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Marriage

Why Those You Love Most Hurt the Most

Why is it so easy to be hurt by the ones who love us most?

Nothing gives me more heartache than hurting or bothering those I love.  This is mainly due to the fact that I unintentionally hurt them.  Sometimes I say things with the purest intentions–making a joke, stating the facts, or relaying a message–and the ones I love leave the conversation confused, angry, or sad.

When my husband hurts me, intentionally or unintentionally, it hurts.  When I hurt my husband, intentionally or unintentionally, it hurts.  We both feel the hurt, whether we’re the victim or the attacker.  When one of us is hurt, there is no victory; there’s just pain that needs to be healed.

One night after a tiny squabble, I lay in bed with my arms folded over my chest and my knees curled into my stomach.  Any touch from my husband would just make me withdraw within myself.  My stomach was turning and my mind was racing.  If I moved a muscle, my husband might try to reach over and touch me.  I didn’t want him close because I knew I was wrong.  As a result of my fear, he was deprived of the attention that he craved.  However, I knew I hurt him, and any interacting with my husband would remind me of my shortcomings.

Those close to us are meant to make us better people by pointing out our shortcomings in love.

I was talking about this idea with one of my co-workers when I first got married.  Why is it that people we live with get on our nerves the most?  He reminded me of Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (NIV).  If you look up videos on what it looks like to sharpen iron, a lot of them involve loud noises, fire/coals, and a giant metal object getting all of up in the face of the piece of iron.  To put it in human terms, a person gets in your face and points out your flaws, brings out something ugly in you, and (ideally) helps you deal with your weaknesses.  And who do you trust enough to get that close to us and see us in our most vulnerable state?

Your spouse.

Unfortunately, your spouse will hurt you.  Unfortunately, you will hurt your spouse.  But when either of you feel hurt, you can use it to bring you closer to God and to each other. Pray that God uses this pain to heal and transform your marriage.  Be honest with Him about the severity of your pain or frustration, but trust that God is able to redeem your situation for His glory.  Trust your spouse to speak the truth in love, and pray about how to respond to his/her admonishing.  In the same way, if something bothers you about your spouse, pray about how to tell him/her what you notice in a loving, gracious manner.

Humans were never meant to complete us.  We are all fallen images of perfection, and we unfortunately make mistakes that affect the ones we love.  In the midst of these shortcomings, we can trust that God will never fail us.


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

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Marriage

Marriage is Like a Mission Trip

Marriage is an Adventure

From the moment we said “I do,” my husband and I embarked on a journey of becoming one.  We have been out of the country and to multiple states together, but the ultimate journeys have taken place at home.

You see, the journey for us is not where we go, but what we learn.  I’ve learned so much about my husband from the habits he’s formed, the family he grew up with, and the way that he worships God.  I know he’s learned about me from observing me and asking me questions as well.

Since 2008, I’ve had the desire to travel around the world.  I was blessed with the opportunities to travel to West Virginia, Texas, Spain, and Haiti on trips to serve others and bring glory to God.  Little did I know that I would not have to travel to a foreign land to get a full-time cross-cultural and God-honoring experience.

Stages of Cross-Cultural Adjustment

In my college classes, I learned about the four stages of cross-cultural adjustment.  I have seen these stages played out in my marriage, as well as in others.

Although this stage did not make the cut, the preparation stage is important to bring up in this article.  When going on a cross-cultural trip, you always want to prepare in some manner.  Whether you spend time reading the Bible, or you learn the language, you want to be as ready as possible for this new adventure.

Before marriage, couples spend time getting ready for their wedding day and beyond.  They attend pre-marital counseling, gain wisdom from mature couples, and discuss expectations.  They also invest time and money in the wedding day.

The first stage of cross-cultural adjustment is the honeymoon stage.  When the plane glides to the ground after a perfect flight, the feeling of euphoria is incomparable.  You are a tourist: you want to take pictures, you’re fascinated by the food, and you’re in love with the people.  In this new culture, you’re in your happy place, and nothing can get in the way of your enjoyment.

