A few months after we married, I was at home one day working on my car. I needed something from the store in order to finish what I had been doing. So, I got in my car, went to the store and about 45 minutes later returned. When I got back, Charlotte said, “Where have you been? I was looking for you and you were gone.” I explained to her that I had gone to the store. Now I was pretty clueless. I had not said anything to her before leaving. I just left. After all, that is the way I did it when I was single. Of course, in my immaturity I defended myself. However, I knew she was right. Being married meant that I didn’t just look out for myself but for her as well.
We have now been married a long time. I really like this season of our marriage–a lot!
However, I would never want to leave the impression that marriage is easy or that somehow it just all works out. Unless a couple is intentional about their commitment and their love toward one another, marriage can become derailed. It can become boring, stale, and lifeless. In fact, if you listen closely to some people, you might wonder if anyone’s marriage really works.
Yet, marriage doesn’t have to be this way.
Sometimes a couple will be busy with life and give little attention to either their marriage or what might be happening inside them individually. In fact, a couple can get blindsided. Several years ago, I read an article by Ginger Kolbaba entitled, “Surviving Temptation Island.” One story in particular got my attention:
About seven years ago, before I was married, I was performing in a play opposite a married man who’d recently become a first-time father. He and I got along famously. We joked, worked hard, had intelligent conversations about culture, faith, politics. I didn’t realize I was “fulfilling” a need he felt wasn’t being met at home by a wife who was a first-time mom grappling with all the insecurities and stress motherhood includes. I was simply trying to make our working environment enjoyable.
One evening he turned to me and said, “You know, if my marriage doesn’t work out, we should get together.”
I was stunned and ashamed. I knew I had to change the direction of that relationship—fast. In that situation, I wasn’t able to run physically. But I sure changed my tone in a hurry. I apologized for my unintentional misleading, and told him his first priority was to his wife and child—not to the theatre or the people there. Then I stayed as far away from him as possible. I learned a hard lesson in setting appropriate boundaries within a relationship.
Do marriages still work?
Yes, but first consider what a marriage really is:
1. Marriage is not just you and me. That is, we are not just two individuals who share the same last name and live in the same house. It is very easy to turn marriage into something me-centered. What am I getting out of this? What about me?
2. Marriage is not just us. I wonder about the couple who says, “We do everything together.” I wonder about the marriage where one person takes over the conversation and constantly talks about how we feel while the spouse typically remains silent. Marriage is not becoming a blob where each person loses any sense of individual identity.
3. Marriage is about you, me, and us. While married people have their own identities, they are committed to protecting, nurturing, and cherishing the “us.”
What is one of the most important things you have learned about marriage, either from your own experience or from observing others?