Confession: Marriage is kind of hard.
So I have a confession to make. Marriage is hard and I am in an imperfect one as we speak. Yes! That's right! Despite super cute Instagram pics and Facebook posts that dote on my husband's ability to love our daughter and lead our family (which he does very well), we are still in an imperfect marriage. Marriage is challenging and takes a lot of work to properly maintain. Why am I saying this "out loud?" Because it does not do anyone any good at all to pretend like it is anything more than what it is. I am willing to admit that things are not always hunky dory & peachy keen, (for those that can interpret those southern phrases), it is a lot of work to keep things healthy in a marriage.
Just because we are not in a stand-off of silence, although I am pretty good at attempting the silent treatment at times, and even though we aren't cussing each other out (not that a bomb hasn't been dropped before) does not mean that I should try and pretend that we are a perfect couple. So, if you think that about us, let that myth be dispelled today!
When you put two sinners under one roof and ask them to spend their whole lives together all while adding in all the stresses of the world (a mortgage, work, children, chores, illness, job changes, moving, car troubles, in-laws, etc), there is bound to be disagreements along the way that lead to inevitable strains on this beautiful relationship. In some ways, life is actively working against it's success, why? Well because....life! In this new stage of 30-something I have been naively overwhelmed with real life marriages around me that have ended, or that are seriously hurting right now. I don't know why I am surprised by this because the statistics speak so clearly to the 50% chance of every set of marriage vows ending with potential demise. But I also should not be shocked because I am in a marriage, and despite all our best efforts, it is really hard work. All of it! Making small daily decisions together, making big decisions together, considering the other person first, raising a family, and yes, even sex. Intimacy and date nights all take intentionality, work, energy and attention.
The problem becomes when we (by we I mean me) stop admitting that it is hard and that the odds can be somewhat stacked against us. The love and fondness can fade and will fade. We (The Ices) are raising our hands and saying, this can be tough at times and I need some additional help and resources to make this work, because it is WORTH IT.
If we want to know where our hearts are I've heard it said that it is very simple: look at your bank account and your calendar because where you spend your money and your time...is where your heart can be found. We do not shy away from hard work when it comes to areas of our lives where we feel most validated. We will also pay for fun and comfortable experiences that do not require us to be vulnerable or in a position to admit our shortcomings or faulty thinking that affects the people around us. I'd much rather go to the movies or a happy hour with girlfriends than counseling or a small group at church where I might be held accountable on a level I'm not comfortable with.
I think what I have been learning lately is that silence is a deadly weapon. Being willing to speak up, raise your hand, or deciding to shut down the PR campaign that says "things are fine" is very healthy, and even a source of encouragement to others dealing with hardships within their marriage too.
Another reality worth admitting is that we are all products of our childhood, the good things and the not so good things. Chances are our parents had an imperfect marriage too. And we learned a few things along the way, like how to communicate and ask for forgiveness and how to repair hurts/damage, or how to right wrongs. We learned both good and bad ways to go about these building blocks of marriage. Growing up I learned how to pretend like everything is fine as a way of "moving on."
If we are honest with ourselves there is a little bit of flawed thinking in all of us that needs to be addressed in order to have a healthy relationship with healthy communication.
I don't want to coexist and share a bank account with a roommate. I want to be in a deep, intimate and growing relationship with my husband who I made a commitment to, because he is worth fighting for.
I want to be quick to forgive and quick to apologize. I want to say no to anything that could put a wedge between us. I want to sacrifice and create margin to say/do things that are uncomfortable or not easy if it serves as a means to a more amazing end.
Jamey and I are started a biblical marriage class this summer that is 16-20 weeks long, yes you did the math correctly that equals four plus months. It is on a night that is not convenient for us. A day we already have important prior commitments. It is during our little girl's normal bedtime routine. It is not super close to our house and we will have to rush after work to get there, and the list goes on and on as to all the reasons why it is not convenient to work on our marriage for the next four months. But what is the alternative? To wait until things get bad enough to justify this level of commitment to a class?
So I am writing this in order to raise my hand and say I have a confession: marriage is hard and it takes a lot of work. But so does anything else that is good in our lives, because very few good things in life come easy.
I will also say that as a married person and a Christian I want to pursue transparency and humility and be uncomfortable if it means preserving the beautiful gift that is marriage and all that it was designed to be. Also, it is so much bigger than me. Other things are at stake. Not just our child, but also the mission we are on to make this place (earth) look a little more like heaven. Our marriage is a picture of God's love for his bride, the church, whom he pursues and loves unconditionally and expects nothing in return.
I only share this publicly to say that it is ok to not be ok, but it is not ok to stay there. We are excited for this season of looking inwardly and fighting for a healthy and even better marriage!
If you are looking to do a little marriage rebooting yourself can I suggest a few resources that have been pretty helpful for Jamey and I:
1.) Counseling: I am a huge fan of counseling and go regularly. It is so good for my soul to sit across from my counselor and talk through things I say or do or tendencies that I have. Ultimately, these things shape how I respond to circumstances and people around me and I always want to position myself to grow into a healthier version of myself, one difficult but necessary session at a time.
2.) Sex Marriage Radio: For all you podcasters this is an amazing podcast all about having a healthy marriage and healthy sex life! The show is by Dr. Corey Allan and Shannon Ethridge, who have wisdom for anyone who is married and needs some encouragement and tips on how to keep the intimacy alive and well in a marriage.
3.) Read a book! There are so many out there that remind us about the truth of marriage and what the real purpose is. While culture teaches us to look for our soul mate, the person who "completes" us, God has a more realistic plan for our hearts and marriages. I personally can find myself adopting the flawed concept of wondering what Jamey "can do for me." However, truth from scripture or a good marriage book help me to remove the blinders and to have a healthier perspective. Right now Jamey and I are both reading through You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan.
Others I would suggest are: Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler. What Did You Expect by Paul Tripp. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller
And for you non-married friends out there I would highly recommend the book The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas.
4.) Go to a marriage conference: I am going to list a few below. There are a million reasons to not attend one of these: not enough time, not enough money, etc But I will just suggest that there are few more important things to spend time and money on than our marriage. Also, I have noticed that some of them make scholarships available for couples who need financial assistance.
Mingling of Souls Conference
What Did You Expect Conference
Sexy Marriage Radio Getaway
5.) A Weekly date night! This is something Jamey and I have to work hard for because our time is limited and we like to be social and spend time with friends, and now we spend most evenings at home with our little baby. However, going somewhere with the intention of being alone, just the two of us, talking, hanging out and having fun without the distractions of our sweet babe or house chores is so good for our souls. This is normally something we are quick to throw out or "rain check" if a better opportunity arises and now we are learning to say no to good things so we can say yes to something greater: each other!
6.) If you are local in the DFW area I would recommend Re-Engage: a marriage ministry originated out of Watermark Church (but you dont have to attend Watermark in order to go). It is open to the public. I have found it to be a safe place where lots of couples come together each week to work on their marriage. The stories of reconciliation and of marriages being restored has me in tears each week of what God can do through couples who humble themselves and ask for help. Two perks: it's free and they provide childcare!
I hope this helps married people who might also need the encouragement to know you are not alone. Leave us a note and let us know ways we can be praying for your marriage as well!