I had someone contact me this past week asking if I could talk. She wanted marital advice. I assured her I was not who she needed to talk too. Like, hands down, not her answer. In our town, in our age group, there are some extraordinary examples of loving marriages with longevity. “Talk to those couples” I told her. She went on to explain that I was who she needed to talk too. She wanted to know how my husband and I have managed to stay happily married for almost 27 years. “Especially in the face of all that y’all have experienced in the past several years?” This made me laugh. “Oh my, you don’t even know the half of it” I thought to myself. Insert smiley face here 😀. She wanted to know our “secret”. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. “God” Literally. No magic potion. No fairy dust. We’ve always had a great affection for one another. But even that “spark” wasn’t enough to sustain a long term marriage, of any substance, once the enemy set his foot in our home.
Several years ago my precious husband and I separated. Well, I didn’t think he was real precious then. And, if we are being candid, he probably would have described me with a word that starts with the letter “B”. At the time we had one daughter in boarding school and one in college. We had separated for all of, I think, a week. He texted me and said “Can we talk? I want to come home.” We were both miserable. But my pride was so strongly misplaced I told him “No”. I wanted him to suffer. Yep, that “B” word was probably quite accurate. Insert another smiley face here.😀
What drives two people, crazy about each other since they were legal to vote, to be unable to see eye to eye? Two people who had been best friends, crazy in love, loved their children? Two people who consciously planned out their goals, their expectations, their dreams? Two people active in their church, their children’s school, and their community? Two people who adored each other and their family? How did we become so detached?
We sought Godly counsel and marriage counselors. Every professional said the same thing “Y’all are at an impasse. It’s not resolvable.” One counselor said “What makes you think you should stay married?” Both of us responded exactly the same “We believe in marriage. We love each other. We don’t like each other right now. But we don’t want to give up.”
And we didn’t. We decided to ditch outside advice. I’d like to tell you we held hands and prayed together. Sang kumbaya. That we ran down to the beach for a romantic weekend. We didn’t. My husband came home. And actually we slept in separate bedrooms for several weeks. I could hear him snoring in the guest bedroom. I prayed constantly for him to change. Isn’t that hilarious? Not me. Him. I’m sure he prayed constantly that I would just shut the bleep up.
I will say this young wives and mothers: Put God first. Period. Next, love your husband. Keep your marriage your number one earthly priority. Then your children. When our girls were young my in-laws graciously took care of our girls about one weekend a month. We put romance on the calendar. Yes. Yes, we did. We actually wrote “it” on the calendar. Plugged romance into our blackberries ( remember those?) Sometimes to a fun destination. Sometimes a weekend in a hotel in the Capitol city. Other times just a quick overnight to the beach. We put us first. As long as we did that consistently we were on the same page. We penciled in these date weekends until our oldest hit travel ball age. The youngest had just started showing ponies competitively.
Our new approach to that season of life was divide and conquer. I took one child he took another. One of us was watching horse shows all weekend while the other was watching a ball game. Our weekends were consumed with our children’s aspirations of athletic excellence. We bought into it. And, don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful season in life. We cherished that time with our daughters. Memories to last a life time. Good memories. Fun times. Great friendships with other parents were made. But little by little we lost us. Conversations were about our kids. Calendars were penciled in with pictures of field hockey sticks, basketballs or ponies. No more red hearts symbolizing our sacred weekend getaways. We were in hotels alright–each with a different kid often in different states–not together.
Loving our kids to death just about killed our marriage. We were always a united front when it came to our kids. But as a couple we had lost intimacy. There wasn’t one defining moment. It just happened. Some how, some way, the enemy got a foothold into our marriage. Young wives and mothers put your husband and your marriage first. You’re welcome. Insert know-it-all smiley face here.😯
I don’t know when it happened. It wasn’t one big thing. It wasn’t one love story moment made for life time TV. We both just decided to stop acting like selfish children. We vowed to keep past wounds in the past. For real. We don’t ever revisit “you said & you did”. Honestly, God just showed up. I’m sure He was always there. But for whatever reason, maybe He was waiting for us to stop acting like six year olds, we forgave each other.
We each vowed to do for the other what made us feel special. I cook 4-5 nights a week. I have dinner ready when Robin walks in the door. I know this makes him feel taken care of. Appreciated. He’s hungry when he gets home and he’s cranky (hangry). Prepared food literally lights up his entire face. Sounds old fashioned? I figured it out. He makes decisions all day long. Big ones that effect peoples lives. When I have food ready someone has made a decision for him that he can enjoy.He brings me flowers every single Friday. I look forward to it more than you can imagine. They’re different varieties and colors every week. They make me smile every time I walk into the kitchen. He grocery shops for me now. I’m claiming that one! I know it’s probably because he can better stick to a budget. Don’t care–just love that it’s done.
We don’t schedule romance anymore. For the most part it just happens. Probably not as frequently as my husband would like. Insert winking smiley face 😉. But I don’t hear him often complain–so there you go.We’ve been together since we were 18 years old. That’s a lot of mistakes. A lot of trial and error. A lot of pain. But a whole lot of love. A great friendship. And a lot of fun. We had a really strong foundation in our marriage. We really had good intentions.
I’m just going to put this out there: putting our kids first, for that short season, was detrimental to our marriage. And if we are being really honest? Making them the center of our universe probably was detrimental to their decision making.
Warning: I have a theory. As a married couple you become yoked as one. Through that yoking God shows you humility and servitude to and for your partner. You love and respect that person. You want to make them happy. When the biblical order of marriage and life gets rearranged? You become unyoked. Have you ever tried to separate a yoke from egg whites in a pan? You can’t do it. Crack a full egg into a hot pan. Let it sizzle, heat up. Take your fork and try to just make a fried yoke by separating it from the center of the frying egg. It runs all over the place. Eventually you just have to make scrambled eggs. Everything becomes a scrambled mess. It all ran together with no definition of separation. Just sort of thrown together. It’s still good. It works just find but its not great. And there lies the rub–you separated the yoke and convinced yourself that just okay was good enough for today.
Do we each still have our own issues to work on? Absolutely. Do we each still have idiosyncrasies that drive each other crazy? Yes! That’s called life. Is it now all butterflies, unicorns, skittles, and rainbows? Insert laughing hysterically smiley face 😂. Um, absolutely not. Would I change any of it? No, not for a moment. We have two grown daughters that are truly joys to be around. We, now, have a biblical marriage. There’s no one I’d rather spend my days with than this man. No one.
It’s funny, if you do marriage God’s way there really isn’t that much work. And, yes, I’d be the first one to say “Oh, Dear Gawd, paleez!” But it’s true! Pray together. Pray for each other. Pray for your children. Keep romance alive and well –even when you don’t feel like it. It makes your spouse feel like the most important man on the planet. It makes your spouse think you are Wonder Woman. Who doesn’t want to be Wonder Woman?
Slowly you’ll find you are serving each other before yourself in all aspects of life. Without complaint. With joy. There are no more runny egg yokes. There are no more sub-par scrambled eggs. The yoke is light, easy, and perfectly cooked. Insert heart eyes smiley face here.😍
“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”-Matthew 11:29