Thoughts on Marriage
After 59 years of married life, Kay and I have learned some things about marriage and we are continuing to learn from the Lord and from good companions. Here in brief form are some of those things. They are not in any order of priority. They are all important to us.
- Each of us needs to be experiencing a walk with the Lord. Being transformed to be like Jesus is a lifelong experience – without this journey none of the other ideas work.
- Getting our needs met: We have learned that this is a burden we are not to lay on each other. The place to begin with having needs met is with Jesus. And we are part of the Body of Christ so some of these needs are met in the larger fellowship. So in what way do we meet each other’s needs? We entered into marriage because we loved each other, so it is natural think that we would meet each other’s needs. And we are each experts on our own needs. Kay and I have learned to reverse this. We are learning to be experts on the needs of the other so we know how to meet those needs. In this way we are both getting our needs met but it is because we are gifting each other rather than demanding from each other. Thus we both have the joy of giving freely to the one we love.
- Ten years in we discovered Jesus’ teaching about agreement. Jesus said that if we are in agreement on what we ask God to do we would see God at work in our lives, our family, and in all the involvements of our lives. The deeper understanding that helped us came when we discovered that the word “agreement” is the same root word from which we get “symphony”. We began to learn how each of us was to play our instrument as we sought agreement. (I had to learn to be less forceful and loud and she had to learn to play with more confidence.) One of the wonderful by-products of seeking to be in agreement on what we are asking of God, is that we were also learning how to be in agreement in life decisions in ways that were far less stressful.
- We also learned that without a desire to live in mutual submission we could never come to real agreement. We had to go counter to the culture and the wrong teaching about marriage that the authority rested with the man and the woman did as she was told. Mutual submission in marriage – or any relationship—is not our first impulse but the end result is wisdom and joy.
- We are also learning that marriages flourish in community. We have often found wisdom and encouragement to move in a better direction by letting people we know and love speak truth into our lives and marriage. Another way of thinking about this is that each of us needs friends who can walk with us as individuals and because our marriage has a personality that is a combination of the two of us we need other marriages to interact with the personality of our marriage. Our marriage needs other couples to walk with in deep fellowship. We never get to a place where we do not need people to walk with us in this way – but it was especially helpful in the early stages of marriage to have older couples who gave us their wisdom
- Children have brought us great joy. They also bring challenges. We have learned that the best thing we can do for our children is to love each other. This love for each other creates an atmosphere of safety and encouragement that they can get in on. And when we love each other we are able to focus together on loving each child as they need and deserve.
- We have learned that love flows downhill. In the same way that God’s love for us flows into us and gives us the capacity to love each other and to love the people he brings into our lives, our love for our children does this for them. It is obvious that the love we return to God is not nearly as great as the love he has for us. It should be equally obvious that the love we have for our children will never be returned in the same degree that it is given – and that leads to the next point.
- We have learned to stop placing unrealistic expectations on each other, our children, our grandchildren and our friends. One of the most painful things in life is the disappointment we experience when others fail to meet our expectations. For our sake, and for theirs, we do our best to release all expectations.
- We have learned to listen to each other. No one knows us better or loves us more than our spouse – so we listen to the one who has the best insights for our life.
- We have learned the joy of speaking words of affirmation and gratefulness to each other. There is joy in both receiving such words and joy in speaking them.
- We have learned some helpful things about resolving conflicts: the first is that in any conflict our relationship is not on the table; secondly, it has been helpful to talk about how we will handle conflicts when we are not having one; and finally, when dealing with a conflict we move to the same side of the table so whatever the issue is, it is not something between us but something that sits in front of us – it is something that we both want to solve.
- And because we never live the above ideas with anything approaching perfection we have learned the freedom of forgiveness – freedom for the one forgiven and freedom for the one forgiving. This may be the one we get to practice the most.