In my last post I wrote about the first three of 7 rules of our marriage. Because the post was getting rather long, I decided to break it up into a second post, which is what you are reading today.
If you don’t mind I will jump right in with the next rule.
4. When There is a Problem, Work it out
Since the very beginning of our marriage I have felt bad about a certain aspect of myself (really more than one, but we will stick to this one for now).
You see when C.J. and I have a disagreement or there is some offense, I cannot function properly until it is completely worked out, and understanding is reached.
In my last post, I told you about the story of our first fight right after coming home from our honeymoon. If you remember, I mentioned that C.J. went to sleep, and I went and scrubbed the bathroom. The reason I scrubbed the bathroom was not because I really wanted to at that moment in time. I could have used a nap too due to the jet lag, but I cleaned the bathroom because I could not sleep with the distance between us.
There has been more than one night in the course of our marriage that I have gone with my pillow and a blanket to the couch, because I physically can’t sleep next to him if we are fighting. I have to go to the couch, and I stay quiet and lay there until I just pass out from exhaustion.
Until the disagreement is worked out, I am not a very good mother either. I am just a shell of a mom. I don’t eat well, I have no motivation to do anything, and I simply don’t function well.
If you can’t tell, I don’t like distance in my marriage.
For years I felt like something was wrong with me because I couldn’t just move on. I could forgive faster than I could move on and function normally.
Apologies would be said. C.J. would ask if we could have a do over and just start fresh. Everything in me would want to, but for some reason, I just couldn’t.
No matter who had made the offense I needed there to be resolve and understanding, not just setting it aside.
I physically feel my emotions and the emotions of others. I am definitely an empath. Given this, I am can feel the underlying distance created by the argument between my husband and I. There is nothing I hate more.
My hate for this, and my inability to function, is the source of our late night discussions mentioned in my previous post. I need it settled, and I need us back to normal C.J. and Sarah that can’t keep their hands off of each other. (And you know what they say about making up? Wink! Wink!)
Why can’t I just understand that we are two imperfect humans that have disagreements and accept them?
Why can’t I be like everyone else and move on?
I have sat alone with those thoughts from the enemy accusing me many times. Over time though my gracious God has allowed me to break free from them, and showed me the value of who I am. He has also used my amazing husband to speak His truth into me.
On a couple of occasions, through tears, as I have apologized to my husband for being this way, and making it harder on us at the moment, my honey has graciously told me that God made me this way for a reason and it is a gift.
Over time I have allowed myself to see it as a gift as well.
You see when we work it out completely, it doesn’t mean that the same offense won’t come up another time. In fact, the same few topics have been the source of the majority of our arguments.
The benefit of working it out is not that it won’t come up again, but that it will be a separate event, and not one build on the last one that festered. The last one was resolved, and this is a new one. There will always be new ones.
Over the last 11 years of marriage C.J. and I have witnessed several marriages that have either gone through massive turmoil, or even ended in divorce. One common theme we have noticed is that when it is finally over, and the family broken apart, most of the issues go back to the beginning, and were never settled back then.
A lot of people convince themselves that they are okay, and they can handle it, but the pain and/or frustration, festers until it reaches the spewing point. Often it is too late at that point.
If the marriage is salvageable, it takes massive amounts of work, and a new depth of hurt is reached before repair is made. As the saying goes, you have to hit rock bottom before you can work your way up.
God is capable of repairing any marriage. He is able to infuse His grace into the situation, and change hearts, if both parties are willing accept the gift of His love for them. There is ALWAYS hope in Christ Jesus.
We can make it easier on ourselves though if we settle things, and don’t allow them to fester. You will have decide what that looks like for your marriage, and this may or may not be how you and your spouse choose to do things, but it works for us.
Rule number 5 goes right along with number 4.
In marriage you have to get good at forgiveness.
When any two humans build intimacy, and we allow another to see all of who we are, our imperfections will offend the other from time to time. If you have been married more than a week you know this.
For marriage to work you have to forgive your spouse, and the quicker you are able to do it, the better.
