The Problem With Marriage

wedding kissI have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

–Mother Teresa

Our marriage is probably like many of yours—sometimes effortless and occasionally the hardest work I’ve ever done.

I’ve been married for eight years now. The first six flew by in a breeze. We didn’t have to make it work because it wasn’t that difficult. There were romantic getaways and shared dreams, giggles and tickle fights and a growing family. We started a church and had a baby; we bought a home and moved to suburbia. Life was abundant with service and ministry and blessings. Sure, certain obstacles came our way, but our confidence in each other was high.

And then REAL life hit.

Tragedy and drama and human weakness at it’s finest.  Our fragile foundation rocked and rolled like the San Andreas fault.  My parents were suddenly both taken by fatal disease, Tim injured his back and faced permanent nerve damage and partial paralysis , there was spinal surgery, a long and painful recovery, and our constant battle with infertility that wove itself through every story—miscarriage after miscarriage. Add in a blended family and teenagers in to the mix and for two years we fought to keep our heads above water.

Maybe marriage wasn’t so easy.

Maybe it took work. Hard work.

Fortunately, I married a persistent man who never, ever, gives up. Week after week he showed up at the counselor by my side ready to tackle the broken parts of him and us and me. And even when I was drowning in sorrow and weary, he never let go of my hand.

While I wish certain outcomes were different, because I sure miss my mom and dad (and all the babies I won’t meet until eternity), I don’t regret the journey it’s forced us to travel. Pain brings out our best and worst traits. My husband has seen me unraveled and paralyzed with fear and yet he continues to love me. I have seen him blustering and red in frustration and yet I get up and choose only him every day.

So many people avoid pain. They run, they hide, they cope. I was a master at this.

But with a 72% divorce rate in Orange County, I don’t really think this strategy is working out too well for most of us.

If I learned anything from years of therapy it’s this…don’t avoid the pain–do the opposite–lean in.

Pain has made our marriage better. Adversity overcome together creates the glue of relationship. Pain forced us to restructure our boundaries, to surrender to one another sacrificially and to leave our selfish natures behind for something better—a relationship built on rock and not sand.

Every day we can either deposit love or steal life from one another. It’s a choice we are all given.

Today I sit here and write after another failed pregnancy, and a heartbeat that slipped away, with tears and sadness, and a surgery to remove the remains of another sweet baby. One more soul added to our little tribe in heaven.

But I am content. Not because it doesn’t hurt—oh boy it does, but because I’m facing the pain with my best friend at my side. The friend I have fought for and who fights  for me on a daily basis.

I am what we call in our family “happy/sad.” The sad is obvious, but the happy is because I have fallen in love with my husband all over again through this yucky experience. I am crazy about this man who shares his whole heart unabashedly and shines his light so bright it makes the dark not so scary for me. He holds my hand and whispers prayers when I need encouragement, he points me back to God when my faith wavers, and he makes me laugh through my tears.  I can only hope I will choose to fall in love over and over with this same man for the rest of my life.  I want more than anything to focus on the good and not dwell on the bad, celebrating the smallest victories and offering forgiveness quickly.

The problem with marriage is that it’s not easy.

We have to choose one another every day in spite of the pain and the brokenness of our humanity.

I’m so glad we didn’t give up on the mountain of hard, because the greatest joy was reached only by cresting this summit together.

–Samantha

Spiritual Band-Aids

Band-aid My hands move fast, busy about the kitchen.  I cut, prep and toss bits and pieces of veggies and spices into the pan to make chili.  Frank Sinatra croons on the radio and I strain to hear Kolby’s giggle on the swing out on the front porch.  Faith is doing her homework in the next room and Kyle is about to arrive home any minute after football practice.

It’s my normal fast-paced evening as I pull double-duty with three kids while daddy works late.

Suddenly, something red catches my eye on the bowl in my hand.  It’s a bright crimson, almost like strawberry juice—a smear of blood perhaps?

I stop in my tracks.  I slow down and peer closely now.

