If we go back to the days of “Married With Children”, we may recall Al and Peg Bundy and how they were not exactly the poster couple for a perfect marriage. Honestly, they were not a reasonable example of decent humans. But, that is comedy, slightly exaggerating.
The opening song for the show was Frank Sinatra singing, “Love and marriage, love and marriage..go together like a horse and carriage…”. Not a bad analogy. A carriage would just sit there, if not for the efforts of the horse. Besides, marriage and carriage rhyme, so it works for the song.
Let’s just step back a bit. Let’s say, forget concentrating on a good or a better marriage. Don’t even worry about the dynamic of the married relationship. Forget your vows for a moment.
What?! Have you lost your mind? Did you wake up on the wrong side of your brain?
No, I assure you, I have a point to make (No answer for any questions concerning any possible loss of my mind).
Here is the where I am going with this:
“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)
If you ask me, this is how love works in a marriage. I have heard the old 50/50 arrangement, which has been later debunked, showing how we should have a 100/100 arrangement. That one sounds really great for a marriage. But, there is a problem with the 100% arrangement.
Can’t do it. At least, not all the time. Barely part of the time, some weeks. We also have to figure, what is 100%? This could set us up to hold our spouse or ourselves to a standard that is too difficult to attain or maintain.
Now, enters grace. Being human, screw-ups are going to happen. Personality quirks will show up. Off days will happen. Wrong words will be said. We need to have grace for ourselves and grace for our spouse. This is not an excuse to not change…loving your spouse should include changing horrible habits or repenting of other offenses. However, it also means that if your spouse does not change, you exercise grace and forgiveness.
Some years ago, my wife and I were having a tough time with life and each other. Honestly, she was kinda tough, at the time (turned out it was a hormone-tweaking medication, which when stopped, all was right again) and my reactive temper just made things all the more…lively. One time, just after a bit of a blow out, our old pastor happened to call. He could tell I was out of sorts, so I explained that things were heated between my wife and me. Then he asked me, “What if she never changes?”
That question stuck with me. What if she never changed? Well, if I love her the way I should, she would remain as my wife and I would have to allow grace to reign over the situation. I would learn to be patient, kind, etc. I am glad that she did get back to her old self after getting off the medication, but it was rough for a while, I have to admit.
It took me years later to realize that loving my wife is a matter of giving up myself, in the manner which Christ loved the Church. When we add percentages of effort, we put expectations on ourselves and our spouse that will become too strenuous. But, if we take days, moments and situations as they are and respond with love, we are on to something. When we put the other above ourselves, they receive a value as more than just a spouse, but as a treasured person.
If I may be honest, I still don’t have any of this down pat. Not even close. But, I am learning more than I did in years past. It took me about 28 years of marriage before I was even in the right direction! By God’s grace, I am getting there as we are closing in on thirty-one years.
What have I learned? Here are a few things.
- My way should just take the highway, or at least a detour. Especially true for men…that word, “submit”, is not all that it has been taught (previously posted this idea in one of the Equality or Equity posts)
- We need grace for our spouse as much as anyone.
- We need to make greater efforts toward pleasing our spouse. (this one still has a long way to go, with me. Oy.).
- We need to pray about and be sensitive when things are “not right” with the other.
- We need to be wrong. Yup. Humblin’, ain’t it?
- We should have some basic understanding of what makes the other gender do what they do, think how they think, etc. I highly recommend Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, video series, by Mark Gungor (Available through markgungor.com, or you may be able to find it on Ebay or Amazon).
Do percentages really matter? Honestly, the idea of each partner contributing 100% into the relationship is more the way it should go. But, it is not so much seeking for each one to put in their fair share, as it is each one acting in love. Never mind anything except how you are loving your spouse. If love is the nucleus, we don’t make our main concern over what we are getting, as what we are giving.
Husbands are reminded in scripture to love their wives. Why aren’t women reminded to love their husbands? They don’t have to be. Women give of themselves rather automatically. Men tend to charge through life, thinking of our own agendas, demanding our own way in some way or another. Women tend to their men, the household and the rugrats, while still making time for other relatives and outside activities. Men, we need to consciously seek ways to bless our wives. We need to step away from ourselves, our agendas and not be demanding.
Love should always be the nucleus. Maybe you notice a running theme, in these last few posts. I am going to hammer at this idea of love, as this is one thing that has taken a back seat in too much of the Church. I think that, for too long, we have forgotten what love is and how we need to walk in His love. We often use a word we have no idea what it really means. We say we love someone, but it may not go past personal fondness or that mushy feeling we get in our gut. Love is not just the way we feel. It is what we do…it is about the other person.