If only I had a nickel for every time I was asked: “How’s married life?” I would have a lot of nickels. Every time someone asks that, I give a vague answer highlighting all of the really happy stuff but the last couple of times I’ve been asked, I can’t stop thinking about how hard it actually is.
Justin and I were on the way back from our honeymoon and we were informed that my parents had separated while we were away. My mom initiated the separation and my dad was crushed. I could not grasp the fact that the two humans who raised me to honor the promise that I would one day make to my husband, are willfully choosing to break that promise after almost 25 years. I was crushed, furious, heartbroken, and confused as to why my mom thought that I could handle all that marriage entails if she couldn’t.
I randomly broke down about 3 times a day for at least a week, the second week being married. Justin continued to encourage me not to let their separation affect how I thought of marriage and reminded me countless times each day that he loved me. I still couldn’t help but think “what in the world was my mom thinking, letting me in to this crazy thing if she couldn’t even handle it?” Then I thought of my 4 younger siblings, and how this is now the example of marriage that they have to mirror. I’m a fixer. And I couldn’t fix this, I felt so helpless. As time went on, a separation turned into my mom moving out, which turned into full on divorce and it got ugly. I felt myself withdrawing from Justin daily, resulting in me having nothing nice to say to him which brought on way too many arguments in “the honeymoon stage.”
One of our wedding gifts was the book Love & Respect. We got multiple copies so I decided to start reading it. It was really out of a desperate attempt to hear something that I needed to hear to keep me going. Love and Respect. This new concept got me thinking about a couple of different scenarios:
One of our common arguments that quickly escalated in to something bigger was our perpetual tardiness. I should probably say my but we’re one now right? So, I get to bring him down with me. I have always been on Caitlin Time and Justin was pretty punctual so he gets upset if we’re late. Basically my argument to him was: “well this is just how I am, get over it.” (Loving, right?). And it’s all downhill from there. I met up with my dad for coffee one afternoon and told him about how this keeps happening. Justin & my dad are really similar, it’s scary actually, but I was interested to see what feedback he had for me. He said, “Caitlin, if there is one piece of advice that I can offer you, it is that you need to take Justin’s needs and wants into consideration. Is it really that hard for you to make sure that you are ready on time? Is it really worth you guys fighting over this every time just to prove a point?”
Something that Justin does that grinds my gears: he tells it how it is. No matter the cost. And I often feel like sometimes he takes it too far. And if his words hurt someone, I feel obligated to yell at him or cover for him and Justin fires back at me saying hurtful things out of defense. How do I take it? As An attack on me, that I have failed, and that Justin clearly could not care any less about how I feel.
Both of the scenarios demonstrate the active work of the enemy, feeding us lies and using these tiny scenarios to make us feel small, insecure, unloved, and disrespected and if we were to put down the walls of entitlement and defense then we would would be less likely to fall victim to the enemies lies. We’re wrong in both of those situations. For me, I need to be ready on time. Simple as that. I do respect my husband’s needs and wants and I need to show that through my actions. As for Justin, his words toward others is something that he constantly works on. And instead of highlighting the strides toward improvement, I call out his imperfections. I’m working on a more gentle approach. Justin needs to feel respected so I need to respect him: through actions and words.
As I thought back to my parents marriage over the last 20 years, I realize that the lack of these two ingredients (love and respect) in my parent’s marriage lead to their divorce and are the two things missing from the above arguments. This was what my dad was begging me to realize over coffee, that it was so important for us to comprehend and practice this early on, every day. So what a blessing it is that we are learning how to protect our marriage early on rather than trying to pick up the pieces of two broken people, after what feels like irreparable damage and almost 25 years with feelings of disrespect and little love. But what I have learned is there is no cause is too lost to be repaired by the Gospel.
By God’s grace, I have grown more in the past 3 months, than I have in my entire life. I have a deep appreciation for marriage and how much hard work it takes to be successful and we’re just getting started. Our marriage just works when there is an equal effort of love and respect, I love Justin more and more every day, through him loving me so patiently and unconditionally, even at my absolute worst, when I wasn’t even sure I loved myself. Had my parents not gone through this, I believe that it would have been much easier to follow in their footsteps. I’m not saying that I understand or that I am okay with their divorce or even that we’re immune, I know it’s going to take constant work every single day, I know that there are rough waters ahead. But I also know that there is beauty in this situation. Being married, we have a target on our back as shown through the ‘50% of marriages end up in divorce’ statistic. This is prime time for the enemy to swoop in and reek havoc but what I have come to realize is that sometimes it takes really tough stuff to bring us to our knees and draw us close to and depend on our Savior again. Coming to the realization that I cannot handle this on my own, was the most freeing feeling because no longer was I carrying this burden, I was freed of it, being carried day to day only by the grace and mercy of my Savior.
So what have I learned after 3 months of marriage? It is so beautiful, it is a gift but it is really, really tough and we are given the choice daily, to lay down our selfish desires and love unconditionally and give forgiveness when the world tells us they don’t deserve it. When I came to this realization, I had a freak out moment. Unconditional love. This leaves no room for the walls that I have that guard my heart from hurt, this leaves you completely vulnerable. As Christians, we are called to be more like Jesus. But how are we supposed to truly become more like Jesus if we have guards up all around? If we’re holding our forgiveness hostage? How beautiful, that if we want our marriage to work, we are forced to become more like Christ. This is by far my favorite thing about marriage, if I am going to love my husband in the way that I am called to, with unconditional love, I must be more like Christ. It’s not easy and it’s really uncomfortable at times but it is so freeing to rely on Him to to supply me with my unconditional love and forgiveness. My parents separation and soon divorce has broken me but drawn me closer to my husband, ultimately bringing me closer to the Creator of the universe.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. -Ephesians 2:8.
This song has been on repeat. Listen to the lyrics and to our family and friends: We desperately call you in to holding Justin & I accountable to protecting our marriage, guiding us back to Truth, and ultimately having a relationship that is glorifying to God.