I gasp.  The red is everywhere.

Panic rises up in my throat.  I think of dead bunnies from Fatal Attraction, psychos and ex-boyfriends.

Why is there blood all over my kitchen?

The white cabinets have streaks of sticky red on the doors on the cabinet pulls.  The china plates on the table are hit.  The fridge and the dishwasher and the cabinets all reveal stains of red.

I look down at my feet and gasp.  Red splotches leave a trail from the stove to the table and back again.  Ooooh gross…I’m walking in it.

The calm side of my brain finally takes over.

“Ok, Sam, assess the damage.  Where is it coming from,” I tell myself.

(I also look for the knives in case I need a weapon)

Am I hurt?  I don’t feel anything.

I do a body check and notice my left hand is covered in blood.

WHAT?

How did I miss that?

I run my hands under cool water and the gash appears on my index finger.  It’s deep and bleeding profusely. I grab a paper towel and make a Viva tourniquet, putting strong pressure on it.

Finally, finally…the pain comes—an intense throb, then sting and the relief of knowing there wasn’t a stalker hiding behind my cupboard.

About an hour later, after dinner, it stops bleeding and I’m able to bandage the wound.

……

My finger boo-boo is constantly on my mind—probably because I’m typing with a bandaged finger, but mostly because I am shocked that I was so oblivious to an injury on my body.

It seems a little crazy; here I am I imagining scenarios that had nothing to do with reality.  I walk around and drip, drop, drip blood and yet assume it’s something beyond me and my person because I didn’t feel the sting.

And then I think of how often I do the same thing in other areas— in matters of the heart—not physical, but spiritual wounds.  Someone hurts me and I either ignore or avoid the pain.  I gloss over it and pretend it’s no big deal—until it starts seeping out in other areas.

I get sick or I withhold from the person who hurt me.  I get defensive or shut down my heart in self-protection.

The wound finds a way of making itself known even when we don’t acknowledge the pain.

……

My husband and I sit in the counselor’s office and we talk about an issue.  It’s maybe my least favorite thing in the world to talk about but my husband digs in.

I’m uncomfortable.  I squirm in my seat.  I hate pulling out this muck from my soul.  I stall and stutter and finally he pushes hard enough and I blurt out, “It’s because you said this “thing” on our honeymoon and it made me feel ashamed.”

Bamm.  The words are out there.

The counselor looks at me wide eyed.  Tim shakes his head in shock.

“I’m so sorry,” he says.  “I had no idea.”

And suddenly I’m back in the kitchen and I’ve found the wound.  Only it’s been years and years of marriage that I’ve been seeping out the blood.

Now I’m ashamed even more for unconsciously holding onto my pain like a prized medal to beat my husband up with.

And as my husband apologizes and holds me as I cry, I finally rip off the spiritual band-aid and start to heal.

……

It’s been seven years of marriage for Tim and me—seven years of figuring this “uniting into one” stuff out.

Can I just say it’s hard?  Clearly marriage is not for the uncommunicative or the martyr—both attributes I exhibit at my worst.

But the more we dig into the cues and wounds of old—the more we can find our triggers and how to move past or avoid them altogether.

Two steps forward—one step back. A daily dance of beauty and intimacy as selfishness hovers nearby just waiting to intrude.

……

I meet a young woman at a party.  She is bitter over a divorce. 

Her words are harsh, “I married potential, I divorced reality.”

I’m shocked at first, but if I’m honest I recognize myself in her.

I have the potential—with God—to be all that he created me to be.  And I have the potential—in my own strength—to fail miserably

I will never get it all right.  But I pray my husband can see both—the good and bad—and love me in spite of it, choosing every single day to stay on the same team and believe the best about one another even when we act our worst.  

……

I know so many of you are hurting and in pain.  You are in the storm.

The blood is all over the kitchen.

And I’ve been there with you.  I’ve walked through the hell of divorce.  It’s a relational death like no other.

