If you only read one "marriage resource post" I share, this one would be the most-important overall to us. You can get into the dicey details of "Should we take I-70 or highway 4?" "Well, what time of day are we traveling, and...[etc]." You have to know where you're going first. Agreeing on the destination, will dramatically and crucially inform the route to take and how to take it! So, these three resources would be our "Big Three!" To see more completely solid ones, click here: Favorite Marriage Resources.
A few months ago I polled followers and friends on IG asking what part of "the stuff I share" most interested them. I was surprised but encouraged that the overwhelming response was "Marriage" and "Parenting" topics!
But then I felt, eh, unqualified.
A wife of five years, and a mother of four, has no place to be sharing advice or tips or ponderings on these things... right?? I don't know. I really don't! I can make a case for both sides.
I also don't know if "what we think" is right. I think it's good; worthwhile. Only problem is I am hindered by time. I can't fast-forward 50 years and find out if our marriage experiment will work out as our theory predicts. All we can do is "do the best we can, until we know better. And when we know better, do better." Receiving this gift from the Father of Lights, treasuring it in our hearts, giving not only the gospel of our God to each other but our very selves, connecting by cords of kindness and bands of love. We're trying. But we're speaking closer to "Once upon a time" than "And they lived happily ever after."
We'll see if in a few decades we just shake our heads at our simplistic, naive ideas. However, while I think absolute truth is narrow, I don't think it's elusive. I think we are capable of knowing what is really good. And it's impossible for Caleb and I to look much further than, or at least start at, deep, unconditional, welcoming, effusive, intimate relationship... as that is what we've been given in Christ, with Christ.
This type of posting "makes me feel like a fraud" ("Who do you think you are??"), makes me worry if I'll be perceived as overly-confident or arrogant, makes me wonder if I AM over-confident or arrogant, and is just easier to keep tucked away for ourselves to fiddle and fool around with. But I do feel a, um, a bit of an ache to try to help... to try to share a bit of good, if only in a plastic fold-down-top snack bag (you know, the cheap kind). If anyone could be helped, or envisioned, or blessed, I would be so grateful.
I also want to mention that everything I'm sharing is by no means Morris Marriage Counseling! Not that anyone couldn't find care or hope here, but I know my place... and marriage is not simple, especially a hurting one. It is much easier to build from the ground up than it is to do full-scale renovations. We are young. We are just building the first time. I understand that, and am probably mostly speaking to people who aren't married, who are soon to be married, or who are newly married... because that's just where we are too.
Alright. Enough caveats. Our gigantic galactic jump into Covenant Outer Space consists primarily of these principals (along with three more tomorrow, since this got very long very fast). These, or thoughts/conversations just like these, are what we brought before the Lord, and decided together, would be how our marriage worked and what we would try to do. Especially since it all seemed to be such a natural outflow of our "oh-so-in-love" early days, that we wanted to remain, and our understanding of scripture and how Love is meant to be experienced right up close, in the flesh.
We enjoy the second part better than the first, but overall they fit together nicely. Part 1 sets the stage, and takes on a few myths (here's an example):
Myth #3: Marital unhappiness is created by spouses having unrealistically high expectations of each other/marriage in general. Truth: High expectations are good for your marriage. Yet how popular is this idea these days? You hear it all the time. According to its espousers, couples are unhappy because the wife grew up on rom-com fantasies, and even the husband thinks marriage is going to be a pretty smooth ride. “Get real!” these folks say. “Marriage is hard! Everyone marries the wrong person, and then just has to make the best of it. Better to lower your expectations and accept this fact, then to get your hopes up and be disillusioned.” Such an approach to marriage certainly has that satisfying tough-guy-realist thing going for it, but it turns out not to be based on reality at all.
It goes on to quote Gottman (which happens frequently between the two articles) whose research has brought him to this "happiness ratio"... 5:1: "A couple that has at least five times more positive interactions than negative ones will ultimately succeed."
The second article goes into more detail:
Create A Marriage Culture: A culture consists of shared norms, customs, values, rituals, symbols, goals, stories, and so on. Together, such elements contribute to the sense of shared meaning that not only strengthens societies, but personal relationships as well. Establish traditions. Be nostalgic. Celebrate the 'myths' of your love.
Stay Connected: Practice what Gottman calls “attunement.” Keep track of the details of each other’s inner and outer worlds — your respective doubts, dreams, worries, goals, frustrations, etc. It’s about engaging in conversation, regularly and deeply. It’s a continual process of turning towards each other, so that as you and your partner grow, you can better grow together.
Express Regular, Effusive Appreciation: There’s no better grease in the gears of love than gratitude. Remember, romantic love isn’t so mysterious; it’s based on the fulfillment of basic human needs, one of the strongest of which is simply to be recognized and appreciated. Truly, spouses are willing to put up with a lot more guff and foibles from their partner, when that partner regularly expresses the fact they find them worthy, admirable, and indispensable. But expressing appreciation doesn’t just benefit your partner — it also reminds you of what you love about your spouse, reawakening that feeling of being lucky to be married to them. The regular exchange of gratitude ultimately benefits both parties and your relationship as a whole, as strengthening your admiration and fondness for one another prevents the creep of one of the biggest relationship slayers of them all: contempt.
I'll stop there because you just need to go read the whole thing.
- Gottman Institute Research I've read other articles by Gottman, especially the ones about "turning to" each other when one makes "a bid for connection." We thoroughly enjoy them all!
