Last weekend I came home from a long shift at the hospital to find Will bent over the toilet with a cleaning brush.
My heart jumped. “I don’t deserve a husband like him,” I thought.
Will has always been a willing participant of household chores, and while I am home more than he is thus much of the housekeeping falls to me, I can’t think of one time that he didn’t pitch in to help without complaining.
We celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary this week. I have been thinking about marriage and what makes it work.
When I married at 22, I was a girl with an inquisitive and observant mind, but very indecisive and insecure. I had a good childhood in many respects, but several painful relationships in addition to my hearing loss had beaten me down badly on the inside. I could never be good enough. Loneliness was a constant, heart-and-soul-eating companion.
So something as simple as deciding what to cook for dinner felt scary and threatening to me. If Will asked me what I wanted to do on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I always replied with a question: “What do you want to do?”
Over the years he built confidence in me, and I learned to choose which restaurant I wanted, and to buy myself a toaster or laundry basket without permission. I learned to express how I felt without retreating in pain and fear.
From the start of our relationship, we loved to do things together. We spent many Sunday afternoons playing in the river and weekday evenings at the library. We camped in a tiny tent in Colorado during freezing weather and ate papusas and drank pop out of glass bottles in El Salvador.
When our four children came along, we were no longer quite so free, but we included them in our trips to the river or library. The kids played with hammers while we remodeled houses, and dug in the dirt while we pruned raspberry bushes or picked tomatoes in our garden.
Will and I always loved to talk about ideas and dreams and how the world works.
This togetherness healed many of the broken places in my heart. Still, there were times when old patterns from our childhoods crept in, and we found ourselves slightly and uneasily at odds.
Here are three things I have learned and still am learning about our marriage.
1. When old patterns surface, I need to treat both myself and my husband with honesty and gentleness.
Usually when I am retreating into being indecisive or insecure, or I am unsufferably picky about the housekeeping or anything else, I am acting out of either a deep fear of not being good enough or a fear of being abandoned.
A few years ago, I was delivered from fear in a huge measure, but I still have to ward it off from time to time. If Will would not be gentle in these times, it would only feed the fear.
Often if we talk about what is going on inside of me–instead of pretending it doesn’t exist–the fear recedes. It can be as simple as me saying, “when you are reading while I am cleaning a dirty kitchen, it makes me feel alone,” or “tell me if you like what I am wearing, because when I was a child my clothes were often criticized.”
2. Both willing service and asking for help are necessary in a healthy marriage.
Depending on our personalities or life experiences, either serving or asking for help feels more natural. I’m one who will serve until I drop–which is partly a spiritual gift and how I show love, partly a broken pattern of relating, and partly cultural conditioning. I’m slowly learning to ask for what I need. The vulnerability of asking leads me into deeper places of trusting.
Both giving and receiving are necessary in a wholesome relationship. And forget about mind-reading…it usually doesn’t happen. Will and I have to ask each other for what we need and want.
3. Spirituality is the glue that holds our marriage together.
I’ve heard lots and lots of good marriage advice over the years, and found much of it helpful. Learning each other’s love languages, for instance, helped me know how to love in practical and meaningful ways. But sometimes these books and seminars make a marriage relationship look like a huge to-do list.
In reality, nothing concretes my marriage like spirituality does. Sometimes I need to set aside the marriage to-do list and rest in the love and tenderness of Christ.
God’s working is mysterious and effective. Looking to Him to fill my needs first relieves tremendous pressure off my husband. And listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit as a couple is one of the most thrilling things I have ever experienced.
When Will and I are both close to Jesus, our relationship is incredibly deep and sweet.
I have not arrived at the utopia of marriage. But God is with us and it is very good, for which I am deeply thankful.
What has God taught you through your marriage, or through other close relationships?
15 thoughts on “Fourteen Years, and Three Things I Am Learning”
What a wonderful writing! I love thinking about Will and your romance. You are so incredibly special and blessed. I agree he is a great man and I admire him a lot and it sounds like you do too. 😀 Keep writing, keep loving and keep going to the river and the library.
Blessings galore, Uncle Loren, DPM
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Thank you, Uncle Loren! 🙂
Thanks for sharing, especially your three points. When we were younger I couldn’t believe that a marriage “gets better” as the years go by. Twenty two years later I know it to be so, with a lot of trial and error and the abundant grace of God. We are now watching the love of our daughter and son in law blossom, and they too can’t imagine that it gets better. My husband and l look at each other and smile.
