What Anxiety Teaches Me about Marriage

I rolled over in bed and saw my husband pulling on his shirt. He leaned over to kiss me goodbye and I wished him luck at his ball tournament. We normally go with him but since he was leaving early, traveling several hours, and coming back after bedtime, I opted to stay home with the boys. As I heard the door shut behind him, I was overcome with fear that something would happen to him as he was traveling.

My overactive imagination is sometimes a blessing but more often a curse. Dan Zadra said, “Worry is a misuse of the imagination” and that misuse has colored my life. Justin was traveling with his assistant coach, a parent, and four of his athletes and I didn’t just imagine a car wreck. I could see the headlines: “Homeschool Athletes and Coaches Die on Trip to Tournament.” I pictured myself having to tell our boys that their daddy was dead. I imagined myself having to give birth to this fourth baby that would never know his father without Justin’s steadying presence. I saw myself trying to figure out all the things in our life that Justin takes care of.

This fear has been present my whole life. I remember being terrified that our house would burn down while we were away when I was growing up. I remember thinking, “But if I leave and go to this event, something might happen.” Once a pastor said that the story of Job comforted him in the worst of life’s problem.  My reaction to Job? He just makes me afraid that my whole family will die.

The Comparison Trap in Marriage

I really have gotten better at the brutal game of comparison with other women. I don’t handle it perfectly but it no longer consumes me as it has in the past. But recently I’ve found myself wrestling with another art of comparison that I thought I left behind long ago.

My husband had the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. It made for some great memories, a few magical moments, and other moments when I wished for bedtime and a normal routine.

When he went back to work, I found myself suddenly the only adult to whom the children could offer their requests. Three people constantly plying, and often whining (we’re working on it), about the things they wanted, needed, or injustices that were being done.

My response was irritation at my husband whose life I had suddenly decided was much easier than mine. After all, he can go to the bathroom in quiet, whenever he likes. He can leave work and come home to eat lunch, or stay at work in the conference room ordering lunch in like an adult, or leave and run out to get fast food. No buckling other people in car seats or telling children not to fight while they wait on their turn to walk out the door.

Why Marriage Doesn’t Just “Work Out”

I just saw someone else say on social media that their relationship, their marriage, just wasn’t working out. Not that there was abuse or infidelity which are different circumstances, but just, oh hey, this isn’t so great.
 
You want to know something?
 
Marriage doesn’t just “work out.”
 
There’s no magic to a good marriage. It’s not that some people are gifted with what it takes to stay married and be happy about it. Marriage doesn’t just work out because there are only happy feelings and happy days. That’s not real life and a marriage must sustain real life.
 
Marriage doesn’t just work out because you always agree or because hard times doesn’t come. Marriage works out because you learn to compromise, because you learn to lead and follow. Marriage works out because you turn toward each other in hard times and not away.

Am I a Good Wife?

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord. Proverbs 18:22
 
Justin picked me. He asked me to marry him. So I’m asking mself- was I a good choice? Is he glad that he picked me? Now, right off-hand I think he is; that’s not really where I’m going with this. I want to evaluate what kind of wife I am.
 
This all started a few months ago. I heard a sermon- I think it was at Missions Conference but I’m not sure- and the preacher asked if God could be glad that He chose us for the work He’s given us. And I contemplated that until I got stuck on the wife part. Is God glad that He put me with my husband? Do I help him serve God or do I hold him back? Ultimately, my goal is for Justin to be able to serve God better because he is married to me.
 
I thought of two Bible examples right away. (Both of them were married to heathen or evil men- I just want to point out that Justin is neither of those.) Abigail is described in Scripture as being both wise and beautiful (1 Samuel 25:3) while her husband was said to be evil. David was going to kill him and everything he owned because of Nabal’s stupidity until Abigail stepped in. She did her husband good. Now God killed him but Abigail did her job well.
 

Why Your Marriage Matters

Today is our 8th anniversary. Don’t worry, I’m refraining from all the lovey-dovey stuff about how much I love being married and how awesome my husband is because you don’t really need to hear that. Admit it- you’d just roll your eyes.

Sometimes I feel broken looking at all the marriages that are failing. People that have just gotten married, people who have been married as long as we have, people who have been married for thirty years are all calling it quits.

This isn’t said in judgment. If that’s you, my heart goes out to you. I don’t know your situation and I know it takes two people to make a marriage work. And this isn’t for people who are in an abusive/horrific situation because that happens too. But most of the people I know don’t fall in that category. Most of them are just two very different, ultimately selfish people trying to build a life together.

