Together you prepare for W-day. You’ve been planning towards achievable goals. Blast off! Now you’re strapped together and floating in orbit.
Guys look at me like I’ve just had a stroke . . . of genius—“Why didn’t I think of that?” Girls give me a look that’s hard to read (then look at their partner): “Why didn’t you think of that? That way you’d never forget.”
These are reactions to the fact I got married on my birthday, 11/11/11. Some people think it’s a disadvantage to share my birthday. I think it’s a winner. I get two presents, share my celebration with my wife and I can’t forget (at least until old age or ill health steal away my memory). Well, we’re about to hit three years of marriage so here are some things I’ve learned.
Disclaimer: Three years is not long. I’m no expert. But I’ve learned a lot and I’m still learning every day. If you’ve been married for ages, some of this may not be new to you; just reminisce and have a chuckle.
Marriage is hard. I thought marriage would be awesome—all dates and dinners, “love” on tap, special times with your favourite person. And it is. But it takes real work. The idea of marriage and actual marriage are two different things. No matter how well you think you know your future spouse it doesn’t compare to living together.
The first year of marriage is really hard. Seriously! Together you prepare for W-day. You’ve been planning towards achievable goals. Blast off! Now you’re strapped together and floating in orbit. Attitudes have to change, adjustments must be made—and while some of this change is about focusing less on yourself and more on your other, it can also leave you complacent and secure, not putting in the same effort as dating. You’ve arrived and achieved. As my wife puts it, “Letting myself go, getting too comfortable.”
Love is spelt commitment. If you commit to marriage—with time, money and talents—then your marriage will be strong. Fight for your marriage; don’t just expect it to happen. Choose to commit to each other.
Commit to forgiveness. Choose to forgive. Don’t get stuck on the marry-go-round of grudges, resentment and mayhem. Unforgiveness will undermine your marriage. As the Disney musical says, “Let it go”.
Men: marriage needs you. It is not an institution designed by women to curb your freedoms and make you change. Marriage was designed by God and it’s an equal partnership–equal parts fun and responsibility.
Paul’s challenge to men in Ephesians to love their wives as Christ loved the church hits me right between the eyes. Would I lay down my life for her? And how does that look in less extreme circumstances, in the day to day? It means putting her first no matter what she has done. This is no cheap, easy love but reflects God’s love—loving someone who hurts you deeply, sometimes intentionally, and keeps doing it.
If men need to love, women need to submit. Dr Emmerson Eggerichs in his book Love and Respect outlines this concept clearly. He highlights studies showing men need respect and women need love. This is not about oppressing women but about spouses using language the other can understand.
My wife says, “Hearing the word submit makes me cringe! At first, it didn’t sit well with me because I didn’t fully understand what it meant. To be honest I still have trouble understanding now but there are times I choose not to understand. For me it’s about being equal as husband and wife with our roles at home but it’s also respecting my husband.”
Equal but different. That’s something we can both agree on. That, and how blessed we are to have each other.
Jarrod Stackelroth is the associate editor of Adventist Record.