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That new love is so sweet, but you are right, love gets stronger with years of practice!
Fifty-three years and I’m still learning how to be a good, and Godly, wife! You are so right about when we are close to Jesus we are close to each other! You and Will are a blessing to our community! Keep on learning, loving and listening to that still small voice within! You are loved!❤️
Thank you, sweet friend! I look up to you and Phil as a shining example of what God’s love looks like! ❤
This is all so true!! I especially like point number 3. I have seen that played out over and over in our marriage. The more we fall in love with Jesus, the better we love each other.
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Rosina, like you I was also afraid to ask for help so I did it all and held down a job for years. For about the first 15 years I didn’t ask for help and some anger and bitterness set in. I would expect that if someone that loved me would see coming home from work and still have to feed, bathe children, do dishes, laundry etc he would help. So frustration creeped in and I was no longer happy in my marriage. But God began to fill all the voids in my life. God showed me his Glory and I was able to see my husband as a gift. I also learned that we will only be complete when we see Jesus face to face! Until that time I need to love like Jesus loved and give my all! It was then that my husband saw Jesus in me and he began to change. He began to serve me also! It is all about Jesus! He is the one that can complete us! Love you sweet lady!
Thank you for sharing this, Toni! The love of Jesus is without comparison. You are a special couple!
I’m reading through your post with much excitement. Here I have found words to the thoughts swirling in my brain! I know this is an old post but do you have any words of wisdom to a fellow female who sought and FOUND the Holy Spirit? I now see that 40 years of being religious caused me to completely miss God! We moved to a mission and my desire to bring the natives the light and truth of the gospel is being thwarted by leaders & my husband who want to add the burdon of our Mennonite rules to being born again. After 40 years the mission has managed to bring in one couple. And they are showing by their fruits that they are not born again. Terrible us against them mentality. Only adopted mennonite practice..My husband is determined that I join the Mennonite church there that is a part of a large group in the states. How does a wife continue to submit to her husband and join a Church system that liked her blind obedience without being born again? And now that I have met Jesus I’m being classed a rebel? I still dress the same. I feel like the Spirit is telling me that God must come first and yet all the bishops and my husband tell me I must obey and submit to authority and join. I am so torn! Please give me advice, I feel like you understand what it’s like to want to obey the Holy spirit with all your heart❤
Lovely! Thank you!
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Your writing touches deep places in my heart, even though I am not married. Learning to make known what I need in relationships and being heard is HUGE for me. Some of us have to learn that being needy is okay….its also a learning curve (for some of us😊)to accept the love of Jesus and other people in our neediness. But it’s a beautiful experience, too. Thanks so much for writing!
Being vulnerable is painful, but when we are cared for at that level we know what it’s like to be loved in a way that we didn’t before. ❤
I’m reading through your posts with much excitement. I can so relate to your comment about the concern for the drunk down the street while our churches back home are deciding whether or not to allow certain things in women’s dress. Here I have found words to the thoughts swirling in my brain! I know this is an old post but do you have any words of wisdom to a fellow female who sought and FOUND the Holy Spirit? I now see that 40 years of being religious caused me to completely miss God! We moved to a mission and my desire to bring the natives the light and truth of the gospel is being thwarted by leaders & my husband who want to add the burdon of our Mennonite rules to being born again. Which I now see with complete clarity as the reason I was never truly saved while in their system. I felt I had to embrace rules and therefore they were an idol keeping me from Christ. After 40 years the mission has managed to bring in one couple. And they are showing by their fruits that they are not born again. Terrible us against them mentality. Only adopted mennonite practice..My husband is determined that I join the Mennonite church there that is a part of a large group in the states. How does a wife continue to submit to her husband and join a Church system that liked her blind obedience without being born again? And now that I have met Jesus I’m being classed a rebel and getting letter after letter from “concerned” people my husband has talked to? I still dress the same. And submit to my husband in every other area. I feel like the Spirit is telling me that God must come first and yet all the bishops and my husband tell me I must obey and submit to authority and join. I am so torn! Please give me advice, I feel like you understand what it’s like to want to obey the Holy spirit with all your heart❤
Hello sweet friend! You’re welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m so glad you found the Holy Spirit! Send me an email and we’ll chat. 😊