My twenties were filled with weddings. Every summer, and sometimes in the winter, there were weddings to attend. I would go to Target, buy and wrap a nice salad bowl, put on my suit, and hope for something good to eat at the reception. Sometimes I would walk away thinking, “Wow, that was great!”
But after a while, I got tired of weddings. As I sat and watched a ceremony, my thoughts began to shift from, “Wow, this is such a big moment for them!” to, “They seem a little immature to be doing this”, “They seem too volatile to last very long together”, and other criticisms.
Those fleeting thoughts of pessimism are sadly coming true . It’s now that stage in life when people are actually getting divorced.
It’s strange how a divorce makes itself known on Facebook: a new profile picture, an old last name, or a new relationship status. When I notice it, I realize something awful has just happened. It’s a silent earthquake. People are hurting and I had no idea.
The next wedding I go to, I know I’ll feel a much greater sense of “Gosh, I sure hope this goes well. I hope they really try to work the hard stuff out.” And I’ll probably pray for them.
In response to the sadness of these divorces around me, I want to share the two things I’ve learned in five years of marriage because I think it can help people to stay together.
Lesson 1: I don’t understand very much about my wife.
I’m not saying “Women are from Venus”. Forget my inability to sympathize with the emotional intricacies of the menstrual cycle. That’s not what I’m saying. Guys are no easier to understand. I’ve had roommates (men from Mars like me) and they didn’t make half as much sense as my wife. She is one of the most candid, reasonable, and sensible people I’ve ever known.
Despite how much sense she makes as a person, sometimes I’m completely lost as I try to make sense of her. This lostness isn’t her fault; it’s because I’m a lousy relational cartographer.
Map-making is a lot like marriage. Your spouse is the land. You are a map-maker/voyager who travelling with your map, correcting it when you go wrong.
My map looks really bad at times. It probably looks like Columbus’ map of “the Americas” in comparison with a modern satellite image.
Just like Columbus, I’ve made a map that is really accurate in some respects (check out Africa!) but is inaccurate in other ways because its based on my assumptions about “How She Is”.
Yet that same map, as misshaped and messy as it may be, is crucial for being a good husband. Neglecting it, flawed as it is, will only make things worse. Don’t ignore it and don’t throw it out. Revise it.
This leads me to the other thing I’ve learned…
Lesson 2: I need to understand her better.
In sixth grade, I remember making a North American map. By that time, I had mastered the continental US shape (kindof like a rhino plus Texas). But the new thing all the students had to do was draw and label Canada’s provinces correctly. This was on one of those giant pieces of butcher paper that really exposed how bad kids draw (especially me).
Even at the tender age of eleven, I realized there were two ways to do that map: I could make a smoothed-out splotch of a country or I could draw it with all those jagged edges and inlets that give a map its authenticating nuance. Even if I was wrong and created a dozen bays that don’t exist, it still looked more real.
For a relationship to work, you need to scrap that elementary school, smooth-lined map of your significant other. And when you start to draw those jagged edges, don’t fake them! Those assumptions lead to conflict when the real person doesn’t match up. Your relationship is what happens when you actually live out of love based on what you really know about the other person.
I think the most rewarding thing about marriage is standing back from it and just looking at how special your relationship is. I think God loves to see people engaged in understanding each other and loving the other in all their uniqueness.
1 Pet 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way.
James 3:13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.