When I was in university, which seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote a paper for my political studies class about divorce culture and the three most popular reasons why people get divorced. One of the main reasons was people’s right to be happy. I have the right to be happy and you’re not making me happy, so I want to divorce you. I don’t care how you or the kids feel, I’m not happy so we’re over.
Having gone through a divorce myself, I can say that that’s such a terrible excuse to put your family through such tragedy. Looking back, the effects on my children alone, would have been enough for me to stay. And I did stay, for a long time, even when I really should have left. I would have stayed in my unhappy marriage until the Lord returned. So you can imagine my dismay when my then husband left because he was ‘unhappy.’
Since then I’ve gotten married again. And I sometimes feel like because I’ve already been through one divorce, it wouldn’t be as hard to go through a second one. Being single for three years prior to my second marriage, I’ve proven to myself that I can live alone just fine. I’ve raised three daughters, fixed my own dishwasher, unclogged my bathtubs, programmed my garage door, put together and taken apart furniture, hung heavy pictures on my walls, built two kitchen tables from scratch, all on my own. I’ve even been my own best friend. If I’m honest, I’ve sometimes told myself that if I’m not ‘happy’, I could leave and it probably wouldn’t be a huge deal. I’m sure we’ve probably all been there more than once.
Marriage is freaking hard. It’s forgiving someone when we want to stay mad at them. It’s saying we’re sorry when we’re not. It’s showing compassion when we want to roll our eyes and tell them to get over it. It’s not keeping records of all their wrongs. It’s always believing in the best of them. It’s not being offended even when they’ve hurt us deeply. It’s selflessly serving when we just want to think about ourselves for once. It’s listening to them talk about the same things over and over again and not walking away. It’s not getting annoyed when they show more affection to the dog than us. It’s sticking it out, even when we don’t feel like it. It’s choosing to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. It’s talking about sports when we really couldn’t care less. It’s freezing to death just so they can be at a comfortable temperature. It’s staying when we want to leave. It’s appreciating that they have all these feelings too.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed with frustration and even find myself depressed. My list of criticisms extend far beyond they ever should. I sometimes beg God for grace to not drown in self-pity and get me through the day. To love unconditionally and show compassion, despite how I feel. And remember that there are many frustrating things about me that my husband graciously overlooks.
For example, there were times I got frustrated that he’d leave his collections of things all over the house. Every time I picked up after him I became more and more resentful. Then the Lord gently reminded me that I’m the exact same way. I often leave my things everywhere, but because they’re mine, I don’t mind them there. Despite how I might make jabs at him about his copious amount of things, he’s never once pointed a finger back or been rude about it to me.
I sometimes wonder if the things I get so frustrated about with him, are the same things I need to change in my own life and don’t, therefore take it out on him. Do I give him a hard time about how many pairs of shoes he owns because I actually have that many myself, most that I never wear but can’t get rid of? Do I get annoyed at how he takes things so personal, because I do the same thing? Does he leave his needless crap everywhere just so I’ll be more considerate of where I put my things?
The truth is, contrary to popular opinion, we don’t have a right to be happy in marriage. Once we make that “for better or worse” promise, we give up that right. Countless times in the Bible, it says to serve one another in love, kindness, compassion and humility. Unconditional love really is the key to unity. We are to honour our spouse, even when we don’t think they deserve it. Lord knows, Jesus constantly does this for us, even though we have absolutely no merit. The second we start thinking of ourselves first, we start to feel resentment come knocking on our heart’s door. It then becomes so easy to forget all of their good qualities, as if they never had any at all.
My husband is one of the most thoughtful men you’ll ever meet. Every day on his way home from work, he’ll call and ask if I need him to pick anything up. Often times, without asking, he’ll bring me home a coffee, just because. He loves to give gifts and has bought things for members of my family because he knows they’d like it. He always comes up town with me, even if he doesn’t feel like, just because he knows it means a lot to me. He started going to counselling so he could learn tools to interact and empathize with my girls more effectively. He always has my back, no matter what.
I finally told him today that my most favourite thing he does is call me his wife. Even to our kids. He’ll say things like “I don’t appreciate you talking to my wife like that,” or “I’m taking my wife on a date.” To his friends he’ll say, “my wife makes really good cupcakes,” or “my wife made our kitchen table.” I’ve never been with someone who was actually proud to be associated with me, so it means the world to me.
So as I sit here listening to him talk to the hockey players on TV as if they can hear, I smile to myself and thank God for the precious gift God has given me. He’s not perfect by any means, and often drives me crazier than I’d like; but he is mine, and I will do my absolute best to honour, serve and love him. Some days, it’s easier to do than other days, but that’s marriage. And surprisingly, the less I make it about myself, the happier I actually am.