It's Not You, It's Me: Six lessons from six years of marriage for any relationship
I am so excited to have recently celebrated six years of marriage to my dear husband, I truly love him and even better than that, I really like him. He works my nerves but I can tell him, we work on communicating effectively and sincerely, talk smack, keep each other laughing, and don’t try to recreate ourselves in each other. There are some tough self realizations I have learned along the way, and I know there will be many more to come as the decades roll by. What remains important is that I remember this marriage has a heavenly purpose, earthly marriage is designed to demonstrate a perspective of our relationship with Jesus Christ, He often speaks of the church as the bride. As Christians not only is important for us to marry the “right” person, but for us to work on ourselves to do our part in having a healthy marriage, so here are six lessons I’ve learned over these six years.
1. I am responsible for resolving the problem I see. What? You mean it’s not a team effort? Of course it is! But hear me beloved, you cannot expect anyone to solve a problem they do not have. If your spouse is cool with the status quo, he doesn’t actually have a problem, you do. Let me explain, when I was pregnant, I nearly blew up on my husband and my sister, after weeks of me cleaning the tub, not one of them had the good sense to take that task off my hand. Crazy right? WRONG! Why didn’t I have the good sense to just say, “babe I need you to start cleaning the tub please?” Of course he didn’t see a problem, I never complained (to his face). I did however pray that God would change him (face palm). It hit me like a ton of bricks one day, in all of this God is trying to change me, He was constantly putting Philippians 2:14 “do everything without grumbling and complaining,” in my pathway. Mind you now, I was praying for God to help me obey that scripture, but my choices automatically silenced my prayers.
If you have a problem, calmly and respectfully express yourself and give an opportunity for a sincere reply. Then, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT devolve back to the status quo. You will end up angrier and even more bitter. If Jed forgot, I learned to remind him, if I felt it was pressing, I would ask him if he would please do the task right away if possible. I could either choose to remind him or I could choose to do it myself, have back pain and be angry. I didn’t want that, and I didn’t want something so fixable, distracting me from having amazing romance. Word to the wise: REPENT for setting your spouse up for failure, for having expectations built in delusion and pray for God to help you communicate effectively and freely with your spouse. Don’t maintain the problem and allow resentment to grow because you want to avoid confrontation, confront with respect and gentleness, and make a change that corroborates your frustrations and hopes.
2. I had a problem with overfunctioning. Overfunctioning entails rescuing someone from having to solve their own problems, we jump to make decisions for them, and act like we’re experts on the situation. The problem with over-functioning is, it causes the other person to underfunction, coming across as lazy, careless and cultivating resentment and anger in the overfunctioning party. Refuse to make the choice that feeds the problem. And hey, our partner is not obligated to do perform with a smile, as long as the task gets done.
Women are raised to overfunction, we are made to believe it’s our job to rescue everyone from themselves. But in marriage, you have to remember one thing, your husband has already been raised, he is not your child. I remember telling my husband one day, “I am not your mother sir.” It was true, but truth pointed in the wrong direction, I needed to tell myself that! I had to pray, and write to myself, “Shonda, leave Jed alone and go fix yourself, he is not your project, you are not his mother, you have a child, go raise that one.” Overfunctioning is a tool women often use to distract themselves from dealing with improving their personal quality of life. But we only end up enraged, because we created an expectation that we would come to the rescue, nobody needs to be rescued from personal responsibility. Never be excessively reactive to and fuse yourself to your spouse’s problems, let them take the lead in their own life. Word to wise: REPENT! Ask God to forgive you for overstepping your boundaries, and to help you play your position as helpmate not mother. Pray for discernment and clarity to know when you’re actually hampering instead of promoting your spouse’s growth. Let your life be the sermon he needs, not nagging, preaching, or self-imposed frustration.
3. Marriage is NOT designed to make me happy, it is not my source of joy. Marriage is designed to make us holy. I know, I know, it’s a tough pill to swallow, especially if you’re reading this as a newlywed or marriage hopeful. But as Christians, we must accept this fact, the responsibility for happiness is yours, not your husband’s or your marriage as a whole. How do we know this:
Ephersians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might [a]sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
I learned this lesson quickly after my son was born. I was upset with my husband because I spent all day nursing a newborn baby, and was thoroughly exhausted. I was a stalker mom who would watch her kid sleep to make sure he was still breathing, and when he hollered randomly at 3a.m every night, I was up and somehow my husband managed to sleep. I was UPSET that he dared have adults to talk to and I felt isolated and resentful. All of that to say, I was unhappy, but expected him to do things to make me happy. The reality is, I needed to get a life, and stop focusing on feeling like I was iglost in new motherhood, and pay attention to the opportunities I had to relearn myself. Once I got this revelation, I started doing Sunday brunch with my girls after church, running for an hour on weekend mornings, and being intentional about expressing my needs. The thing is, I set my husband up for failure each day that I expected him to do something to make me happy, especially when he too was adjusting to this new role of father. Word to the wise: REPENT! Ask God to forgive you for passing off your personal responsibility onto someone else, for doing nothing to change the life you’re not happy with. Ask God to heal you of your dependence issues. Don’t get mad at your spouse for not filling a void only you can close with your choices, it’s cruel and unfair.
