Ah, marriage. Rob and I married when I was 21 years old and as I reflect, my sweet little self had literally ZERO clue about what she was getting herself into. I believed Rob was going to be and do lots of things for me, and we were going to be naturally happy forever.
Without getting into our backgrounds too deeply, let’s just say as a child of divorce, I didn’t know what a healthy marriage was supposed to look like. Rob’s parents were married and wonderful, but they had their own issues that were passed down. Either way you shake it, both Rob and I were starting from a faulty basis. I think most of us are. Dare I say all of us since we are all raised by human people that fail? Yes, I do.
My point today is this; marriage is only a part of our lives. It is a big part, yes, but it is up to us how we are going to function within our relationship. It is up to me to be happy, no matter what Rob does or doesn’t do.
One of the ways I can choose to be happy in the context of marriage is to examine the thoughts and stories I am telling myself. Let me weave you such a story….
From Katie’s perspective - I am home with the kids. Again. Bored out of my mind playing kitchen and light sabers. Rob is at work. Free. Galavanting at lunch, even? Having adult conversation. I am cleaning spilled juice for the third time today. When he gets home, he kisses the kids, but he is distracted with thoughts of work still in his head. He complains about dinner. How dare I serve something as exotic as pesto? He showers (without having to arrange for the children, mind you) and leaves his clothes on the floor, for the magic clothes fairy to pick them up. He then sits in front of the tv until he decides he wants to have sex and then I am supposed to be so hot for it. Then he sleeps, without having to wake up if a child has a nightmare. I’m exhausted and I feel overlooked.
From Rob’s perspective (& written by Rob!) - I wake up at 2:30 am to be at work at 3:00 am and work by myself, answering client calls and designing while my computer crashes in the middle of saving a file that took hours to build and 30-60 minutes to save. I start over again and again. Busting my butt and being the sole breadwinner to provide for my family and for my wife so she can be at home with the kids. So she can raise the kids how we want and not at a daycare. Did I mention why I went into work so early? So I could be at home by 5pm, so as to not miss dinner with my wife and children. To give her some type of break. I come home to a dinner she knows I don’t like, but she says “Try it anyway” after I busted my butt all day long. I’m exhausted and I have to rinse and repeat the next day. I feel unappreciated.
Sound familiar? All of those things we wrote are true. At the time, I was unaware of the story I was telling myself. I just thought I was thinking about the facts of the situation. I didn't know I had a choice. The result of my negative thoughts was a husband that I continued to push away and then antagonized because he wasn’t there for me. I helped to cultivate a cycle in which there were no winners. I just didn’t know I had any power. Our marriage was really hard for the first 10 years because of this type of thinking. We didn’t communicate. We blamed each other and were each the victim in our own minds.
So how did we change? It was because of Jesus, actually. We met him and fell in love with him and allowed him to shape our thoughts about marriage and happiness.
1st - We put Jesus in the top slot of our lives. We came into the awareness that no human could ever meet our needs. Only Jesus can. When we opened ourselves up to that reality, it really took the pressure off of each other. When I was feeling overlooked, I cried to Jesus and let him remind me that he saw me, and loved me, and would give me strength when things were hard. It took some time, but I continued to tell this truth to myself and my heart and feelings came into alignment with Jesus. Rob’s too.
2nd - We became aware that our communication was faulty when I began to read self help and christian marriage books (Love Dare, anyone?). We had some patterns of communication that were not serving us. I believed that if Rob really loved me, he would just know what I needed. Rob believed the same of me. Turns out neither of us were good mind readers. We were both defensive, making it impossible for the other person to bring up something that was bothering them. In fairness, we also hadn’t yet discovered “I” statements, so whenever anyone was brave enough to broach a topic, it was typically done in that blaming pattern of “You don’t…., or You never….” that never ends well.
Now, we OWN OUR STUFF. We are honest with each other and with a small group of people. We recognize that if we’ve got a problem, we can make requests of the other person, but it is still ultimately up to each person to ensure their own happiness, no matter the circumstances. That may sound cold, but each of us taking care of our own house has led to an intimacy and partnership like we’ve never had before. Rob gets to be him and I get to be me. What a concept! I love knowing the power to control my mood, my vibe, my happiness lies with me and Jesus alone. Such freedom. :)
3rd - We decided to believe the best about each other. Let me show you what that looks like now…
From Katie’s perspective - Wow. I am so grateful that I get to homeschool my children. I get to spend all day with them, teaching them the things we want them to know. I can tell I’m getting tired, though, so I’m going to take responsibility for myself and have the kids go have quiet time in their rooms for a couple of hours, and not wait to be rescued by Rob. Then I will be fresh and ready for dinner. Rob comes home from a long day of work and I am thankful that he is such a hardworking man. I know he will do whatever it takes to provide for us. I know he is trying his best to be here mentally with us when he is home, and I will have grace for him when it’s just too hard. Thank you, God, for healthy and sweet children, for our home, for food to eat and clothes to clean, and for always providing us with enough. Thank you for this amazing life I get to live!
From Rob’s perspective - Well guys, Rob says he didn’t sign up for this and is tired of writing. Ha! He says “I love Jesus and I truly love my wife.” So there you go.
We aren’t perfect, but man oh man…. Our relationship is so much more satisfying then it has ever been. Our marriage is a beautiful bonus to each of us, knowing that it’s our relationship with Jesus that will endure for eternity. We are now doing life as partners, full of grace for each other’s shortcomings and failures as much as possible. When we fail to offer this to each other, we are pretty quick to recognize it and forgive one another. We build each other up now. We are free to do that because we are no longer holding each other's shortcomings against each other. We are thriving because we decided to take personal responsibility for ourselves. I know that no matter what, Jesus is my foundation. I can live in peace because of him, no matter my circumstances. I’m not saying it will always be easy, but I am saying that whatever my lot (marriage), thou hast taught me to say, it is well with my soul.
What about you? Are you relying on your marriage partner to make you happy? In what ways can you begin, alongside Jesus, to take responsibility for your own emotional wellbeing? If you want to share, I’d love to hear!