I don’t remember who I was telling (maybe my editor?) that I would never write a book on marriage because I stink at it. Marriage is not my forte. I got nothin’. Except, you know, a marriage. BUT IT’S HARD AND I’M NO GOOD AT IT. I will be winning no good wife awards. In fact, I told an audience this past weekend that I had bad thoughts about my husband, and not the dirty kind. Just the bad kind.
I struggle with marriage.
I struggle with the idea that I have to try in my marriage. I don’t want to try, I want to just be. When I try, I get mad that he’s not trying. Again, this is why I will not be writing any books on marriage. BUT I have learned a few things in my almost 12 14 years of marriage. A tiny few that might, maybe be helpful to someone out there. So here they are…
Be Sickeningly Honest
There was a time that I flirted with a guy online and it could have gone farther. I was frustrated in my marriage and I was acting carelessly and I just thought, “I’ll know when to stop.” Incredibly, as the Lord does I believe always providing a way out at some point, my husband got his hands on the book, “Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough”. He was reading it, and he said to me, “Have you ever wanted to cheat on me?”
“Yes.” I said.
Remember, I was in a don’t care stage and I got all honest. It was the best thing ever.
He called me over to him and I sat on his lap and I told him all about the flirting and the guy and that I was struggling. I can’t believe I told him, but I did. And he listened, which is crazy because my guy is the kind of guy that would FLIP OUT if I ever cheated on him. Like, out the door. But he listened, and we had the best conversation about our marriage. The best part? The power of the sin was broken. I didn’t even want to talk to that guy anymore. There is power in the light, and when I told the truth, light came in and the darkness vanished.
Side-note: If you ever think about having an affair, think of the after. Picture yourself telling your husband and children. Yea, not fun. I learned in counseling in college that a great way to learn from our sin is to face the consequences of our decisions (ask me how painful that is). Instead of facing them, how about just picturing them and not doing them. You’re welcome.
The Dark Thoughts Want to Keep You Locked Up
One of the things I’ve struggled with the most in my marriage is intimacy.
I’m this complicated mess and it’s been a tough road for my husband and I. One of the things I’ve felt so ashamed of is my thoughts. I felt so awful and I didn’t know how to deal with them. I couldn’t tell anyone because they would think terrible things about me. Shame. That’s what it does, it locks you up and keeps you in bondage. Eventually, I just wanted to be free and I wanted to deal with my intimacy junk because I hated it. I went to a prayer counselor and we talked and prayed and I shared a little bit. Then I was with some friends at a bible study and I, with fear and trembling, shared my deepest secret thoughts. And you know what? They said things like, “Me too.”
Their thoughts weren’t the same as mine, but they struggled with shame and sinful things just as I had. That’s the thing about shame, it makes you think you’re alone. But you’re not. And when you confess, and there is “me too” there is freedom. Again, when you confess and share the things you are afraid to share, and someone receives you, the power of the darkness is broken. I finally shared my secret thoughts with my husband, and you know what he said? “That’s it?” I mean FOR REAL. I couldn’t believe it. Shame had so locked me up and kept me in the dark that I thought I was disgusting. The thing is, sin infests all of us, I think that’s why confessing is so powerful; we learn we aren’t alone as sinful humans.
It turns out, when you turn the light on, there really are no monsters under the bed.
With this new freedom and a massive gratefulness for grace, I decided to be a receiver of people. I would be a “me too” person. With my husband, this was the most important thing I could do as a wife. I don’t know what it means to be a “good wife” and whatever it is I’m probably not it, but I do know about grace and freedom and shame, and so with my husband I receive him and all his mess. When he confesses to me, I say, “me too”. When he is stuck in shame, I tell him, “I love you and I’m with you and for you.” Because I am. Even when I’m so mad at him I can’t stand him, I’m for him. Because I am him. I am human and sinful and in desperate need of love and grace.
Believe that God Knows What He’s Doing With Your Life
I have had the thought, “Did I marry the wrong person?” I have been hurt and angry and at my wits end in my marriage, and I have dreamed of ways out at times. But at the end of the day, I believe that God knows what He’s doing with my life, and that I’m supposed to be with my husband. He is a good man, even when he ticks me off. He’s a good man and God is doing a work with us as a couple and for His glory on this earth. Somehow, someway, us being together brings His Kingdom to bear on this earth, whether in our personal sanctification and/or with how we raise our children and/or what we do as a couple that affects this world. We are meant to be together, and God works it all out for our good and His purposes. I believe it.
Duh, It’s Hard
Our first year was terrible. Heck, we barely made it to our honeymoon. Seven years in, I was done. I actually cried on my Mother-in-Law’s laundry room floor telling her I couldn’t take it. You know what she did? She just listened to me and told me she understood. She didn’t try and give me advice or change my mind, she just felt with me. And I needed that. I needed to know I wasn’t alone or crazy, but that marriage is just hard. How can it not be? It’s two sinners living together! Marriage is a crazy thing, but it’s God’s thing. He made it; it means something. And it’s good. It’s hard, but it’s good. I remember back in high school hearing Dr. Laura (don’t laugh) say that coveting just made you miserable, and it’s true. The more I thought about not being married the more discontent I got. When I accepted my marriage, when I chose to believe God for it, I stopped being so discontent. And when I stopped being discontent, I started enjoying my marriage. My husband is my best friend. Do we fight? YES. Do I sometimes think bad things about him? YES. Do I drive him crazy and cause him to have non-dirty bad thoughts about me? I’M SURE OF IT. Because I’m a sinner too. But I love that man, and I’m glad he’s mine. For all the things I can’t stand, there are more good things. He is my biggest supporter and encourager. He lifts me up and he speaks truth into me when I believe lies. He makes me laugh, and he has the best laugh ever. I love watching Netflix with him while eating wings and drinking beer. He is my man, and he is a good man, and he is my best friend. When I think about that and the good things, when I turn my laments to thankfulness, I am a happier, more content woman. And maybe even a better wife.