Thursday, January 19

Advice for those on the road to marriage...take what applies and leave the rest.

These past few weeks I have thought a lot about marriage.  My Best Friend is getting married in a few months and it has been quite funny to watch her prepare for not just the wedding, but the marriage.  I only use the word funny because I remember the road to my own wedding ten years ago in July, and all the mistakes I made before reaching the isle.  It is funny to look back on  There is a long list, one that included a car accident, nervous breakdowns, very lonely times with my wedding dress (story for another day), and ended with my laughter during our vows when my precious grandfather asked if I would share my worldly possessions with my husband.  See the laughter came because I had none...and I mean none.  No house, no car, no darling husband was taking on a broke, homeless, car-less, girl just barely 22 years old with a ton of credit card debt.  The bottom line is that we had no idea what we were doing.  And my husband really didn't appreciate my laughter during a very special moment of vow-exchange.  Now we have made it 10 years.  I can hardly believe we are here...we have lived many lives together in the past ten years, some very difficult, others profound.  He is my very best friend, my other half...we took our vows to become one very seriously and every year we have grown older, we have grown closer. 
     Marriage advice is never sparce when a newly engaged couple begins the wedding planning process.  It comes from all directions, some of it is very helpful...some...interesting:).  So the past few weeks, as I have watched my sweet friend in her preparations and thought about my own marriage,  I have wondered what the secret do you get to the golden age of marriage?  Better yet, how do you do it happily?  I believe the secret is found in Matthew 22:36-39, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?  Jesus said to him,' Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." 
     In my experience as a therapist, I have seen the damage done in and from broken marriages that fell apart because one or both adults did not love God with all their heart and soul, or one did not love the other as him/her self.  Abuse happens because someone broke these commands.  Affairs happen because these commands were broken.  Couples drift apart because they are not obedient these commands.  If we love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we will long to be more like him.  We will have the deep desire given to us by the Holy Spirit to obey him.  And we are able to love others because He loved us first.  If we love our neighbor as ourselves, who is our closer neighbor than our husband?  Loving myself means that I don't want myself to suffer. I don't want to hurt myself, wound myself or loose who I am... I want me to feel loved, be served, listened to and respected.  If I love my husband as myself, I will go out of my way to do these for him as well.  I will serve him, take care of his needs, respect him, and seek to make him feel loved.  I will do this because I love God and want to obey His commands, and because I love my husband.
     This is not to say I have achieved this, believe me.  I am sad to say I am in constant repentance for breaking BOTH of these commands.  But I will tell you that when Matt and I decided to structure our marriage around our love of the Lord and our desire to obey Him, things began to fall into place more often in our relationship.  I am more aware of his needs and we recognize major relationship waves before we reach the point of no return. We argue differently and approach conflict more respectfully. We have sought Godly council on more than one occasion because we don't want our own pride or disobedience to be the blow that takes down our marriage.  Make no mistake, there is no perfection here, just the attempt to be obedient to God's word on BOTH of our parts.
     It takes both people marriage to succeed, but only one person to destroy it.  Sadly, there are times marriages are broken because one individual is not willing to love the Lord, or anyone but him/her self.  This is an area that requires healing from God and Him alone...but if you are willing to obey these two, most important commands...He will not leave you, nor forsake you!  After all, "we know all things work together for good for those who love God...." (Romans 8:28).
     If I am approached by newly engaged couples for wisdom, this is my piece of advice.  It might seem overly simplified or irrelevant to some, but those that know the Lord know it is truth because it is from His word.  I pray this for all my precious married friends and for any that will be getting married in the future.  Married life is the most amazing, difficult journey of faith you can embark on.  But it is gratifying, beautiful and a gift from the Lord!  Love the lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind...everything else will happen according to His will and that it a great place for our marriages to be!

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