A married couple shares a similar experience during their first few years of marriage. After that seal of the marriage with a kiss, all they can see before them is endless possibilities.  They love everything about each other, and nothing can pop the bubble of their love.

The second stage is culture shock, the time when the euphoria fades.  It seems almost instant that the culture which was once beautiful and perfect is now distorted and wrong.  The food makes you sick, the weather is irritating, and the people don’t make sense.  The most difficult part of culture shock is the language barrier.  It can be exhausting and frustrating learning the language, and even more tiring is the hidden context behind the words.  You may understand the literal definition of the words you hear, for example, but you might not be able to pick up the sarcasm or the background behind it.

It can be exhausting trying to decipher the inside jokes, sarcasm, or traditions of your spouse’s family and friend group.  Although you may speak the same language, your sense of humor, your circle of friends, and your slang may be totally different.  You may find yourself having to stop the conversation a few times and say “OK, what’s going on?  Who’s so-and-so?  Why is this so funny?  What does this mean?”  You may get impatient, but please remember to be patient with yourself.

When going through culture shock, experts suggest taking naps and eating healthy.  I would suggest the same for married couples trying to merge their lives together.  It is healthy to spend time with family, but you also need a break from other people (and that may or may not include a nap!).  After spending time with either of our families, I like to spend a few hours with my husband processing our experiences.  We ask each other questions about jokes, pieces of information, or activities that we did not fully understand.  It not only helps us grow closer to our in-laws, but it helps us understand each other better as well.

Over time, the traveler transitions into the adjustment stage.  You learn to adapt to the culture, and you even appreciate some aspects of this new culture more than your home culture.  Although you’re not completely satisfied, you make the most of it.  Deciding to adjust and adapt is a willing decision that any traveler must make in order to survive.

My husband and I have decided to be committed to each other, no matter what problems we face.  We are attempting to create our own traditions and our own “culture.” Marriage definitely feels weird (since neither of us have been married before!), but we are making the most of it.

Finally, you feel the “at home” stage.  You can now comfortably say that you fit in to this new culture.  It feels as much as home to you as your home culture does.  You aren’t in love with the culture as you were in the honeymoon stage, but you are able to appreciate the culture and adjust to what you don’t like.

My husband and I can confidently say that we’ve made ourselves feel at home in our marriage.  Are we perfect?  Absolutely not, and we never will be. However, we are able to appreciate each other and to overlook what we do not like.

Marriage is a Missions Trip

So, if marriage is like a missions trip, what is our mission?

Above all, a marriage is meant to bring glory to God.  The relationship we have with our spouse is a mere symbol of the unconditional love and grace that Christ extends to us.  Even when we have communication troubles, even when there are qualities of our spouses that are not appealing, we are still called to share love, grace, and forgiveness with them.  By making Jesus the mission of our marriage, we can bless each other and be a blessing to those in our sphere of influenceno matter if we’re in our home culture or in a foreign land!

 


My featured image was brought to you by Unsplash.

 

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Marriage

Separating From Your Spouse

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.

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Marriage

What’s New? Nothing, and That’s OK.

It seems like everyone is getting engaged and having babies, and I’m all like

IMG_20170705_220846_834
My sink is clean!

 

Seriously, my husband and I are both incredibly happy for the people in our lives that are getting engaged, getting married, getting pregnant, and having babies (even having a second child!).  We have grown to appreciate and celebrate with the people who have exciting things going on around us.  Thank you for sharing your blessings with us!

After not seeing my family or friends for a while, they ask the question: “What’s new?”  It may be my own insecurity, or it may be the way our society is nowadays, but I never feel content unless I actually give them some news about what’s going on in my life.

But do you want to know my honest answer?  Nothing.

The past two years we’re literally an emotional roller coaster for me and my husband.  Between transitions in our jobs, places of residence, marital status, and physical health, it’s as if we’ve lived three lives together in the two-and-a-half years we’ve known each other.  Every week, we had new news.

“I’m moving into my first apartment.”

“I just started a new job.”

“I just got promoted.”

“I have shingles.”

“We’re engaged.” (And all the news that comes with planning a wedding).

“I have a new job.”

