[For Part 1 of this series, click here.]
Putting God at the center of marriage creates a strong and lasting bond, but we are human and we forget and change. God can handle this; can we? Thankfully, He knows this and is always calling us back to Him. The trouble might be with each other. Our vows say to have and to hold and there’s no exceptions mentioned. We continue to grow and change as we live our lives. We have expectations as we start out, planning our futures together with hopes and aspirations. Yet, we fail to realize the impact of all those dreams as we set out to experience whatever comes our way. Just as one expectation may fail short, another may arise we didn’t expect. We react, we adapt, we grow. The key in marriage is to do this together.
Careers are often the center of change for a person. When a particular position doesn’t work out or leads to promotion, changes occur. If it’s more, like a career change, it may involve greater change such as school, hours, or at-home needs. These can stress a relationship, even the whole family. Taking more time for yourself means time away from family, even if they’re in the same room. The best thing to have in times of change is support, and the best support you should have is your spouse. If you weren’t in this together, things can get pretty tense. Jumping into change means having new expectations, and getting on the same page means keeping the peace.
These aren’t just religious topics necessarily, but don’t start thinking God isn’t part of this too. If we keep God as part of marriage, we will remember that He put two together to support one another. 1 Corinthians 11:11 says, “woman is not independent of man nor man of woman.” In knowing this, we should be looking forward to the future together with God. We should endure change, not individually but together with God. We should recognize that as we experience and grow, so does our spouse and it may not be the same way.
The key here may be that we don’t change in the same way. One may become more open and giving as the years go one. The other may become more reserved. With this combination, you may see disagreements in various ways: parties, vacation plans, jobs, kids, etc. Knowing this can help see what’s happening. If a couple knows and acknowledges that it’s human nature to grow and change, then they could recognize when it’s happening and take action if it becomes uncomfortable. Taking action should start with talking.
Couples should be open to this change, knowing something will happen as they age together and knowing that God already knows about these changes and challenges. Knowing that God is aware is encouraging because it means you know He has a plan for you both! You just need to talk, pray, and be open to His Will. This is the hard part and where many of us stumble.
Being open to God’s Will, and therefore open to the fact that people grow and develop long into adulthood, is an important step. It means mentally preparing yourself for the unexpected and being willing to roll with it (keeping your faith and morals at the center of any choices or course.) It means realizing that we may not like or have ever wanted the coming challenge, but that God is well aware of it and is helping you along if you accept His help. It means knowing that your spouse is trying to roll with it too and may deal with it differently and that’s okay. It means supporting each other, mutually, in order to lean on each other for strength, support, and the love that every marriage needs.
One verse that helps to pray on is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Center your prayers on this when challenges are deep. Talk about your trials. Talk about your trials. It can’t be stressed enough that talking and listening strengthens any and all relationships, especially marriage. Often couples have one who doesn’t like to talk. It doesn’t have to be a deep, soul-searching conversation, but be honest. (Truly, deep, soul-searching conversations are fantastic, but not everyone is ready for that.) Honesty is the best policy, as the old adage says, and it’s true. If simply saying, “that’s hard for me,” or, “I’m not sure about that option,” is all you can muster, it’s an important start.
This world needs stronger, healthier marriages and honesty, integrity, and openness are key factors. Couple that with the root of all marriages, the Creator Himself, and you’ve got a powerful union. Love isn’t just love; love is so much more. It's a willingness to be selfless. It’s a desire to put away your own personal desires. It’s a sacrifice for the very one who will sacrifice for you. It’s the story of the Gift of the Magi, where each gave up their favorite thing to give something special to the other, we must put our marriage before ourselves. If this is done mutually, a greater marriage results.