Marriage advice to newlyweds

Marriage advice to newlyweds

Renee EllisonDec 5, '21

We go into marriage with all sorts of subliminal expectations—expectations we don't even know we have.  We would, at the outset, classify them as "hopes"—but in the next breath we privately say to ourselves, insistently, that "they'd better be hopes that come true!"  Marriage is full of surprises, however, and the biggest surprise of all is that you didn't ride off into the sunset with more of "yourself."  You rode off into the sunset with a truly significant "other."  Married, you are literally in bed with that "otherness."  Not only is that other "significantly" hard-wired differently from you, he/she comes with 120,000+ hours of different software, too!  His/her background is different than yours, the imprinting was different, the social exchanges within his/her birth family were different—you name it—it's different!

For you two to "get along" you'd think this different-ness would be a recipe for disaster, but, when you are in the Lord, and you are sure that this marriage is of Him (that He sanctions it because you are both spiritually alive in Him), we find out that it comes with great design.  God is starting a new dynasty with each new couple that now somehow influences future generations.  He is the one who designed that the new marriage would have a distinct character/difference from the pasts that each spouse brought to the marriage.  He actually wants this new metamorphosis!

To make this mutual conversion work is, for every couple, a lifetime tussle with our own cocoon.  We'd sometimes rather stay in our cocoon (our past comfort levels) than wrestle with the work it takes to emerge as a butterfly.  It will take self-denial to make it work—to learn to bevel, to grow together.  On the day of my marriage my father told me (with a twinkle in his eye), "marriage is an adventure in adjustment!"  And how true that is.

Instead of fighting the adjustment, look forward with eagerness to the adjustment and it will make a far more refined, mature and loving you.  Marriage is one of God's finest schoolrooms to teach you how to get past yourself and move into the wide ocean of His huge kingdom.  You can't possibly know now what God is making of you.  You can't dictate how it should be, out there in the future, because you can't possibly know God's purposes for it, nor how to get there.  Given all the dimensions of the unknown, humility sets in in a hurry.  And this is part of the story—a big part: losing yourself in a world that is bigger than yourself.

Therefore, learn to cooperate with the story, readily, at every turn.  You will experience surprising delights in marriage, IF you don't look for them.  There will come unexpected wondrous moments that settle in your heart, like the butterflies—elusive to catch, but they come when you don't anxiously seek them.  Instead, keep your focus on going to God for ever new life-giving, coping strategies, and graces for personal relinquishments, if needed, and He will show you how to notice the butterflies when they come gently and unannounced.

Learn to enjoy your spouse as he or she is.  Instead of remaking him/her into your image, imagine yourself sitting back in a big easy chair, smoking a cigar, with your slippers on, content to observe and watch for the evening!  Marvel at how different he/she is, and seek to stretch yourself to comprehend what it is like to live inside his/her head.  This is a good exercise.  It broadens you immensely, helping you to understand life even outside your marriage where another six billion significant others live.

This is the secret to a good marriage: seek to "love" rather than to "be loved" and you'll progressively and mysteriously grow to be like the Great Lover above.  In the end you'll find that you traded your smaller self for a far larger, better self—to say nothing of the joys and contentments you will have brought to your spouse.

For a lively and practical book on this topic, written by a wife for wives, read Renee's Wise Womanly Ways to Grow Your Marriage.

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