4. My feelings are my own and I can’t tell him how to feel. I feel deeply: anger, happiness, frustration, sadness, I feel it all very deeply and often have to pray when I have intense non-happy feelings. Maybe this is the reason I regularly wanted to drag my husband into the pit of sadness with me, or up the wall of rage. He is a calm and level-hearted person, and I am dramatic to put it nicely. I love how he compliments me, and I know it was divine orchestration, but I have trouble accepting this when I want an emotional twin, not a partner. A partner will help you do what’s best for the business, a twin is going to mirror you. Jed is an emotional partner, he is a steady hand and heart. I had to realize I can’t expect him to join the feelings roller coaster with me, we don’t have the same life story, we didn’t have the same freedoms or stability growing up.
Through prayer I learned that I needed a stronger sense of self and a stronger bond with God so that I could own my feelings without being owned by them. Why did I need a partner on my emotional roller coaster, if we were both on the wave who would be the one at the lever to make it stop? I didn’t need him to feel what I felt, be upset when I’m upset, I needed to learn how to cast every care on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7), how to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), how to not worry (Proverbs 12:25). I needed to learn that God was greater than my temporal feelings and His promise of joy (Proverbs 16:11, and peace that surpassed understanding were mine (Philippians 4:7). Word to the wise: Ask God to help you filter your feelings through His word so that no matter what you feel you make the choice to dwell on what is true, pure, lovely, just and of good report ( Philippians 4:8). It is not your husband’s job to feel your feelings with you, he can empathize with you, but he doesn’t have to go off on any emotional tirade with you. Find peace and joy in having a steady man, you can trust a steady man.
5. Ministry of “shhhhh” is beautiful. Don’t even make this super Christian, this is just good for humans in general. Learning to kindly disengage can completely disarm and prevents disruption. Let me explain, many try to disengage arguments with, “yeah whatever,” “mmmmm,” or “okay, you’re right.” But I challenge you to not only recognize when an argument is going nowhere, but to choose to disengage by saying, “honey, we’re too heated to come to a proper resolution, do you want to talk about it after we’ve calmed down?” Disengage by letting go of trying to prove your point, stop working so hard to change your spouse’s mind.
The Christian reality in marriage is, you can be right (and beat people with your right-ness) or you can do right, and let a soft “I stand by my point and still see yours” or “this discussion isn’t going anywhere but angryville, and I don’t want that baby,” turn away wrath. I like to be right, I read and arm myself with information to combat ignorance and deception constantly. I work hard to not sound foolish and to be right, but that doesn’t mean I need to win every debate with my husband. He has a right to his feelings, thoughts and positions, just as I do, and he has a right to express himself without fear of volatility. Word to the wise: Repent for wanting to win arguments so badly you drive them on. God really does not want us bickering, especially over silly things. Pray for the resolve to end arguments whose only fruit is anger and isolation. You can’t change people’s minds with frustrated yelling, it’s not even your job to change his mind. You can both have different perspectives, but always choose to respect each other. And be free of any mental and emotional baggage that might make sex less enjoyable.
6. Sex is important! Of course I knew this going in, and nope sex every night will not keep someone from cheating or abusing you. If either of these are your situation get out and get help. Now, to keep atit short and sweet, have lots of sex! Every time you have sex, your reaffirm your vows to each other, you connect in a way that puts down your guard and opens the doorway for conversation, forgiveness, grace and peace. If your marital sex life sucks, you’ll be even more resentful or just blahhhh, make a choice and discuss your bedroom activities with your spouse. Yep! Word to the wise: Talk about the sex, if you don’t like something, SPEAK UP, and if you like something SPEAK UP! And have more sex! The end.
When I thought it was my husband who needed to change (and oh he did and does lol), it was me who needed to change. Why allow myself to become distracted by and burdened with his shortcomings? I’m not his mother or his God, I have no heaven or hell to put him in. What I do have is my choice, my choice to honor God, to live out His word, to work on me so I evolve above easy offense, and my choice to be an example. What I get to do is not only motivate my husband to be his best self and love-himself so he can love others, but I get to be free and focus on what God has placed me in this marriage to do. I get practice at rebuking resentment and making my heart and mind good ground so that nourishing fruit and healing balm come from my lips and actions. In many marriages God will call us to heal each other's of wounds, we do that not only through prayer, fasting and togetherness, but through our example of Christian living in our respective roles. I wrote in my journal, “no matter how he acts, treat Him like God deserves for him to be treated.”
**Please note, this is not with respect to abusive marital situations. Please reach out if you need someone to help you seek the proper authorities for assistance leaving.
*My February resource was delayed but it is coming together for March. Just in time for us as the economy turns and more countries institute states of emergency.
**Go ahead and grab a copy of my book HERE or cashapp me $ShondaAngelou, you do not want to miss out on the gems in there that will truly transform your prayer life and help you in your Christian living.
*** YOUR PASTOR, NO MATTER HOW GOOD, IS NOT YOUR GOD. KNOW GOD FOR YOURSELF.