But I’ll tell you a secret.  It won’t be easier on the other side.  You will still take “you” into the next relationship.

And if “you” are anything like me, you still need some fixin up and hard edges polished.

Band-aids need to be ripped off so you can heal and be the best you.

I know it’s hard work. And it means letting go and forgiving beyond yourself.

But I believe God won’t leave you in the mess if you are willing to do the hard work and find the wounds.

Christine Caine puts it this way, “On the other side of every disappointment is a God appointment.”

And sometimes the greatest pain is simply a mercy in disguise.

–Samantha

Where have you stuck a band-aid on a wound in your relationship that needs healing?

 

Taking the Honey out of Honeymoon. Why Buddymoon’s are the New Trend.

My husband and I always have the same conversation at weddings.

“Purity or shacking up?” my husband whispers.

I carefully examine the bride.  If she scowls or looks grumpy, it’s a no brainer-“they’ve slept together.”  If she cries walking down the aisle, I know immediately –“sex.” But if she floats down on cloud nine, gallops down with a goofy grin, or smiles like a Cheshire cat it’s just as obvious –“no sex” I exclaim.

It’s a gift I have, this radar for purity and wantonness (possibly because I’ve worn both pairs of shoes).

I can always tell at weddings if the couple has already consummated the relationship.  In marriages where sex is as common as brushing teeth, or better yet –flossing, the wedding is the denouement or the culmination of the relationship. 

These are the “bridezillas” who display a freakish sense of control over every tiny detail.  And it has to be perfect because the big day is about as good as it gets for her.

But for the bride who has a honeymoon to look forward to, a real honeymoon with a slow deliberate unveiling, a full vacation of exploring her beloved’s body, and a once in a lifetime retreat to connect physically with a man she has yearned and waited for, the wedding is just a step towards a new life together.

All things are fresh and new to the couple who has waited to have sex. But I remember all too well, waking up the day after I married my first husband. 

My exorbitantly overpriced bridal frock was crumpled on the chair, the carriage carted off and the ice sculptures melted along with my enthusiasm.  I thought I would feel differently once married, and I did, somewhat, but the disparity was more of an anticlimactic disappointment.  

Just to clarify, It had nothing to do with love or committment to the marriage.  I had both, but by acting married before I was married, I stole my own joy before it’s time, like a kid waking up on Christmas morning and knowing what’s under the tree because they snuck a peek when mom wasn’t looking.

It’s what so many couples do when they play house before the ring is on the finger, forgetting the repercussions which inevitably follow namely a boring honeymoon.

Been there…done that…BIG YAWN.

To compensate for the lack of awesomeness a honeymoon used to symbolize, the new trend according to the New York Times, is to take a “buddymoon “and bring the family and friends along.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist and the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia notes…

“Today, when about 65 percent of couple’s cohabitate prior to marriage, the honeymoon is less likely to be a major turning point in their relationship,” said Professor Wilcox.  “For them, I think having friends come along is less of a big deal and in some ways makes it more of a special and exceptional occasion.”

By taking the “honey” out of honeymoon, couples enter marriage already disenchanted enough with each other to need outside entertainment.  Thus they need “buddies” to get them through the hump of spending one week alone with the person they have just chosen to spend the rest of their lives with.

And this new trend makes me sad.

I think we –as a culture are losing a precious rite of passage by robbing OURSELVES of a once in a lifetime opportunity to revel in our spouse. 

Tim and I treasured our three-week honeymoon to the Mediterranean.  We loved, we laughed and we made new and amazing friends, who as fellow honeymooners shared our fledgling memories.

I believe in my heart that part of the reason my first relationship didn’t work out is because we didn’t hold our purity in high regard.  Because we had sex prior to marriage, it clearly made it easier for my ex-husband to have sex with someone else while we were married.  With God’s grace, I got a second chance to do it right and chose purity for my relationship with Tim…and it changed everything.