Unforgiveness will reek havoc in any relationship. It damages your own heart and relationship with the Lord.
“But if you refuse to forgive others, the Lord will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15
Part of forgiveness is letting go of the offense, and not holding it over their head.
In our pre-marriage class, 12 years ago, the instructor said that you can’t keep a rolodex of your spouses mistakes, and pull them out to use against them. You have to throw the card away. (Do people even know what a rolodex is any more?)
Who would want all the things they have done wrong thrown back at them? I know I don’t!
Sometimes forgiveness comes quicker than other times, but it is always necessary! There is nothing that is unforgivable.
Some of the marriages I have admired the most are those in which one spouse has cheated, and the other was able to forgive them, and together they rebuilt it into something so much stronger.
I am not talking about those where the one cheated on accepts it, and stays in the marriage out of a sense of insecurity. I am talking about those who forgive, never hold it over their spouse, and in the confidence and grace that Christ gives them, they are able to love big enough to truly forgive.
It is something I hope to never be tested with, but I respect and admire the faith it takes.
Again, understand I am not saying you should stay with a spouse that has cheated on you. That would take an enormous amount of time spent with God to make that decision. I would like to say that I could do it, but I am not sure I could. Even if I couldn’t stay in the marriage, I would have to come to the place of giving forgiveness for my own well being.
6. Boundaries with the Opposite Sex
So we just talked about forgiving even in the event that your spouse has cheated. Now I am going to talk about some of our safeguards to try and keep that from happening. This could probably be a post in and of itself with subcategories, but I will try my best to condense it for today.
We live a post “Friends” world. In today’s society you are considered mature if you can remain friends with all of you exes.
Those of us who watched each new episode of “Friends” as it aired for the first time witnessed as Ross and Rachel started dating, slept with each other, broke up and remained friends, hooked back up a couple of times, and eventually had a baby together, but weren’t really right for each other so they weren’t a couple. Rachel considered hooking up with Joey who had fallen in love with her, but eventually decided it best to move back in with Ross so they could co-parent, but not be a couple.
We all wanted them to get back together, and the drama is what kept us all tuning in each week. But I think it sold us all the lie that this is the new, mature normal.
More than one time we have seen couples break up because one spouse maintained contact with an old fling, and lines were crossed.
One boundary that we had to set for our marriage was NO contact with exes. Unless you have a child with that person, and you have navigate custody issues, you have no reason to maintain contact with them in my opinion.
This was a rule that we had to walk through in the beginning. I was not for the old girlfriends calling to check in every now and then, or going to their birthday parties.
He assured me he could care less about maintaining a friendship with them, but I wanted him to go a step further, and tell them not to call anymore. He doesn’t like any kind of confrontation, but being the amazing husband he is, he did it for me.
I know it was thought by many that I had my husband’s you know what in a jar on the kitchen counter, but over time we watched as many who would have thought we were crazy, lose their marriages and even swap spouses with other friends. I like my spouse, I don’t want to swap.
In my opinion when you choose to end the relationship you chose to end it all the way.
I think you also have to be careful with the friends you have. It is good to have a couple that you both enjoy hanging out with, but you have to be careful. The men should primarily hang together, and the women together, or you are all together.
In some ways it seems obvious, but you should never hang out with the opposite sex alone. Sometimes guards are let down though because we think we are all friends, and we trust them.
“That friend has become a sister to me. Of course I trust her. I don’t mind if my husband helps her each time her husband is out of town for work. We are all friends.”
Why not go with him when he goes to help, and you and she can enjoy some tea while he works on whatever she needs.
The introduction of social media has added another layer of temptation. Most of us probably know a marriage that has been affected by social media, and the dangers it can pose.
I primarily have a Facebook account, and my husband’s friends and coworkers friend me to follow in our life. C.J.’s name has been added to it at times, but he usually asks me to take it off. He tires quickly of Facebook, but he will glance at my account from time to time.
