What I Wish I had Known About Marriage from the Beginning
Marriage is the greatest gift of human relationship available.
While elements of that gift have come through some of the most excruciating moments in all of my human relationships, I see that the depths of pain I experienced were about the consequences of my choices coming through the law of sowing and reaping. For many years, I was sowing what would produce my worst nightmares as I chose to offer a lack of honesty with myself and others, I lived a facade as I ignored the voice of my heart, and I put faith in my fears rather than truth.
I am beyond grateful for the grace and transformation that my husband and I found for ourselves and each other as we chose to go again; this time living intentionally out of our true self and with a vision for our life and marriage.
As we reach this milestone of 25 years of marriage this month, tears fill my eyes as I process the pure joy that we have not only made it this far, but that my greatest learning opportunities have presented themselves through the highs and lows of this lifetime partnership.
Here are some of my most significant learnings:
Growth opportunities are found in the conflict.
I used to look at our arguments as though something was wrong with our relationship. Now I understand that an argument is simply love offering us an opportunity for transformation. I've learned that it is a physical impossibility to be angry and curious at the same time, so when I chose anger in the argument, I shut down the love that was wanting to offer itself to me. When I began to choose curiosity, I learned so much about myself and my partner, and our love grew deeper. Thus the greatest longing of the human heart, to know and be known by another, was fulfilled.
There is no right or wrong; it's just different.
As I let go of my need to be right, I realized that the one of us that is offering the other opinion isn't wrong, but are simply offering a different way of seeing "it". I've heard it said, "you can be right, dead right, but you can't be right and have a meaningful relationship." The gift of accepting each other and who we are has created a love and respect that opens up new possibilities. In this way, I grow as a human and get to let go of judgments that were limiting me.
Every day I get to choose my marriage.
The truest form of love is the gift of free choice. As I wake up and choose my commitment to a lifetime of loving my amazing husband, I get the opportunity to hold my relationship in the freedom of love rather than the imprisonment of watching and waiting, afraid that he will break his commitment to me. The later produces a breeding ground of mistrust manipulation, and control, but living in my own commitment, focused on how I am showing up, taking account when I fall short, and choosing to go again, breeds love and respect.
Loving is not about what I receive, but what I offer.
When I hold back and offer out of what is being given to me, there is never enough. Dan Tocchini says, "when you feel in need of something, begin sowing it, and before long you will have all that you need." As I sow love, respect, grace, forgiveness, and commitment, they come back to me in overflowing amounts. The shortage goes away, and the abundance flows.
Whatever I vision becomes my reality.
When we began our marriage, I had a lot of questions that looked something like this:
- What causes people to get a divorce?
- Will we make it until death-do-us-part?
- Will he hurt me?
- Will he keep loving me the way he does now?
I realize now that those questions were based in fear and they led to my need for self-protection. I chose to doubt his character and who he was, so in my judgments of him, he began to show up just as I feared he would. It was a classic case of self-fulfilled prophesy.
As I shifted my focus to living in who I am and loving him for who he is committed to be, we could then create a vision of the marriage we wanted. I am loving the results when this is my focus. We are experiencing a marriage that is beyond our wildest imagination and a love that, even after all these years, keeps growing.
While I wish someone had taken me under their wing 25+ years ago and shared these lessons with me, I am afraid I might not have listened or believed them. I found it much easier to blame my husband and feel like something was wrong with him than to look at myself. My encouragement to myself, and possibly to you if you find yourself feeling the same way, is just to try it. While I bounce back and forth between applying these consistently and returning to my selfish ways, I want to encourage you to have grace for yourself and your spouse. The journey is worth it!