The second time around, I practically ran down the aisle (dragging my dad) to join my groom.  People commented they had never seen a smile as big and bright as my beam.  I didn’t notice the flower arch met an untimely crack, or the misplaced name cards or any of the other minor details that were far from perfect. 

All I saw was my honey.  And no offense to my buddies, but we did just fine without you.

Would you consider a buddymoon?

 

Modified from an article first posted on Kellerdating

Sharing, Closet Space and How to Prepare for Marriage

Give me a drawer for my unborn baby now!

When Tim and I wed the kids and I moved temporarily into his bachelor pad condo with the view of the waves.  At the time, we were looking for a home to buy and figured it would only take a few months to navigate the home buying process. 

We were wrong.

We packed up all the kids’ toys –the Barbie Guitar, the Lego’s and the Nintendo.  All we brought was our clothes, a few books and the lizard –Sean.

But our three-month tour turned into a two-year stay.

Now Tim had a pretty nice shack for a single dude.  The condo had two large bedrooms and an enormous living space all remodeled and state of the art.  There should have been enough room.  But Tim had been single for thirty-six years and all of a sudden he had to make room in his life and his heart for three more (four with the lizard).

Initially, he cleared out a few shelves for me.  After I whined pitifully, he gave the kids a broom closet (less than three feet across and about two feet deep), a dresser to share and then finally cleared out another half-closet for his new bride.  He continued to occupy the walk-in closet, three dressers and the hall closet.

I tried not to make a fuss and make do with this simple and pared down living style.  I don’t have a ton of clothes because I tend to spend my money on the kids and books anyway, and I knew how hard it was for Tim to go from single (AKA self-absorbed) to married and sharing everything.

 But when I got pregnant with Kolby everything changed.

We were still tied-up in a never-ending escrow –eight long months from beginning to end –and didn’t know if we were going to bring the baby home to our new house or squeeze her into the condo.  My nesting instincts were kicking in to high gear and that’s when I went ballistic.

“I don’t even have a drawer for the baby’s clothes!  Wahhhhhhhhhhhh!  

A torrent of tears erupted and two years of frustration poured out of Tim’s sweet little wife.  I threw a pillow at him and some baby socks and wailed like an abandoned child at the mall.

Tim learned a good lesson that illustrious day.

  1. Learning to share starts before you get married.
  2. Living alone is not the best way to prepare for marriage.
  3. Never deny a woman closet space even if she says its fine –inside she is pissed.
  4. When starting out a new marriage, if at all possible, it’s best to move into a neutral space.  The truth is, the kids and I felt like visitors and Tim felt invaded.  A neutral space right off the bat would have alleviated much of the turmoil.

Tim sent me this article by Mark Driscoll and it made me laugh because we experienced some of this in our relationship and its good advice.  “5 Ways to Move from Selfish to Servant as a Single.”

(FYI…It’s not an endorsement.   I agree with about 79% of his stuff and the rest I abhor, so basically I’m conflicted about the dude)

I would add a few things…

Four (More) Ways to Move from Selfish to Servant as a Single (to Prepare for Marriage)

1. Get a roommate

My husband feels strongly about this one.  Tim always had a roommate until the last few months before our marriage and even then it was hard for him.  Guys-specifically get weird living alone.  In a vacuum of no accountability men will act like boys(X-box, porn, endless sports).  Women collect cats.  And you don’t have to share.  Living with people is important for mental health, accountability as a Christian and future interactions with a spouse.

2. Volunteer with small children or teens

It will give you perspective on irrational human beings and you will be better prepared for parenting and marriage.

3. Stop hoarding

 Pare down your wardrobe.  Instead of collecting things to gather dust –collect experiences and friendships.  Give away unnecessary stuff to people who need it and will use it.

4. Learn time management now

Even as a single mom with two munchkins I had more time than as a married mother of three.  Every relationship takes time and energy.  If you are struggling to balance time as a single person it will only get worse when you get married. 

 

Do you have any more tips to move from selfish to servant to prepare for marriage?

 

 

 

 

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