“We have new friends.”

“We’re involved in new ministries at the church.”

“We’re married.”

“We’re going on vacation.”

“We have a new apartment.”

“I’m getting a promotion.”

Because of all these changes, we have become discontent with waiting, as we’ve been trained by our experiences to always anticipate the next best thing.  Our prayers have transitioned from “Thank you, God,” to “What next, God?”  And after praying for several months, God has finally answered the cry of our hearts for His direction:

“It’s OK to be normal.”

We don’t feel led.  We don’t have enough money.  We don’t have enough time.  We have our hands full.  These are all excuses that people use to not live their dreams.  But what if God has so crafted our circumstances–our limited budget, our busy schedules, our responsibilities, His silence in our prayers–so that we could step back and see that we have enough right where we are?

My exciting news is that I don’t have dishes in the sink. My exciting news is that we’re cleaning out our closet and getting rid of clothes we haven’t worn in several years.  My exciting news is that we spent half of what we thought we would while grocery shopping.  My exciting news is that I rewrote a chapter of my book today.  Our exciting news is that every day is a beautiful adventure, where we learn more about each other through household chores, grocery shopping, and living normal.

And that’s OK.

If you find you’re discontent, if you don’t hear God answering your prayers, may you find encouragement in the normal.  Whether you’re single, engaged, newlywed, trying to have kids, struggling to keep up with your numerous kids, an empty nester, or beyond, you have a reason to celebrate.  That celebration might not be over the opportunity to travel, finding out the gender of your baby, or exchanging rings with the love of your life, but if God is with you, you can celebration that you literally have everything you need in this very moment.  God is enough; maybe you needed to read that in this very moment!

On Thursday, I’ll be talking more about this in the context of a post I wrote in 2014.

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Marriage

What’s Better than Lovey Dovey Feelings?

You typically feel those feelings when you’re first flirting with a guy and/or first dating.  If you so much as touch hands without trying, it’s like an electric spark gets sent straight through your arm.  The thrill of the moment is so exhilarating, and all you can think about in that moment is spending the rest of your life with that person.

I truly believe that God gave us these feelings to help us build a foundation of unity early on in our relationships.  If you took away all those mushy gushy feelings you had for your partner, especially in the beginning of the relationship, your partner would be no more than just another human being.  Even if you had the same likes and dislikes, you would probably not want to be more than just friends, and you’d both be OK with that.

But when you have those feelings, you are suddenly attached.  You’re like a duck imprinted on the first person you saw the minute you came out of your egg.  Suddenly, you want to impress this potential mate.  You might lose weight or start working out more. You might start reading to appear smarter.  You might rearrange your schedule so that you have enough time to spend together.  No matter what, your goal is to be united, and to make sure that nothing gets in the way of that union.

I used to be afraid that my lovey dovey feelings would fade.  After all, the lovey dovey feeling was all I knew!  The farthest I’ve ever been with someone (before marriage) was that cute electric stage.  Plus, growing up on fairy tales and romantic comedies, I didn’t know what to expect after the “happily ever after.”  If the “happily ever after” didn’t last forever, what would become of my marriage?  I couldn’t imagine life without feeling “in love” forever with someone, especially my husband!

My husband and I have only known each other for about 2 1/2 years, so our feelings are still in the honeymoon stage.  However, between our married small group, our friends that are married, and pre-marital counseling, we’ve heard the cold hard truth that the honeymoon stage of our marriage does not last forever.  One day, we will “wake up” and smell the morning breath that suddenly doesn’t smell so beautiful anymore.  One day, we will make plans without each other, and may go days without having quality time together.  One day, the veil will be taken off of our eyes, and we will see each other as imperfect, human beings.

I don’t know how that’s supposed to be appealing to anyone.  If that were all there was to marriage, why would anyone want to get married?

I’ll tell you.

My love with my husband is growing.  Flirting is always a mystery, but my husband’s love for me is not.  I never have to wonder if my husband loves me.  Even when we have busy schedules and aren’t able to have dinner together, even when he has a different definition of “quality time,” even when I mess up a meal and try to compromise, I know that at the end of the day, he’s still coming home with me.  And he still manages to give me butterflies by surprising me, spending time with me, and overall making me feel special.

