With our three year anniversary arriving, I can’t help but laugh when I think I am actually married. You know when you’re in elementary school, probably playing the MASH game, and you’re describing your future husband? I think I recall choosing hot celebrities (to my seven year old mind) like Brad Pitt and thinking it wasn’t the furthest hope from reality. Now, 27 and 3 years deep into my marriage, I look at Ike and think, “Hm, so this is the guy I was waiting for.” I spent countless evenings wondering what he would be like and here I am.
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Marriage is absolutely one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve encountered in life not because my husband is so wonderful but the concept of forgiving love is so surreal. You watch someone’s failures over and over and over again… and somehow still find a desire toward them. It’s quite different from when you are dating. When you’re early in your courtship (yes, I really just used that word), you often see more good than bad. You see their great qualities and get a taste of their brokenness – usually limited by how much it can actually affect your own life. In marriage, however, you have a lifetime of failures and let’s be real.. they’re more frequent than we like and can shake our lives just as much since we’re now a joint home. I’ll be the first to admit some days I wake up on the wrong side of bed and I start the day snappy. I cut him off when he’s speaking. I respond with a barbed attitude. You probably do the same if you’re honest… and that’s okay. For me, I have this incredible hope that one day I know God will raise me up to a level of perfection that I never could have achieved in my own efforts.
Until then, the beauty of it all is that you choose stay in light of your mutual brokenness. When we first discussed marriage, we knew we would come to a place when our mutual failures would be crippling and we would question if we wanted to stay together. That day has actually come…… and has passed. We’re still here and I can still say marriage is as beautiful as I imagined but for very different reasons. When we were riding to the grocery store the other day, Ike looked at me and said, “I can actually say I am enjoying being married.” I was shocked because we are both honest with one another that it doesn’t always feel ‘easy’ or ‘enjoyable’ every day but when we are both submitting our hearts and wills to God, joy and peace always mend the shortcomings. I hope it goes without saying that the number one gem in my marriage is our relationship with God. I genuinely don’t believe that a marriage can be as fulfilling as God intended without his presence.
Can you truly love without God? Sure, I believe it’s a common grace all men have. Can you enjoy the fullness of the gift of marriage without God? No, I can’t say so.
I’ve seen beautiful marriages and I am praying that God takes Ike and I so much further in regards to our ministry, service, and passion for one another. As I dive into the five lessons I’ve learned in marriage, know that God must be the foundation. I’ll have to dive more into what that has meant for us in the future.
The 5 Lessons I’ve Learned In My Marriage
1. Keep your sexuality within the marriage
Yes, we are going there. I have to bring this up because it is not discussed among women nearly enough and it can unintentionally damage your marriage. Sexuality can surface in many ways. Perhaps it’s that you enjoy the attention of others, you can easily connect emotionally with men, you watch pornography, you’re addicted to (unrealistic) movies that show affairs, etc. Any one of these can get us and it’s okay to admit it. All of these can shape how we approach our marriage or let toxicity ruin our marriage. We have to learn to express sexuality (even flirtation) within our marriage…exclusively. If you don’t feel sexy, talk to your husband – not someone else – about it. Your sexuality belongs to one another and if you’re exercising it outside of your marriage with someone else or selfishly only with yourself, you’re robbing one another.
Typically at marriage conferences, only men get the pornography discussion but I think it’s an important topic to discuss with women as well. In fact, 73% of women admitted to watching pornography recently and are 113% more likely to search for a common term that indicate roughness (source, source). There are incredible Christian resources that are governed by women and help women not only understand the weight of pornography in their Christian marriages but also pray with them as they move away. I highly recommend this Facebook group for anyone interested.
2. Being a help mate means you have to help when they need it – not just when they’re easy to help
I will be the first to raise my hand. I don’t always want to help Ike especially when he’s upset me. The abundantly petty side of me wants to leave him in his own mess (when it’s his fault) and let him enjoy it. As his wife, who has promised to be his partner, I can’t let pettiness get in the way of my vow. We have gone through some really turbulent storms where I would have full justification to pull away and leave him in the storm alone but I’ve learned that when I walk under the weight with him when he actually needs it, I can touch his heart far deeper than when I’m only helpful on the good days. As a spouse, you’re meant to especially be the stormy day friend. Don’t steal that from one another just because you’re upset.
3. Create goals together
I don’t mean a house or a dog. Create goals that equally excite both of you. It may be travel, it may be trying things around town, or getting in shape. Creating goals with one another allows you to both strive toward something but also allows you to show aspiration and commitment which are two very attractive traits if you ask me. I made the mistake of making many of our goals without asking Ike what he wanted to do and he kindly brought it to my attention. I had no idea! That doesn’t mean that I don’t have good ideas, it just means I could have done better to create the goal with him rather than for him.
4. Choose to see him through the same lens from when you first met
When I first met Ike, I’d describe him as charming, reckless, and mysterious. Seven years in, I don’t know if I can say he’s still a mystery to me. I can, however, choose to him through that same lens even though I know everything about him. This one is hard to describe but some times it’s healthy to take a step back, allow your partner to charm you as if it was the first time, surprise you as if they didn’t already know your favorites, and speak with you as if it were your first conversation. The same way you choose to be in the moment is the same way you choose the lens in which you interact with them.
5. Dance often and freely
Playfulness and joy is impossible to resist. I can be the biggest pain in the butt (and I usually am) and apologize and dance through the living room and I know that I will at least get a smirk from Ike. Stand on the couch and bust a groove and invite him to join in. Sometimes you need to dance a little bit and shake off all the heaviness in the house. It’s comforting for you when he smiles and joins in and it’s stress relief for you both when you can connect for a brief moment.
I know these are simple but it’s what I have for now. It’s inconsistent but my marriage is becoming far more than just affection for one another but rather forgiving, committed, and really flippin’ groovy with as much Stevie Wonder as we play. I love it more and more every day.
I’d love to know if you all are married yet and what you’re most expecting or have learned in your marriage. Tell me in the comments below!