Thursday, January 01, 2009

How did we get here?

Happy New Year. I've been thinking about the topic of marriage for some time now. Maybe it is all the princess themed movies that Emma insists on watching. Although we all enjoy the idea of a good love story, happily every after is not a reality for so many. Here is something to think about along with all the other new year's resolutions. If you are married, are you happy? Read on to see my attempt at communicating the feelings of  two very different couples. My very own novel will be out in 2062. In the meantime, entertainment from the blog will have to suffice.

His hand brushed hers as they walked side by side. The touch of his skin against hers sent shivers of excitement tingling up her arm. She quickly glanced at him to see if the touch was accidental or a purposeful way to be closer to her. The glint of mischief in his eye as he looked at her told her he wanted to be as near to her as possible and more. He grasped her hand, intwining his fingers with hers and leaned into her side to whispered in her ear, "You're so beautiful." The simple compliment sent her heart fluttering and a smile spread across her face in pure delight. She gazed at him and in an instant she felt new love all over again for the man she'd fallen for so many years ago; before he'd stood by her through the best and worst of times; before he'd provided a home for her and been the father to her children. Now his touch was more than just a tingling of sweet delight, it was a promise of the commitment unfolding into a fulfilling life together.

A happy marriage is designed to bring a man and woman deep satisfaction and joy. God designed it that way as stated in Scripture. There are many more passaged than these, but here is a little of what the Bible has to say about relationships:

"But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother to be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Mark 10:6-10 NIV

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return forheir work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.  If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned." Song of Solomon 8:6-7 

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angers, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

The adverse is unfortunately true as well; an unhappy marriage is miserable and trying, hurtful, and hateful because both parties make mistakes that hurt the other person.

"Unless the Lord builds the house (the marriage), its builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat for he grants sleep to those he loves.  Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Psalm 127

"How could you do this to me?" She yelled with all the deepest anger she possessed. She wanted her look of hatred to nail him in that spot, to make him understand how badly he'd hurt her. Instead he yelled back increasingly cruel things. She started to sob deeply and she wished her tears would make him realize, but her anguish seemed to make it worse and he pounded his fist against the kitchen counter with rage he couldn't express any other way. He stormed out of the room and everything in her wanted to chase after him and pummel him with her fists and make him feel pain physically, as irrational as it was, her hurt was so deep. Instead, she heard him thunder out of the house and leave with a roar of an engine as he sped away into a dark night. She felt utterly alone. All her anguish came pouring out in tears that did nothing to lessen the pain. He wouldn't be back for many hours. They'd been down this path before and nothing was resolved and nothing ever changer. Even though they would both calm down, he wouldn't be there to hold her close and say, "I'm sorry, I understand." When was the last time he'd held her close? If he wouldn't say "I'm sorry," then neither would she. She called him every awful name she could think of in her head, ruminating over every time he'd been wrong. His sins grew and grew until all she felt was resentment. Her heart, once filled with love for this man, now filled with hatred.

I recently heard about a friend I grew up with who is now divorced from her husband. I thought back to her wedding and the beautiful day. Of course the bride and groom were dressed in their finest and they proudly proclaimed their love and commitment to one another as the crowd watched. There was a photographer who captured their happiness. Those pictures were precious to the bride when she excitedly showed them to me after the wedding and honeymoon. Years happened in between and I lost touch with this friend. Now that they are divorced, I imagine the pictures from their wedding day were tossed out like last weeks trash. 

The tragedy of a broken marriage makes me wonder what happened from the happy couple on their wedding day to the hatred and bitterness in story B. It doesn't happen over night; Two happy and content people do not wake up and decide to be hurtful to the other person and thus destroy their love. No, they want to spend every moment with one another, soaking up every precious moment together... forever. So what transpired between the deepest of love to a heart filled with hatred for the one they married?

