As I look back on my life, there have been many really difficult and dark days. No worse than anybody else’s and definitely not as bad as many I have shared the journey with. For that, I am extremely grateful.
However, none of the darkness…none of the struggle…none of difficulties…is related to my relationship with Wanda.*
(Note: Our first year or two of marriage was marked by a pretty intense learning curve where some amazing friends and mentors pushed us to face our immaturities. My idyllic, only-child growing up years had left me incredibly self-centered…Wanda’s toxic, abusive childhood had left her deeply scarred and insecure. We took the challenge to get serious about our lives and face those demons. We did and we’ve never looked back.)
So when I said yesterday that we have never fought or never yelled or never used abusive language to each other, I really meant that. I can add that we don’t disrespect, ignore, knowingly take advantage of, hurt, or manipulate each other. We don’t slam doors. We don’t do the silent treatment. We are not the object of each other’s jokes. We don’t call names.
Wanda is never an intrusion. She is never a bother. Our relationship is never forced. Personal space is always respected, never abused and seldom, if ever, required. We both lead where we are the strongest. We both follow where the other is more gifted. The only “marriage role” we have ever played is partner.
I could go on, but I’m pretty sure you get the picture. So how did this happen? What did we do to get to this spot? Here’s my shortish answer:
1. We are both products of our upbringing, both good and bad. The complexities of our personalities made for a perfect blend. This was not of our own doing.
2. We faced our personal inadequacies early in our relationship and became pretty ruthless to overcome them. We trusted in older, wiser people to be our guides. We believed that the presence of God in our lives was more than a Bible story…He was real and gave us the wisdom and strength to change.
3. Early on, we were taught a definition of love that resonated with both of us: love is not an emotion that changes with how we feel, but love is the determination and commitment to act in the best interests of the other person. That is how love in our marriage has always been defined.
4. We determined to cultivate our own spiritual lives, as a matter of first priority. I couldn’t be responsible for hers…she could not be responsible for mine…but we knew if either one of us took our eyes off of Jesus, it would open the door to trouble. So we have always owned our personal part of this process.
5. We have always accepted each other as we are, not for what we could or should be. Couples make a mistake when they marry, but secretly hope their partner will change.
6. We are both peacemakers and peacekeepers, in obedience to Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. We always defer to peace. It has made for an amazing environment for our marriage (and our parenting) to be healthy.
7. From the very beginning, we served together. For us, it was youth ministry. We didn’t live separate lives, but we invested in kids with each other. We knew what each other was doing…we worked to have the same purpose and motivation…we determined to align our lives, our schedules, our personal budget, and our belongings to something greater than our own happiness or success. In doing so, a healthy marriage became a natural by-product of surrendering it to a higher calling. This kind of lifestyle could be true for any couple.
There are probably many other experiences that had an impact on the depth of our marriage…but none greater than these.
Hope this helps.