Some people might say that a person who has been divorced writing about marriage is like the architect of the Titanic writing about shipbuilding.
True enough. The flip side is that I am a bit of an expert on what doesn't work.
When my fiancé and I went to church for our premarital classes, we were clearly the only ones there with gray hair and wrinkles. The other couples looking to get married resembled innocent babes in our eyes. They were doe-eyed and hopeful...ready to embark, for the first time, upon this mysterious fantasy called marriage.
What my fiancé and I brought to the table was something a little different. Between us we had 45+ years of marriage under our belts. We had navigated the waters of abuse and infidelity among other things. We knew that it took two people to want to make the marriage work...and I DO mean Work (no slackers need apply). The failure of a marriage is never 100% one person's fault and 0% the other person's fault. We had made our share of mistakes too.
With all that being said, I've thought a lot about what nuggets of been-there-done-that wisdom I could impart to those thinking about marriage and those who are in the process of navigating the waters of marriage.
Before you say "I do": Pray and Wait. God promises wisdom to all those who ask and often asks us (much to our dismay) to wait. There's wisdom to be found in waiting, but we want to follow the butterflies and our own impulsiveness. Dating for a long time allows you to see the good, the bad and the ugly. Going through adversity while you are dating is a good indicator of how your potential mate will react when you face adversity as a married couple. Take careful notes.
Ask yourself, "What is my motivation?": Why do you truly want to be married. "Because I'm looking for someone to complete me" is not a good answer. You ARE complete in Christ and only in Him. Others can compliment you but they can't complete you. Are you wanting to get married because you are afraid of being alone? Is everyone else getting married and you feel like you better hop on the train before it leaves the station? Are you settling? God has a good and perfect plan for your life. Often He has in mind a Godiva chocolate bar for us and we are willing to settle for a tootsie roll.
Don't ignore the red flags: If you've been divorced you know what I'm talking about. The things you believe will magically fix themselves once you are married or the things you think you will be able to fix in your partner. There's a difference in seeing past the small flaws in another person, but ignoring red flags can be detrimental in the end. Also study family dynamics and the role models (parents) of your potential spouse. Are there healthy relationships? We all have a certain amount of dysfunction in our families, but I have found that people either tend to repeat what has been modeled to them or they do a 180. What track is your potential spouse on? What track are you on?
Do not be unequally yoked: If you are a Christ follower, I can't emphasize this one enough. Oxen that are of equal size and temperament pull the load equally together. If your potential mate is an unbeliever, the load will get hard and heavy if you are having to pull it yourself. You may be able to do it in the short run, but over years it becomes burdensome. God had our very best in mind in 2 Corinthians 6:14: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers."
He knows better than anyone how difficult marriage can be and his intent is that no one falters because the burden is too heavy for one person to pull.
After you say "I do": For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the law can be summed up in this one command: "LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." [emphasis mine] (Galatians 5:13-14)
We read this scripture at our marriage ceremony. When it gets right down to it...if we really wanted to have successful marriages, we would post this scripture over our door frames and we would set it before us as our goal.
What if every day we woke up and said, "Today I am going to try to out love my spouse!"
What if each day we set aside our own selfish desires and said, "Today I am going to out serve my spouse?"
What if we stopped asking ourselves, "What's in it for me?" and instead asked God to let us be a vessel through which God's love was poured out on our spouse?
Our marriages might look radically different.
Pray Together: I love that my husband and I start our day together in prayer. It sets the navigational compass for the whole day. Even when I head to bed before my husband does, I ask him to wake me up so that we can pray together before we fall asleep. God is the Alpha and the Omega...we need to pray to Him in the beginning and in the end. And husbands, as the spiritual head of the household, pray over your wife each day. There is nothing sexier than a man on his knees in prayer!
Forgive: Forgive and show grace and mercy again and again and again. I love it when my husband says that he loves me "because of" not "in spite of". He looks for the best in me and forgives me when I fall short (which is a lot)!
I suppose I could prattle on for quite a few more paragraphs (thank you for indulging me thus far). I am passionate about making my marriage work and if others can learn from my mistakes then my life is an open book. I would also like to learn from successful marriages out there!
I'll end with some words I love by the wonderful writer Ann Voskamp:
There are no standing lovers: the only way to love is to lay down.
Lay down plans
Lay down agendas
Lay down self
Love is always the laying down. Love lets go of its plans to hold onto a person.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what goes into making a successful marriage. As always I pray for ALL my readers and if I can pray for you regarding something specific, let me know.
In His love,
ps. This is the last chance to comment and be entered in the drawing to win a DaySpring scripture mug and Starbucks gift card.