May 20, 2014

Did You Marry the Wrong Man?

By Ruth Meyer

“My husband and I have been happily married for 11 years,” a friend of mine quips, “and we’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary this summer.” I’m sure some of you can relate to this. Marriage is hard work, and unlike the “happily ever after” we’ve been programmed to expect from Hollywood, our own marriages don’t work out that way. We go through hard times, we argue, we realize we don’t have as much in common as we thought we did. And at some point in the life of pretty much any marriage, there comes a time when you start to think an awful thought- What if I married the wrong person? Maybe you had a particularly snippy fight, maybe you realize his standards of cleanliness are nowhere near your own, maybe you find his quirks more irritating than cute, maybe the tough times you’re facing aren’t what you anticipated, or maybe you’re just bored with the mundane life into which you’ve settled. No matter the reason, you find yourself thinking, I made a mistake in marrying this guy. Let me put your mind at ease. I’ll make this very simple. You did marry the wrong person. And so did your spouse.

I’m sure some of you reading this are shocked that I would dare to make such a claim. If you’re still in your honeymoon period or still think your spouse is the most amazing person in the world, stop reading. This isn’t written for you. On the flip side, if you’re in an abusive relationship, neither is this article for you. I do not advocate staying in an abusive relationship. Seek professional help. That is well beyond the purview of this article. But if you read that opening paragraph and silently admitted, I’ve been there, then read on. This is for you, dear sister.


First off, let’s look at the wedding ceremony that most of us had when we were married, the one in Lutheran Service Book. On my wedding day I was too giddy to really pay a whole lot of attention to the meaning behind the words, but looking back, they take on a new poignancy. There’s an address the pastor gives before any vows are exchanged, and it’s worth revisiting those words. The pastor tells the congregation that marriage is an honorable estate instituted and blessed by God in Paradise, before humanity’s fall into sin. Ah. That explains a lot. Marriage was supposed to be perfect. Adam and Eve really could have had “happily ever after.” But once sin entered, that was lost. You married a sinner. So did your spouse. And any time you have two sinners living together, even in a Christian marriage, problems will happen.

The pastor continues, In marriage we see a picture of the communion between Christ and His bride, the Church. Hmm. So our marriages are supposed to be a picture of that lovely union Christ has with His church. Ouch. I’m not sure my marriage lives up to that high standard. There’s a lot of imagery in Revelation that refers to the Church as the “bride of the Lamb.” You see, we, as members of Christ’s Church, are already betrothed unto the bridegroom, Jesus. He has bought us with His blood. We are His. And that’s important to keep in mind for our earthly marriages. Marriage here on earth is only a picture of the marriage feast to come. No one person on this earth can ever fill our every need. If you’re looking to your husband to be your soulmate, in tune with your every emotional and physical need, you will most certainly be disappointed. Only Jesus can meet those standards.

Continuing with the marriage ceremony, we read, The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. And here is where many people get caught up. See? He’s supposed to give me companionship, help, and support! I don’t get that from my husband! Okay. Granted, the husband is indeed supposed to provide those things for his wife. But this is a two-way street, sister. You are supposed to provide the same things for him. Take an honest look at your complaints. Write them down. If you’re anything like me, they’re probably selfish when it comes right down to it. He doesn’t help me around the house. He doesn’t listen to me. He always… He never… And let’s be honest, dear one, those are selfish. Perhaps they are true, but that’s not why you married him. You didn’t marry him to get a fellow housekeeper or emotional counselor or even so that he can sweep you off your feet romantically. No, you married him for mutual companionship, help, and support. You should be more concerned with how you’re holding up your end of the marriage vows than how he’s doing with his. The fact is that there are a lot of loveless marriages out there. I know a few myself. And it’s true- the husband is not doing what he ought to do on his part. But that doesn’t release you from the marriage. That’s why “marriage is not to be entered into inadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.”

The pastor’s words above tell us that this mutual support should happen “both in prosperity and adversity.” In your vows you pledged to stick with your husband “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…” And on the actual wedding day, no one really wants to think about “adversity.” No one wants to consider “for worse,” or the “poorer” and “sickness” possibilities. We want desperately to believe that we will live “happily ever after.” But life isn’t so neat. What happens when the adversity does strike? That’s when commitment is tested. Commitment isn’t particularly commendable when all is going well. It’s when job loss, sickness, financial hardships, or other adversity strikes that commitment is put to the test. Will you jump ship? Will you allow negative thoughts to take over your mind? I should never have married him. I could be so much better without him dragging me down. I could have made so much more of myself on my own… Those are from the evil one, dear sister. Do not allow him a foothold in your thinking. Once you start thinking along those lines you will find a way to fulfill those words in your own mind. You will be the one sabotaging the marriage simply by your thoughts.

So what can be done? First, pray. Pray hard. Pray on your own and with your husband. Pray that you keep your marriage vows and that God grant you both the strength to weather the storms life throws at you. The devil is very invested in the outcome of your marriage. He desperately wants to break up Christian marriages. And he is a mighty foe. But your bridegroom, Jesus, is mightier. He has already defeated Satan. He has bought you with His own blood. He died for you. You can’t find more selfless love than that. And someday you will spend eternity as His Bride. But in the here and now, pray for your earthly marriage.

Another suggestion is to keep a “list” of good things about your husband. I know this sounds high school-ish, but stick with me. Women are usually more emotional than men, and a lot of what tempts a woman is her thoughts. She dreams of the “perfect” man who will cater to her every emotional need, listen to her without interrupting, cook for her, clean for her, play with the kids, etc. Women are far more likely to do this than men. So once you find yourself making a list of your husband’s faults, counter that by making a concrete list of his positive characteristics. Does he go to church with you? Definitely a plus. List the positive things he does for the spiritual well-being of your family. Then look for things to add to the list throughout the day. Maybe he comes home from a long day at work and asks your son to go play catch in the backyard. Add it to the list. Shift your way of thinking. Do not allow the negative thoughts to take over. Look instead for ways to build him up. Thank him when you “catch” him doing good things. And who knows? Maybe he will reciprocate that. Men are charged to “love” their wives, and women are told to “respect” their husbands in Ephesians 5:33. Men need to know they are respected by their wives. When they feel respected, chances are they will be more apt to show the love that their wives desperately need. Be the bigger person. Even if you don’t think your husband “deserves” your respect, give it anyway. After all, we certainly didn’t deserve God’s love, but He gave it nonetheless.

Yes, you married the wrong person. Because really, there is no right person this side of eternity. Our earthly marriages are only a picture of the communion between Christ and His Bride. Our marriages here will always be flawed. That makes the promise of the wedding feast of the Lamb that much sweeter. You are Christ’s bride, and one day you will live with Him in perfect union forever. If our marriages here were perfect, we wouldn’t long for that union in heaven. But we do live in flawed relationships on earth, and so we pray the words of Revelation 22:17- “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’” Jesus answers this plea with a promise of His own: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon’” (Rev 22:20). And we respond, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

***

Ruth Meyer is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife.  Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations.  Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing.  She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody.  She also loves to write, and has a children's book set to be published through CPH this fall.  Ruth keeps her own blog at truthnotes.net.  Her hope is that through her writing you are encouraged and perhaps even challenged in your God-given vocations.

Title Image: "Nordisk sommarkväll" (Nordic summer's evening) by Richard Bergh, 1899-1900 

2 comments:

  1. One of my husband's coworkers once thought he'd married the wrong person. And then he thought, "If I married the wrong woman, then my kids are the wrong kids. And that's craziness. So her being the wrong woman is craziness too."

    Just thought I'd throw that out there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a fantastically illustrative anecdote.

      Delete

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