Our love isn’t a lovey dovey kind of love.  It’s a secure, protecting, committed love.  And I’d take that over the spark any day.

If you’re afraid of your feelings fading, remember this: lovey dovey love is a seed that has to die for your committed love to grow into a strawberry bush.  The “honeymoon” love is what helps your relationship take root, but the commitment produces fruit that will sustain your marriage for many years to come.  Let your love grow, no matter the season of your love.

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Marriage

5 Gifts You Can Give the Newlyweds You Love

Marriage is two people with two different pasts, likes, dislikes, hurts, family traditions, work habits, personality types, cravings, and desires, trying to live together in harmony.  I don’t even have harmony with myself sometimes; how can I have harmony with another person who isn’t even like me?  Glory to God, for only He can take a cube block and a rectangle block and make them both fit inside a cylinder block.

Having gone to several weddings over the years, and having seen many a couple get engaged and get married, I realize how much a marriage is affected by the environment in which it grows.  Friends and family can literally make or break a marriage, especially if the husband and wife do not adopt a team mentality.  I’ve seen friends bet on how long the couple would last together, during the pair’s first dance!  I’ve heard family members tell wives that their husbands are dirty lowlifes who do not deserve to be married to them, and those wives have gone on to divorce their husbands.  Do you want to help your newlywed friends/family have a miraculously successful marriage, or do you want to watch them crumble and fall right before your eyes?

If you want to be the one to encourage a godly relationship instead of try to tear it apart, here are the best gifts that you can give newlyweds during their first few years of marriage:

  • Prayer: Even though I’ve only been married for a little less than eight months, I already know that the hand of God is on my relationship with my husband.  God has literally stopped us from fighting just after we prayed.  True wisdom comes from knowing and obeying God.  To help us out, send us an encouraging Bible verse, and pray for us.  I’m sure that we can speak for a lot of couples when we say that we have prayer requests!  If you want to help us out, close your eyes and bow your head in prayer to God.  And be around to watch what God does because of your prayers!
  • Support: Divorce and separation seem to be the norm these days.  Although we can’t fix every marriage, I know for certain that trashing a marriage with our words definitely does not help it last!  Talk nicely about the newlyweds you know.  They’re trying to figure it out, and the last thing they need is for you to tell them that they are doing it all wrong.  What they need instead is for you to tell them that life is a process, and that eventually, they will figure it out (and while they figure it out, go back to point #1 and pray for them!).  And if either of them–which could be your son/daughter, sibling, or best friend–come to you to tell you something bad the other one did, do not take it personally!  Although you want to protect your loved one, you need to protect the commitment that he/she made to the love of his/her life.  Support for the marriage can be the best gift you can give the ones you love.
  • Patience: The most difficult part of marriage for us has been keeping up with all of our families.  We both have big families, and all of our family members are scattered across the tri-state area and beyond.  Every holiday, the question stands: Where are we going?  Of course, all of our family members want to see us, but it is literally impossible to have all of our family members together under one roof…and I don’t want to spend every holiday running around so that everyone else is happy while I’m a tired nervous wreck.  One of these days, I even want to spend a holiday with just the two of us!  So we have to compromise, and that usually means telling one side of the family that we can’t see them.  And we hate that, so so much. We are trying to make time for everyone, but there are only so many hours in the day.  Have patience with us.  We will reach out to you when we can.
  • Example: I am a firm believer in practicing what you preach.  Do not try to give me marriage advice without showing me how that works in your marriage.  But on a more positive note, if your marriage is working out, tell me why it’s working out. In a society that promotes divorce and separation, we want to see proof that marriage can end in a happily ever after.
  • Space: When newlyweds are in that honeymoon stage, all they want to do is spend time with each other.   This is not only important physically, but also emotionally.  When I’m at work, I sit at my desk and think about how I can’t wait to go home and talk to my husband about my day.  We usually play a game or watch a TV show or eat dinner together after a stressful day at work.  Although it’s hard to be “replaced” by your son/daughter/best friend/sibling/cousin’s spouse, this phase (I’ve heard) does not last forever.  It’s not that we don’t care about you; it’s that we need time for our relationship to grow.  So please, encourage us to spend time together, and watch our love flourish.  We will come to you (I say that from my own experience; on this point, I cannot speak for all couples).