What is your opinion? You don't have to be married to answer this question because married or single, we know someone personally who is divorced; someone who took the journey from happiness to devastation. I don't pretend to be an expert on marriage, but I understand the emotions portrayed in both stories A and B. I've lived unhappily in my marriage and felt disappointment. I've also known happiness and satisfaction and the day to day blessings of being married -- and all to the same man. I'll be writing more about this because I think it is such an important topic. It is often ignored until we hear about another good Christian couple who is getting divorced and we say, "How did that happen? They were so happy." Something happened in between and behind closed doors from one day to the next and the next. My prayer is that people could have strong and happy marriages and maybe, just maybe, by examining the causes, we can prevent the devastation.


Kari said...

Unfortunately when we first marry, we think that happily ever after just happens as a fact. When in deed it is the choice to love actively and self sacrificially. The best way to learn..stick around and choose another ending, kind of like choose your own adventure books, remember those?

Let God's word be our reasoning, not the emotion of the moment. Much easier said than done until we practice practice practice! but, we must choose.

The lesson God has allowed me to learn first hand in dramatic ways this let Him be our mediator, not that nag that likes to surface now and then. If I take my "complaints" to Him and let Him alone handle my husband...amazing differences happen! My hubby loves the Lord and IS teachable, what a blessing!

Annie said...

Paul and I have seen many couples around us go through divorces. We just got the multnomah alumni magazine with am article about divorce in it. The rate of divorce is the same among Christians as it is in the "real world". That's amazing to me.
I think the problem stems from plain old selfishness. I also think there are traumatic circumstances that some marriages can't handle (the death of a child, war). It is a very interesting topic to me and one that Paul and I discus every time a new couple gets divorced. I think the hardest time we had in our marriage was the first year after Eli was born. We had been married for so long and got comfortable in certain roles. Now we both had new responsibilities and neither thought the other was doing enough! It's funny to think about now but it wasn't funny at the time. Thanks for bringing up an important issue.

Andee said...

Trees are beautiful things from this side of the earth, but they are only as good as the root system underneath. Under the earth, the roots are an ugly, gnarly mess. They work their way through the soil and any other obstacle that comes their way. The life of the tree comes from the roots. They aren't pretty, but they hold on, persevering through the tough stuff, keeping that tree standing firm. I think it's human nature to focus on the blossoms instead of the roots, but deep roots only make the blossoms more beautiful.

Lindsay said...

I am no expert either but yes, there have people we know and friends we've had that have gone through divorce and Craig and I have sat there looking at each other asking "HOW?" and "WHY?"

One piece of advice that came from my oldest sis on my wedding day was sinmply this, "don't make a big deal over the little things" You are going to be married to this person for the rest of your life. Is it really worth it to fight over 'little things'? She also told me to always work things out, even if you have to stay up all night....get it worked out. Basically never give up on each other.

Whick bring me to another statement I believe in: MARRIAGE IS WORK. When one or both partners start thinking it is not work everyday to make a good marriage, it starts to deteriorate. We have been there and thankfully have always gotten things back on track. But if couples don't put their very best into marriage, it will slowly break down.

This was a great post, really makes you think!

Melanie said...

I thought about this a lot before I got married. It seemed to me that marriages got ugly when there was long-term discontent (spoken or stuffed), because this eventually turned into bitterness and anger toward the other person. This made me resolve either to discuss and resolve issues or to decide that they really weren't important and forget them so that nothing became long-term. We're in three years (five if you count dating and engagement), but "there, but for the grace of God, go I."

Jenny said...

How about a comment from (one of) your favorite single girls? I was talking to my mom the other day...about how many people in my life are married having babies, etc. But the weirdest ones are the people my age getting divorced. I know that I will never have relationships figured out...but I know I am learning what works and doesn't work even in the relationships around me. And honestly, it comes so much to being about servanthood. We are so selfish by nature...we want what we want. We have a picture...and we want it to go the way we see it. But if we all just spent a little more time on others and less on ourselves...things could be so much better. It's not about me...and it never will be how much I try.