Essentially we share our social media accounts. This is so we are accountable to one another. We know all of each other’s passwords to everything, and always talk to each other about all we are doing. We also have full access to each other’s phones.
It is not because we don’t trust each other. It is in fact the opposite!
It is because we trust that we are both human, and the enemy is on the prowl to destroy our marriage, and we can easily be tripped up if we don’t safe guard ourselves.
You can’t do anything about who you work with, but you can be careful how you interact with them.
The work environment can tend to breed some interesting circumstances. It is easy to let your guard down at work, especially given the number of hours you are there each week, and the amount of interaction you have with coworkers.
When at work keep your relationships with the opposite sex only professional. Don’t veer off into talking about your personal life.
Our first year of marriage we had some issues with this. My husband was a newly wed, and was madly in love with me. He couldn’t help but let everybody know including all those he worked with.
The ladies at work told him continuously how romantic he was, and there was no shortage of “Awe!” as he told them about the latest sweet gesture he had done for his new bride.
Next thing you know one of his coworkers is telling him about how she has been fantasizing about an affair with him. She was the most overt, but there were others who I felt we crossing the line, and had little regard for me.
Being newly weds we decided to draw on the experience of our pastor and his wife. We sought their counsel, and our pastor expressed to C.J. that there had been many times that his wife would tell him to watch our for a certain woman, and he would think she was crazy. Given time his wife would be proven right.
Over time our pastor had learned not to meet alone with women for any kind of counseling. Our pastor told C.J. not to talk about me and our relationship with the other females, because they hear how good he is to me, and they begin to get a crush on him because they want someone to treat them that way.
You and your spouse definitely have to decide where your lines are going to be for your marriage, and I encourage you to discuss them together.
Most of these guidelines have been established for us as either we ourselves came up on a situation, or someone we were very close to did, and we learned from it. Hopefully you can learn from them too so that you do not have to fall into one of the traps yourself.
Ok so you made it to the last rule of our marriage. Thank you for sticking with me!
Are you ready for it?
7. Date Each Other Until Death Do you Part
The last rule is to date each other until the day you die.
Do you remember what it felt like when you were dating your spouse?
If stop and think about that time in your lives together, can you do it without smiling? I can’t!
My husband swept me off of my feet. It was an incredibly awesome time in my life. I still feel a rush of emotion when I think about it.
I also feel a rush of emotion each day when my husband comes home from work. I am just as happy to see him walk through that door now as I was when he would walk through the door to pick me up for a date.
My husband and I have never stopped dating each other. We make time for one another a priority. We talk on the phone, do romantic things for one another, get one of the grandmas to watch the kids so we can go out alone (grandmas are amazing!), and find ways to keep each other on our toes.
When you are in a dating relationship you go out of your way for the other person. That shouldn’t stop because you are married!
Sure our kids make fun of us because on one of our recent dates when we went to pick them up from grandma’s house, they asked what we did, and we told them we walked around a Whole Foods grocery store. That might not have been our idea of a fun date before 4 kids, but we had a great time laughing, enjoying each other’s company, and holding hands as we strolled through the store.
There is no person on the planet I like being with more than my honey. He is my best friend, and I still feel like a young school girl when I am with him. It doesn’t matter what we do. He is still very much able to make me blush.
It is of utmost importance to us to keep our relationship at the forefront. We are both committed to never stop doing for each other and keep dating until we are separated by death.
If you are struggling with ideas to keep it fresh, I recommend you browse Dating Divas. They have lots of great ideas for keeping the romance alive.
I am going to leave you with one bonus rule.
You can follow all of these rules to a “T”. You can do everything “right.” But don’t ever think that your marriage is incapable of being destroyed.
It takes effort to have a good marriage, and even the best marriages can fall apart.
When we think that our marriage is solid, and nothing can get through, that is when we tend to let our guard down, and the enemy weasels his way in.
I am praying for your marriages as I pray for mine.
I would love to hear from you. Do you have any tips for me? What are some of the “rules” in your marriage? Have these “rules” been helpful for you? I pray they have.