Watch almost any movie or TV show. Listen to popular music that poetically talks about relationships. Read some self help books. What do the majority of these things tell us is the secret to life? You being happy and taking care of your needs. And when it comes to marriage it’s all about you having those warm fuzzy feelings of butterflies when you are around your spouse and you being able to be turned on sexually by your significant other. What happens when you don’t have that loving feeling anymore? It’s time to move on to the next relationship…that will fulfill YOU!
Living this way is so hard not to fall into as Melissa and I consistently find one another looking out for ourselves first. We’ve never actually said these words in a fight but it’s like we are saying to the other, “I’ll unconditionally love you when you unconditionally love me.” This idea will never produce a healthy marriage. In fact, I believe it is destroying our families today as over 50% of marriages end in divorce, but it is also stunting our growth as individuals. What do I mean by that?
In my opinion, it is more so the tough times, the times of suffering and the challenges that we face that mold and shape us. We learn from those times so much more than if life were easy all the time. When we choose to avoid confrontation or to play it safe, we lose out on a natural process of growth and deepening of wisdom, understanding, and faith.
The circumstances that Melissa and I have had to deal with in the first three and a half years of our marriage were really hard. The time we spent dating was no picnic either. It was a pretty messy time in our relationship. People in college thought we were crazy (and they were right). We were asked to move out of our first apartment because we weren’t fighting well and our landlord’s kids could hear us yelling. We have had to deal with a bout of pornography that I struggled with back in college. Bottom line: that warm fuzzy feeling didn’t follow us for very long and we had plenty of very good reasons to throw in the towel. Truth is we probably should have at least taken a break during our Sophomore Year of Hell. Although that didn’t really work for Ross and Rachel, so maybe it wouldn’t have worked for us either.
But you know what? As I sit here now and reflect, I wouldn’t change one thing and I know Melissa wouldn’t either! Sure, there are plenty of stupid things we both said or did that we wish we could take back. But overall each of these very difficult situations that we have dealt with have made us stronger and taught us a lot about ourselves, each other and God.
Getting kicked out of our first apartment helped us to get over the fear of asking for help and going to see a counselor. It taught us humility, how to begin to listen to one another, and how to be self controlled. Dealing with the pornography issue taught us forgiveness, compassion, and honestly. The issues we dealt with in college taught us about friendship, how to balance time together with the rest of life, and more. And I could keep going on and on.
We have stuck things out and are both better because of it. Individually, we are a little more loving and more like Jesus. And these things don’t just affect our marriage today, but also impact how we deal with life and other people. This is what makes marriage so holy, awesome and unique.