I should be writing up my negotiation plan due tomorrow in my Negotiation & Conflict Management class. Instead, I’m here again, hoping to find therapeutic release in writing out my thoughts.
The hardest thing to watch is your friends making colossal mistakes over and over again. The hardest thing for me is when those mistakes are in the realm of relationships. I’m not typically a spontaneous person, although given the right amount of sugar, I could do anything. And I’m pretty cautious about a lot of things but evermore so about my heart and relationships and marriage.
I come from a different world where saying “till death do us part” means “till death do us part”. Through abuse and neglect and sheer evil, I’ve watched women in my country stay true to their wedding vows. I don’t always agree, but I definitely respect it. Their biggest reason for enduring hell on earth is always, always, their children. Those women will do anything for the ones they bore.
Life is also less individualistic and more community-oriented back home. You don’t marry just your fiance, but the entire family as well. And they must approve of your choice. Because when things get rough, as they most certainly will, it’s that community that stands behind you and supports you. So I’ve had a hard time understanding this culture that promotes the idea of individuality and self-sufficiency in relationships. It generally doesn’t matter what anyone else says about your relationship, all that matters is that you love each other. Excuse my french, but I think that’s complete bullshit.
Marriage is a big deal. It’s a forever thing. It includes pain and heartache and loneliness and joy and deep intimacy and passion and the deepest, purest form of human love. It doesn’t end when the happy feelings fade. It doesn’t end when the exciting becomes mundane, or when he stops opening car doors and sending you flowers every time you pout. It doesn’t end when the sexual attraction fades (which, dear Lord, I hope never happens). It shouldn’t end due to “irreconcilable differences”. From what I hear, the “in love” phase lasts about 3 months. Then the real work begins. You have to choose to love the other person on days when you could just as easily slit their throat. Marriage is a big freaking deal. It’s forever.
So when people contemplate marriage based on the way they feel today, expecting that five years down the road, they’ll still feel that way…I shudder and think, “My gosh, you can’t be THAT stupid.” In a culture with such alarming divorce rates, you’d think we would have learned something by now.
Let me pause and apologize. I am deeply passionate about this topic because I’ve experienced firsthand the results of making stupid decisions. I’m also deeply passionate about it because I’m deeply terrified of it. I also process romantic relationships very logically, without much emotion, because I’ve never experienced it. So I might sound harsh and cold, and I’m sorry.
Love isn’t a feeling. Those butterflies in the pit of your stomach, yeah they’ll eventually fly away. Love is a choice. Living with the person who knows you the best, can infuriate you the most, and can hurt you the deepest requires a daily choice to stay, to honor, to protect, to affirm, to cherish, to uphold. So if you say “I do” based on the joyful, heart warming feelings of today, what happens when they fade? Will his/her character be deep enough to sustain a forever relationship?
My roommate said to me the other night, “Sometimes relationships are like business deals.” I couldn’t agree more. I uphold my end of the deal, you uphold yours. It doesn’t matter if I feel like I love you today or not. The feelings could disappear instantly; the commitment never should. Take it from a girl who was raised by a single mother and who wondered all her life, “What is wrong with me? Why wasn’t I good enough to make him stay?”
Yes, it’s an enormous burden of responsibility to think that our decisions today can affect the esteem and worth issues of our children down the road. But oh, they do. Marriage should scare us a little bit. It should be something we contemplate cautiously, tiptoeing into the deep waters. There should be uncompromisable attributes that we won’t live without, things deeper than the way he makes you feel. How about what’s first in his life – you or God?
It says in Exodus that based on our actions, generations unborn are either blessed or cursed. That’s a huge responsibility. You’re choosing life or death for the ones yet unborn. That’s scary. And I believe that’s how it should be. It’s one of the biggest decisions we’ll make. I strive today to become the woman I was created to be so that my children can be free to be the people they were created to be, not held back or stifled by my refusal to grow up and deal with my issues. And I am cautious, and will remain so, because I want my daughters to not question their worth or value because of an absent father. Marriage isn’t “just the two of us”, it’s children and grandchildren and great grandchildren too.
Thankfully, it’s in His hands and we don’t have to become paranoid, list-checking, fearful people. However, if we’re not willing to listen to His voice and obey it, then we have absolutely no right to say “it’s in His hands”. We’ve clearly snatched it out of His hands and the consequences can, and might in fact be, far-reaching beyond our own existence. I’m not under any illusions that I’m smart enough to know Right from Wrong, or what I’ll need and value 20 years down the road. That’s why we need His help as well as trustworthy, truth-speaking people around us; and we need humility to hear the truth even when it leaves a bitter taste.
Tonight, I’m praying for patience for myself with regards to the ones who keep making one bad decision after another. And I’m also praying for a healthy dose of fear to descend on my generation when it comes to the issue of marriage. Heaven knows we need it.
“…for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:5-6
“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,” 1 John 5:3