I want to start this week’s instalment by providing a recap of the pre-marital nuggets of wisdom that I took away from Part I of my conversation with Rita.
- Pressure: we may receive pressure from family, friends or society. This is almost ALWAYS a recipe for making a rushed, unwise decision in choosing a partner. Sometimes, even though they mean well, even parents can get it wrong.
- Lack of peace within yourself: any reason that makes your heart unsettled is a prodding of the Holy Spirit to pause, stop & reassess. You may not be able to fully articulate why there is restlessness of spirit, but any persistent irritation about the circumstances related to your being together is a sign that things are not right. When you enter into a marriage relationship, there should only be a strong, abounding joy/excitement and an unquestionable, firmly grounded peace. The grounding should be the confirmed assurance that God has approved of the union. Praying intently, pointedly & consistently will place our minds and hearts in the right place about a potential spouse. This ought to happen over time and throughout the time of courting. This also allows God to use time and experience to reveal who the person is clearly and honestly. There’s nothing more shocking, devastating & horribly unsettling than discovering that the person you married is completely not who they presented themselves to be or who you got to know during courting. Uncover everything there is to uncover, and ask the especially hard and uncomfortable questions. Finally, listen for the agreement/permission of the Holy Spirit before adding your ‘yes’.
- Seeking Godly counsel: the choice of spouse must be informed by the example of husband God provides us in the Word. Not our mothers’ prescripts, our friends’ ‘ideals’ or our short sighted, flesh inspired desires. Consulting with God’s standard is the key. The key things we want to uncover and compare against God’s Word are temperament, mental schema & framework (way of thinking about life/the world), beliefs and values.
- Be led: as women, we may want to take charge of the relationship and orchestrate things to go a certain way or move at a certain pace. Please believe that if a man does not take charge of or responsibility for your courtship, he will not take responsibility for the health of your marriage. You want a leader for a husband. That way, when you confront issues in your marriage, it’ll be a team effort to course-correct. In allowing yourself to be led and CHOSEN, you will have a spouse that ALWAYS chooses and prioritizes you throughout marriage, at all costs. You can never lose with that kind of man. And if a man isn’t leading in the way that is inclined or aligned to what you seek out of a relationship, leave or end that relationship/courtship.
This week, we’re continuing with our exploration of the marriage relationship. Rita continues to share her story with us and reveals some of difficulties she confronted while IN the marriage and how despite her best efforts (prayer, fasting, church counselling and family intervention), none of those helped heal her relationship. It is the revelation that she was with a very broken person that finally led her to take the difficult decision to end things. This revelation freed her because she finally realised that it wasn’t her that was the problem. She also came to the liberating understanding that until her then-husband realised it for himself, that HE was broken and in need of saving and help, that nothing would ever be right about/in their marriage.
And we hear this all the time – you can’t change someone unless they desire that change for themselves. And in order for that to be, they must see themselves as they truly are and accept that brokenness and desire to be better for themselves. Women are often dissuaded from trying to ‘save men’ because it’s often a futile exercise. It also creates an unhealthy dynamic where the woman is expected to do the bulk of the difficult emotional work for the couple, while the husband just coasts along and plays catch-up with the nagging or burdened wife. Men are emotionally intelligent too. It’s just that we often don’t expect them to be and we then circumvent any space for them to come into that capacity by fulfilling that role for both ourselves and them in relationship. And when you do something for a man or take the responsibility for it from him, he will gladly let you run with it. So we infantilize them as being inept or incapable of LEADING in matters of emotional and psychological growth and development within marriage, which is setting ourselves up to always feel cheated or with partners who are emotionally stunted, immature or lazy. Men must always be held accountable for how they show up in relationships, both mentally and emotionally. They must do their own work and must be encouraged to develop self-awareness and accountability as part of personal and relational development. This way, even when issues arise, a man will be able to own his weaknesses and take necessary steps to heal, course-correct and foster harmony in relationship. But how would you know just how emotionally/mentally stable, mature and accountable a partner is apart from wisdom?
Needless to say, the consequences of a failed or an unhappy marriage are dire. Broken hearts and adults, broken homes and broken children. The fallout is severe and often, healing from that takes a lifetime. Furthermore, the impact is generational. If we thought of our children and their marriages and their children and their children, and what harm could be borne out of our decisions, perhaps many more would heed and apply wisdom in choosing a spouse. Many have gone before us and thankfully live to tell not just the story, but a better story, having been granted a grace to make new and different decisions in this area. They leave, for the sake of their peace and wellbeing, including that of their children. I’m grateful that Rita’s story is being re-written by an unending love and grace and that next time, she gets to do it differently!