like theirs.
So here’s what I’ve learned from watching a great marriage and living one that will, hopefully, be great too:
- My husband and I are NOT ever going to be the same as my parents.
My parents are both middle children in big families and while I’m also from a big family (the oldest of 9, yes nine!) I am a first born and by nature not as laid back as my parents and some of my younger siblings. My husband is also a first born, but only of two. He was also raised in a very different family dynamic than me or my parents. So just our personalities and upbringing play a huge role! As first born we both want to be in charge and lead. We’ve had to learn when to let the other person take the lead and to trust each other. (Btw… for those of you who aren’t first born, trusting another person to lead, even someone you love a lot, is REALLY hard! As a side note, if you’re interested in birth order and personalities it can be an interesting study.)
- Not going to bed angry is important, but learning to say “I’m sorry” is even more important.
I always wanted a marriage where we never went to bed angry and since I rarely saw my parents disagree and never saw them fight I thought that was a possibility. It is possible, but it takes a lot of humility and commitment to working things out. And since I never saw my parents fight and rarely saw them disagree I also never saw them make up! So I didn’t learn a lot about conflict resolution. I’ve also been convicted lately about having a pride issue. But my husband is great at apologizing! He has actually taught me and our kids more by his humble example than anyone else. He says sorry to me and our children whenever he needs to.
- Marriage is A LOT of work!
I’m sure my parents worked hard to make their marriage what it was, but I probably wasn’t paying attention till I was much older and they tended to talk about anything important away from little ears. So I never understood how much work it is, especially the first couple years! Since my hubby and I are from such different family dynamics it has added to our work load. Like Tim, I’m from a fairly stable family and never dealt with divorce, mixed families, etc. But my husband has dealt with step parents, divorce, abuse, and then some. We’ve had to learn to be able to disagree and work through it, to understand that we have completely different points of view sometimes, to realize that it’s not about “winning” but about doing what’s right & best for our family.
- Being submissive and loving each other sometimes means calling each other out on our sin.
We know each other better than almost anyone else and we know each other’s weaknesses, struggles and hurt better than anyone. But we have to because those things effect both of us! We are married; we are one in many ways and this is one of them. So when one of us chooses to wallow in our own crap it hurts us both. We are learning to call each other out on the sin in our lives, hold each other accountable, tell each other everything ASAP and forgive each other. This takes a lot of humility! (Did I mention I have a pride issue?) It also takes a lot of wisdom and prayer!
- Kid’s change everything!
Losing sleep, having to decide how you will discipline your kids, and dealing with the daily stress of little people driving you crazy will test a relationship like almost nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, we laugh at them every day and love them so much! But like anything that’s worth doing well, being a parent is hard. This is also an area where our different upbringings can hinder us, because we have to be clear about our plans and expectations. I’ve learned to relax about what my kids see and hear (we didn’t have a TV growing up… another story for another time.) and talk to them about everything, while my hubby has had to learn to be more careful about what they see and hear. It’s a balancing act.
- Lastly, marriage isn’t a fairy tale!
Please talk to your kids (once they’re old enough to pay attention) about what a real marriage is like. Feel free to work through things and say I’m sorry in front of them. Most fairy tales portray a princess and a prince riding off into the sunset and living happily ever after. I love the fact that so many animated movies have focused on other relationships (sisters, mother and daughter, etc.) lately. I wish some of those had been around when I was a kid. I also wish someone had reminded me that Christian romance novels are FICTION!!! I don’t know anyone whose marriage looks anything like I ever read in one of those books. Marriage is real life; dirty laundry, paying bills, changing diapers (once you have kids) and all the day to day mess. It’s wonderful if you work at it, but you do have to work. (I agree with Tim that our generation doesn’t like to work hard. I have to admit there are times when I’d rather not “work” at my marriage.)
I know I have a lot more to learn. Being married less than a decade is not much time. We hope to have many more years to get to know each other, raise our kids together and figure out this crazy, wonderful life.