As of September 2014, my wife and I will have been married 9 wonderful years. We communicate everything, we are 100% honest at all times, we share our fears and support one another. But, in the beginning we were both selfish, manipulative, disrespectful to one another, and downright ignored how the other person felt. We were headed towards that downward spiral called divorce after only being married a few years. If this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone.
One Saturday, in 2008, while running errands I was on the phone with a friend. He mentioned that our church, at the time, was hosting a course on marriage. I knew we needed to attend and immediately called my wife. I explained it to her and she agreed without hesitation. I recall this very pivotal moment for us. It was evidence that we were both here to stay and make this thing called ‘marriage’ work.
The six week course was taught by Certified Christian Marriage and Family Therapist Scott Davenport. It was one full of laughter and tears for all in attendance. One night Scott said, and I am paraphrasing,“For your marriage to survive it has to die and be born again.”
My wife and I both had to die to our selfish, manipulative, disrespectful, and ignoring ways. We had to submit to one another so that our marriage could live.
If you are like me you are thinking, “Okay, what does that even mean?” Here is how he explained it, just as a Christian lives for Christ and dies to their fleshly desires, your marriage has to experience a death and rebirth as well (Romans 12:1). That meant that my wife and I both had to die to our selfish, manipulative, disrespectful, and ignoring ways. We had to submit to one another so that our marriage could live. (Ephesians 5:21). It was a lot of work. It was also risky — will she try to manipulate me when I’m trying to work on us? What if my needs aren’t met? How do I know she is telling the truth? But it was a risk worth taking for the woman that I loved.
Here are a few things that I learned from Scott and my marriage:
- Remove your emotions from the situation; this allows for clarity and lessens moments of anger and rage.
- Hear what your spouse has to say in response to what you said or did, regardless of your original intent; whether you agree with them or not, their feelings were affected in some way.
- Repeat what they said to show that you were listening.
- Try to understand them and accept them for who and where they are in life; remember you were raised in two completely different households, have varying experiences, and definitions of what marriage is or should be.
- Support each other when changes need to occur; growth hurts.
- Stop demanding things of one another, start asking; demands are draining but asking allows for a conversation.
- Write down what you expect in your marriage, share it with your spouse, talk it out; unspoken expectations (I’ll share more on this later) have ruined many a marriages.
- Determine what expectations can be realistically incorporated into your day-to-day lives.
One of the most important things I learned from Scott was a marriage is where two completely different people with completely different backgrounds decide to come together and become one unit. Until they die (again, figuratively) as individuals they cannot be reborn as one flesh.
A marriage is between TWO people that desire to be wanted and needed and does not include your parents, friends, co-workers, and so on. Just you two. Please know that the friend that is always ready to listen could possibly leave you single once they find love. And if that friendship happens to end, you wouldn’t want your ‘dirty laundry’ appearing on Twitter or Facebook during a spiteful rant. If you absolutely need to involve someone, find a licensed marital counselor in your area (here are a few helpful links African American Marriage Counseling, American Association of Christian Counselors, and American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy). They are sworn by law to keep what is discussed private and confidential.
Know that my wife and I still have disputes. We do not claim to be perfect or have it all together. We do however strive to be the best example of a husband and wife team for others but mainly our son and future children. When they grow up and get married, we want to know that we provided a good example of what a marital partnership should be. I am here to encourage you that things do get better. It will take a small investment of your time, patience, hard work, and dying (figuratively) so your marriage can live.
So BMWK – are you self-serving? Are you willing to die to self so that your marriage can live? What example are you and your spouse setting for your children, family, and nieces and nephews?