5 things my wife has taught me about marriage
My wife (Michelle) is awesome. This is not a post about that. It is not “an open letter about why I love my wife.” But she’s a pretty phenomenal spouse, and when someone is good at something it’s good to learn from them. So here are five things I’ve learned about marriage from her. I imagine they could be helpful for others too.
I have some control over the state of my marriage.
“I just don’t love him anymore.”
“There’s nothing I can do. Our marriage isn’t going well, but that’s just how it is.”
Michelle has taught me that the idea that the state of marriage is something that exists entirely outside my control is a lie. A lie lots of people believe. There is a widespread cultural dogma that holds that romantic love is based on feelings that are entirely outside our control. We don’t believe that about love for our children, our friends, or even our sports teams. But when it comes to marriage we just hold on and hope “those feelings” don’t totally go away.
Michelle is intentional about doing things that contribute to the strength and beauty of our marriage. Through her actions she reminds me that I have some control over the state of our marriage. I can do things that contribute to its strength and beauty and I can do things that detract from it. We all get that there are big things that can do this, but every day there are little things that add up to great importance. She builds our marriage daily and I’m the glad recipient of this gift. I’m learning to get better at doing the same.
I have choices even when my marriage feels out of control.
There are times when things feel out of control in marriage. For a variety of reasons we find ourselves in a place we wouldn’t choose. We aren’t as connected as we’d like to be. We find ourselves butting heads out of the blue. There are things that contribute to this, but they go undetected and all of the sudden our marriage feels out of control.
When that is the case it is so important to understand that we have choices about what we do in the midst of it. Michelle and I have gone through some times like this. As I look back on those times I realize that it was in those times where she stepped up the things that build up our marriage. She encouraged me more than normal. She reminded me that she loved me with a love that goes beyond how she feels at a given moment. She bought my favorite iced coffee even though the price tag usually keeps me from buying it.
I can guarantee she didn’t FEEL like doing all those things. She just made up her mind to do them. In the midst of marital turbulence she made choices to move toward me rather than away from me. That is not the natural direction in those times–it is a direction that takes courage, intention, and practical action.
Working on myself is an act of love.
Lately God has been working with Michelle in some really deep, and at times painful ways. She has entered into those tender and difficult places with grace and courage. She has developed tremendous vision for how this is something that is important for our marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that is the primary point, I’m just saying she has helped me to see that not working on myself can really be an act of selfishness. I’d rather buy her flowers or rub her shoulders than enter into the painful places where transformation is needed. But the latter is a greater gift. She’s inspiring me to see that working on myself is an act of love I can offer to God and to her.
A spouse helps us see what is and what can be.
Michelle’s vision of who I am and who I can be is significantly different than the vision I have of myself. She knows my faults. Well. And somehow, with that knowledge, she is still able to look at me and see the person who is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I often cannot see that in myself. It is a tremendous gift to have someone who can.
That is the vision we should pursue of our spouse. Not a vision that denies flaws, but one that sees the beauty that is there despite the flaws. A vision that sees the potential of what can be when the other struggles to see it. I know the love of God more because of what I have experienced in this area with Michelle. She sees my deep flaws and loves me anyway. That’s what God does too. She loves me as I am and out of love wants me to become what I can be. God does too.
There is a deep and mysterious gift a wife or husband can offer their spouse when they do this. There is power there.
1 Corinthians 13 is true.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This is possible. It is possible. It is not easy. It takes the work I’ve talked about in the other four points. But I have seen and experienced it. I believe that our marriages, animated by the life of God, can look like this. And it is beautiful. It is worth the struggle, pain, work, and commitment.