On Saturday, my husband and I did not wake up together.
I told him I wanted to sleep in after not sleeping well this past week. He, on the other hand, was up before seven. I knew he was up right away; not only am I a light sleeper, but he was also staring at me sleep! Grumpily, I commanded him to find a new place to hang out until it was time for me to wake up. I did not arise until two hours later, and by the time I was ready to see him again, he was playing an hour-long game on his computer (his way of relaxing).
So, my husband started his morning playing video games, while I started mine reading a book (my way of relaxing).
Henry Cloud and John Townsend, most known for their Boundaries series, have written much about the four stages of growth: boundaries, separation, distinguishing right from wrong, and maturing into adulthood. Although I’m not a scholar on psychology or on marriage, I have seen these stages of growth affect marriage as well.
In the beginning stages of marriage, boundaries are essential to making the marriage work. The couple are so used to being two separate humans that they do not know how to come together as one. The husband and wife need to establish boundaries within the marriage as well as outside of the marriage to protect their unity. One boundary that we’ve established is to not talk about our spouse with anyone else without letting our spouse know (even if it’s as simple as “My husband made me lunch today”). We’ve seen secrets destroy relationships, and we didn’t want to let anyone come in between ours. Even when I write about my husband on this blog, I let him read it first, so that he does not think I’m telling you things that he doesn’t already know.
As I’ve written in my post about the lovey-dovey phase, in the beginning stages of a relationship, we have these tingly feelings that make it impossible for us to separate. I firmly believe that God gave us those feelings so that we could establish our unity right from the start of our relationship. My husband and I, without a doubt, are a team. Everyone knows that; we’ve made sure they do!
Because I personally had been so protective of our marriage, I had a difficult time letting my husband do the activities he enjoyed before he met me. We don’t have the same friend group (as much as we enjoy each other’s friends!), and we don’t always have fun doing the same activities. Since I’d become a Christian, I’d always believed that I would be doing everything with my husband, from waking up in the morning, to going to work, to resting together after a long day together. But now that we don’t work together, serve together in all the same ministries, or even have the same interests, I’m rethinking what it looks like to be a team with my husband.
If we don’t give ourselves time to do the things we enjoy, we will become bitter and resentful of each other. If I don’t let my husband play video games to relieve stress, he might get grumpy and see me as a tyrant. If my husband doesn’t let me write, he might end up as the antagonist in my next novel (that was a writer’s joke!). If we don’t let each other hang out with our own friends, not only will our friends wonder what happened, but we’ll also feel like we’re trapped within the bubble of our own marriage. Even if we enjoyed doing the same activities, we also appreciate just taking a minute to spend time alone. We are a team, we are one unit, but we are not the same person.
Now, I am not suggesting that our goal is to eventually grow apart from each other. Our goal is to still be a team, while appreciating the differences that we have from one another. I will never be exactly like my husband, and my husband will never be exactly like me. The way that God created me, the gifts that God has given my husband, the paths where God has led us both, have shaped us into the people we are today. We both have different passions that help us each minister to the body of Christ in unique ways.
We can still enjoy activities together, like going for walks, trying new restaurants, and visiting our families. We can still make mutual friends and spend time with them. We can still serve together. But we can also communicate about what it looks like to be separate within the boundaries we have already established as husband and wife.