Lee was listening to a podcast recently titled “Sticky Church” and in there was a lot of information on how churches can help to keep community lasting longer than the ‘Amen’ a the end of a sermon. Some good stuff in there if you’re interested to listen to it yourself. But I found myself equating this title to marriage. So many marriages have all the energy and effort going into the dating, the engagement and the big lavish wedding but not much time spent cultivating a relationship with the person after the “I do’s”.
Just yesterday on our long drive to Simonstown, Lee and I spent the time chatting about marriage. He told me about another young couple who have gotten divorced. This is the third or fourth one I’ve heard of just this year. Some with kids. All 20-something. My stomach turns to knots every single time I hear this. I am a “child of divorce” so to speak and I know that marriage is hard work. I watched my mom fight for her one to work out and due to a lot of unfortunate circumstances it just wasn’t worth the pain for her. (I am coming back to this one because it’s beautiful at the end). During our chat yesterday, Lee and I were trying to decide what it is that can create a love that sticks. Sticks it out through all the rough stuff, through the ugly bits and through the victories. These were some of our thoughts. We’re not marriage counsellors and we have only 6 years of experience to guide us. But these are our values and what keep us going for the long run.
First and foremost. We stood at an “altar” before God AND friends who bore witness for us and made a covenant to love each other. Not some sweet, super poetic and “ah moment” words. Just the real, honest stuff that we would commit to each other through it all. At a wedding, I believe that those who are invited and those who you choose to give the honor of groomsmen and bridesmaids, should not just stand there on the day but they should be there to keep bringing you back to your “why” when you maybe feel lost along the way. You made a covenant and they were there too. This leads to…
This never used to be a priority for Lee and I. We had friends, that was cool. But when we stretched ourselves and moved to Cape Town we learnt about the importance of community. The need to have people around you to have fun with, learn with and grow with. People who know you and can challenge and mature you. As a couple, do you have people to walk with you in your marriage? Do you have people you discuss EVERYTHING with? Do you have people you can be honest with? If not, get them! Find a church you can plug into and maybe seek out an older couple who have experience. Is there a marriage you look up to amongst friends and family? Ask them to do regular double dinner dates and chat about marriage and your struggles. You’ll also quickly realize you aren’t alone and that might just be all you need to hear.
And then there are,
A daunting word for those who aren’t used to it. Why are convictions key for us? They’re what rule our hearts. Lee has a strong conviction about watching movies with any form of cheating in it. He will not. I can watch romance movies and look right over the fact that the one guy chose to kiss the other girl but he’s engaged to another girl (ladies, you know) but the moment it happens in a movie or series, Lee switches gears in his brain and tunes out. He would rather sit in another room doing something else than watch movies or series with that in it. What does that show me about my husband? He is convicted by faithfulness and unfaithfulness and I know that means he will love me only and it means that if I slip up in that area, it would take moving mountains for him to forgive me. Does this mean I don’t care about this issue? No. It just means I am wired to watch movies and see them as movies and not feel affected by them but I have learnt to never ask him to watch them with me and I am ok with that.
This may seem silly as an example but some couples walk with separate convictions that are so strong and so different that they can’t find a foot on the same page as each other in those areas. Your husband or wife does not need you to go on a social justice crusade with them (although it may be a nice gesture) if you are into that, they just need you to give them space to be that person because it’s in your DNA. Don’t change them. Love them. Understand them. Learn about their convictions to better see it from their side. Don’t gossip about them and their desires. Just realize you are and always have been two people who came together. There will be things you step into together and that’s good and natural, but some convictions are unique to one person and that’s OK.
I said I’d come back to my own story of my mom and dad. A few years ago my mom invited my dad to come and live with us and they became a couple again. They’re older and don’t need to but my mom sat with us a few more years later and said that they wanted to get married again. To each other. Doesn’t that just seem like a plan of God? That He would bring them back. That, that is Sticky Love. Because through everything my mom faced, she didn’t have to give Him another chance but she did.
It’s odd that this is an issue I have now seen time and time again this year, even recently hearing of more friends really struggling to keep themselves together in a marriage, because just a month ago, Lee and I were realizing we needed to put some more work into ours. I remember sitting with him when we had discussed how we would do this and I asked, “Isn’t it weird, we’re not a couple who have marriage issues but this season we’re really battling with some things and it seems to be something ‘going around’?” Often I see God revealing a new area to pray into for others, through our own struggle. So I want to pray for you. If you’re battling, drop me a message and I would love to pray for you and your marriage. Because only God can make things that seem impossible, possible.
Practically, what can you do if this is you?
– Firstly, speak honestly about it with each other. You’re setting your partner up for failure if you’re not being honest with them about your own struggles. Do they even know that you’re facing this? Because often, it’s only one sided.
– Seek help from friends and do counseling. If you’re willing to fight for your marriage and see a glorious ending, this is important.
– List your values, cut out time for each other and pray daily together. In prayer you not only hear God’s heart but you will hear each other’s.
Praying for you. If this is you.
*Image by Amy Thomson Photography (from our maternity shoot)