2. A Severe Mercy / Book by Sheldon Vanauken
Oh this book. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I can't believe I didn't get to read it sooner in life. I'll be re-reading it forever.
You have to prepare for it, in a way. Then again, maybe it's best to just fling up the door and be windswept. A brief summary: this is the story of Sheldon and his wife, Davy. Their love, their loss. And they just so happened to have created a personal relationship with CS Lewis, and about a dozen of his personal letters to the Vaunakens are included. That's all I'll say on the storyline front!
But as far as "marriage and love principals" go, Caleb and I had prickly chills, jaws on the floor, and "so much to say!!" as we read, particularly their early love story. We didn't read this until being married for four years, but some of the conversations re-told here were word-for-word ones we'd had ourselves half a decade earlier! And other things were new thoughts, or new ways of saying something, but resonated deeply. This was not only extremely encouraging to us, but a blissfully impactful reminder to "stay the course." (Also, read the whole book to see this get tested and lived out... it's a RICH story.)
Here's an example:
"We talked deeply about justice between lovers and about how to make love endure. What emerged from our talk was nothing less, we believed, than the central 'secret' of enduring love: sharing.
'Look,' we said, 'what is it that draws two people into closeness and love? Of course there's the mystery of attraction, but beyond that it's the things they share. We both love strawberries and ships and collies and poems and all beauty, and all those things bind us together. Those sharings just happened to be; but what we must do now is share everything. Everything! If one likes anything, there must be something to like in it - and the other one must find it.
That way we shall create a thousand strands, great and small, that will link us together. Then we shall be so close that it would be impossible - unthinkable! - for either of us to suppose that we could recreate such closeness anywhere else. And our trust in each other will not only be based on love and loyalty but on the fact of a thousand sharings - a thousand strands twisted into something unbreakable.'
Our enthusiasm grew as we talked. Total sharing, we felt, was the ultimate secret of a love that would last forever. And of course we could learn to like anything if we wanted to. Through sharing we would not only make a bond of incredible friendship, but through sharing we would keep the magic of inloveness. And with every year, more and more depth. We would become as close as two humans could become- closer, perhaps than any two people had ever been. Whatever storms might come, whatever changes the years may bring, there would be the bedrock closeness of all our sharing."
There is no replacement for being able spend in-person time with "mentors and close friends," but this sermon a pretty good start. We've learned from and connected with the whole Shorey-and-extended family so deeply, and probably one of the "most important ways" was the startling report, personal witnessing of, and teaching on marriage.
Even the outline of this sermon I love!
II. The Context of Intoxicating Romance
A. Constant Conversation
B. Called - Apart Connection “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
C. Crafted Communication
III. The Climate of Intoxicating Romance
A. Deep Affection
B. Devoted (even distracted) Attention
Fly Bold Banners!
Here's a quick quote from the sermon:
"If we don’t know each other as husbands and wives, as families, as friends, if we don’t actually spend time learning about each other - not by design but by volume! - none of the good that we are truly seeking will flourish. We must reconnect conversational life. I’m not trying to put out there some unreachable expectation! I’m simply saying: in whatever ways we can we must restore conversation. We must restore dialogue. And we must start first and foremost in the lives of our marriages.
We are called in marriage to live a lifestyle of interaction. In a sense our whole lives are researching each other. Knowing each other a little better in the subtleties of passing conversation, not just in 'planned times of discussion!' or special set-apart moments. We can’t just jump, as so often happens in teaching toward couples, to special occasions, and special events, and date nights, and and and! We need to be together. Whenever possible. Life is full! But we need to be together, and talk together, and engage together. I understand why the pull is to spend 'quality time vs quantity time' because life is so full… but the reality is, there’s no quality that replaces quantity. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the times we have as good as we can! It doesn’t mean who don’t have the quantity be as quality as possible! But the fact is, for the intimate relationships in our lives: we need to live with each other."
- The Gift of Conversation & The Growth of Conversation
These two podcasts, recorded six or seven years ago, have been staples for Caleb and I! A part of the Enjoying Grace collection, and more beautiful discussion on... discussion!
"Measured conversation can be very vain, but humility is found in speaking freely."
"Words are God things. They came from Him, He identifies His Son as 'The Word.' But I think what we've lost is making words mesmerizing. Part of that is giving yourself to words, by joining in free flowing conversation. We gather in a room, words escape, and we know something more about the soul. Wow!"
For one of us "free flowing conversation" is like an enormous steam train, slowly chugga chugga chug, going from still to motion, gaining speed with time... before belting through the quiet countrysides at a pulsing pace.
The other one is more like a kid on a tricycle at the top of a steep, paved hill... who is pushed down fast to start! Gains speed even still! and then eventually slows down to a reflective, pondering dialogue pace by the end of the ride.
But these concepts of conversation are crucial for us both. Conversation isn't just listening or is it just talking. (Our extreme tendencies). Sharing together, listening, being humble enough to throw out some words and thoughts that others can now evaluate and respond to, going back and forth, hearing someone out, laughing quickly (mostly at yourself), finding out a little more about each other, even if the topic is one that has been hashed out dozens of times before, learning from each other, noticing each other, etc IS one of the most important parts of our existence, in our opinion. And these teachings and thoughts have really given those beliefs legs!
Part 2 - Tomorrow!