The Only Piece of Marriage Advice I'll Ever Give...

My facebook feed lately is full of marriage advice. I suppose that's because of the age we're a part of, mid to late twenties to early thirties, the time when most people are getting married and trying to start a family.

But some of those articles just plain make me cringe. And worse? Some of them are coming from major Christian marriage headliners who are supposed to know what they're doing. 5 things to look for in a future spouse, 7 signs he's not the right guy.

I mean, yes, it's great to look for good qualities like financial stewardship or prioritizing health, but people please know---you can marry a man or woman with all the right credentials (and knows Jesus), and it may still be a battle if that's all you look for, because those are only symptoms of a much larger issue.

Let me explain. When my husband and I met it was on the campus of a small bible college (we knew Jesus.) We wanted to be in ministry, save the world, lead worship for the masses! We said all the right Christian lingo, and we did all the right things! But our first several years of marriage were still a disaster, and not just in the "I'm getting used to another person" way. We had a bigger problem.

Neither one of us knew who we were.

And by that I mean, I didn't know much about myself, and worse, what I did know I didn't like. Kevin was the same, and together we became lost in each other--a codependent tropical storm of emotions, neediness, blame, and control.

It was awful.

We literally sucked the life out of each other, trying to fill the voids that ached in each of us. And while we would both claimed to know God, we were far from Him, unable to connect to each other and unable to connect to Him.

Oh--and we saw counselors! Counselors who told us that if Kevin would give me love and security, and I would give him respect, honor, and submission, we'd be okay. We saw Pastors who told us that the real problem was that I was such a strong woman and that Kevin was too passive. If we could just change all of that, we'd be fine.

We tried to take their advice. We did, we really did. But it didn't work, and both of us feared the worst. By our sixth year together we were separated on advice from a married couple who we considered mentors. It was then that I made the first real step to healing our marriage--I decided to work on myself. I resolved that no matter what happened, I needed to get healthy, and so I started a program that helped me deal with the my baggage. I spent months finding the truth and connecting with myself. What do I want to do? What gifts has God placed in me? Who am I? I felt a lot like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. I needed to connect to myself again, because I'd become a life vampire, sucking it out of others, because I didn't have my own. 

It wasn't long after that, free from my manipulation and control, that Kevin started his own healing journey, unpacking baggage, finding the truth, connecting with himself and God. That summer we moved back in together, and started the real work of marriage.

That was almost two years ago. Since then we've been in this honeymoon period that I'm confident will follow us our whole marriage (not that we don't have bumps still), because being together isn't about getting something from the other anymore. We know who we are and whose we are, so it isn't a matter of getting. We're both filled. It's a matter of choosing. Choosing to love even when another's actions don't live up to our standards, choosing grace when we have hard days, and choosing each other always at the end of every day. And out of choosing comes a deeply intimate bond that is unbreakable.

This is where the advice of the counselors and pastors always fell short. They were telling us to keep our focus on getting out of each other, instead of on getting what we needed from a deeply rooted sense of self and intimacy with God. They were focusing on the symptoms, not on the root. 

So if you want my one piece of advice, it's simply this. Know thyself!  Be a person who lives a life of vulnerability, without masks towards self, others, or God. Look for someone who does the same. And then choose each other.  It is this dynamic that will create the kind of intimacy that lasts a lifetime.


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