Thank you for taking the first step in supporting the newlyweds that you love! Newlyweds, let us know if there are any other gifts you would like to add to this list.

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Marriage

The Hardest Part of Growing Old with Someone is…Growing Old

Married couples often talk about growing old with their spouses.  They daydream over the day when they will be sitting in their rocking chairs together, yelling at each other due to difficulty hearing, and holding wrinkled hands as they walk throughout the town.

But most couples don’t like to realize that one day, they will get old.  And that’s a scary thought for a young person, who believes that he/she has a full life ahead of him/her.

A few days ago was my 25th birthday.  I’m finally at the age where I admire my baby face; it makes me look like I’m 16!  To celebrate my birthday, my husband did a great job of preparing a fun-filled day for me at the amusement park.

However, for the first time in my life, it dawned on me that I am not a kid anymore.  I know I’ve been doing this thing called “adulting” for the past few years, but my heart has always been one of a child.  I played with my husband doing silly activities for my birthday, but I realize that one day we might grow old and not want to go to amusement parks or shoot water at each other from a bumper boat…or even dance in the rain!  And not always being able to do what is familiar to me, scares me.  We love to imagine that we’ll grow old together, but we don’t like to believe that it’ll actually happen.

One day, my husband and I will buy our first home together.  One day, we will have kids.  One day, we will switch jobs.  One day, we will get promoted.  One day, our kids will graduate high school.  One day, our kids will get married and have kids of their own.  One day, we will retire.  One day, our health will decline.  One day, we will leave this Earth and be with the Lord.

As a couple, we’ve already been through so much together.  I actually knew I wanted to marry my husband because he took care of me when I was sick.  When I got shingles, he was over my apartment every day, checking my rash on my stomach and comforting me when the antibiotics made me nauseous (which is the scariest feeling in the world for me!).  I helped him prepare for his interview when he was looking for a job, and I visited him when he was in the hospital because of a migraine.  Together, we’re taking care of our apartment and helping each other eat healthy(er).  Even though we have adult responsibilities, we are having fun and making the most of every opportunity.

I don’t know what growing old will specifically look like for me and my husband, but I know that God put the right man in my life to be my partner.  God knew that of all the men I could have married, my husband would stay with me through the ebbs and flows of my life.  In addition to this, God has also entrusted my husband to me to help him grow through the ebbs and flows of his life.  We’re a team, and no matter how old we get, we will stay by each other’s sides.

One day, we will walk through the store, shopping for decorations and furniture for our house.  One day, my husband will laugh with me and have such patience with me as my body changes during pregnancy.  One day, we will watch our kids’ sports games and dance recitals and graduations together.  One day, my husband will hold me as I cry with mixed emotions when my children leave the nest.  One day, we’ll visit and spoil our grandchildren.  One day, we’ll travel the world.  One day, my husband will remind me to take my pills and exercise.  One day, we’ll be holding hands, thankful for one more day of life, as each day for us in our older years will be a gift from God.

You may be afraid that you and your spouse will get boring when you’re older, or that your spouse will grow tired of you.  While I don’t know the future, I know one thing is true: faith in God is the only power that can carry us fully into adulthood and beyond.  Trust that God has given you a man/woman to help you and not hurt you.  Make a constant decision to be a team with your spouse (just the two of you!) so that your marriage will not be you vs. your spouse, but you and your spouse vs. the world.

But if/when your spouse disappoints you, remember that while people may fail, God is faithful and His love for you is everlasting. And when your wrinkles, waist size, energy, and doctor visits disappoint you, remember that your hope is ultimately in Christ, who promises to give you abundant life, from this life until the next.

So, while we may be getting older, we walk in faith, knowing that God has equipped us as a team to face any obstacle that comes our way.  Even growing old together.