I don’t have a one-two-three method for marriage happiness. That would be much simpler. I do, however, have a question.

What if your marriage matters?justin and lisa standing

If we’re asked, we know our marriages matters. We know what God says about marriage (Mark 10:7-9). We know that our children need our marriage. But we forget. In the midst of the day to day living- bills, jobs, kids, irritations- we forget that that our marriage makes a difference for everyone who knows us. Maybe you haven’t thought about that in a while. Maybe you’ve gotten distracted with thoughts of a better life, thoughts of chasing dreams that don’t include who takes out the trash. Marriage tells us a lot about ourselves; if you don’t like what marriage is exposing about you join the club.

Often we have the wrong viewpoint about marriage going into it. Marriage is often idolized, especially for younger females, as the do-all, be-all of life. If I can just get married, I’ll be happy.

No, you won’t. Marriage won’t make you happy. What you are already is magnified by a thousand when you get married. What’s in our hearts is what comes out.

The goal is to love and serve Jesus- not to get married. If God’s plan for you includes getting married, great! I don’t say that with a jaded heart. I sincerely love being married. But it will not make you happy.

So if I- a happily married woman- can look you in the eye and say that marriage isn’t the goal (and I would totally do that over some coffee if I could) then I think you should listen.

Because marriage is bigger than your happiness. I cringe when I hear people that just got engaged say that their fiance is going to make them happy. No, he or she probably isn’t. They can’t. Another person can’t make you happy. They can definitely contribute to making you miserable though. Choose carefully. Don’t settle for someone because you’re afraid there won’t be anyone else. It’s not worth it. You can live a fulfilling life as a single person serving Christ (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

You get married because the two of you can serve Jesus better together than apart. And then you choose each other every single day. You build a marriage one day at a time. Every time you decide to put that person first, every time you decide to follow God’s plan, every time you pick their favorite you build your marriage. When you tell the truth, when you making knowing each other a priority, when you choose them over yourself you build your marriage.

It takes time to build a marriage. It takes much less time to tear one down.

We should be protective of our marriages. It makes me shudder to think that ours could break. That all the shared memories and future dreams could be fractured and broken. It could happen but instead of letting that paralyze me I let it motivate me: motivate me to look at the eternal picture, motivate me every morning to choose my man.

Not just for myself. Our children need our marriage. Our families need our marriage. Our church needs our marriage. And your children, families, and churches need yours. Your marriage matters.

Maybe we can hold our marriages together not just for our kids forty years down the road but for our neighbors, friends and coworkers who don’t need the discouragement of another marriage collapsing. Maybe we could even do it in a way that makes our children want what we have when they are grown.

 

Oh, and the song below is a current favorite. It’s hard to find a good love song.

P.S. What I really want for our marriage and last year’s anniversary post.

What I Really Want for Our Marriage

Sometimes it seems that all days are long. I sit feeding the baby before putting him in bed, letting the book close in my lap, while Curious George plays in the kitchen where the older boys eat a snack. His strong legs lift the ottoman off the rug and run the vacuum across it.
Not because I asked. Because it needed vacuumed.
He sacrifices his time and resources for our well-being. He works his days because he loves it and to keep us in this home where we play and learn. He rarely asks for anything- occasionally some new sunglasses to put around his shaved head or a sandwich when he comes home for lunch.
He’s mine. I said “yes” the day he asked me to marry him. That day when we were still teenagers and only knew we wanted to do life together. I was barely out of my teens the day we said “I do” in a simple ceremony in December.
We moved easily into life together. Homework because I was still in school, dinners that we cooked together in our tiny apartment where we didn’t have curtains. We watched movies on the air mattress in front of the TV on Friday nights and slept until 11 the next morning in the cozy bed that had been handed down for generations.
We disagreed. We still do. Two different people moving together through life are bound to. But I went into each day with him with one resolve- to give him more.
More grace when he messes up. More benefit of the doubt when I feel offended. More respect than I give to another. He’s been the best of things to me and I want to give him my best. 
 
It’s easiest to give him my worst.
To save the soft answers for the woman at church that hurts my feelings. To keep the patience for the children on a good day or for the slow, grumbling cashier at the store. To consider the emotions of a stranger that cares nothing for me while making assumptions about his intentions. 
I want to save my best for him. I want to nurture a love that’s holding hands walking into the restaurant or the hospital, into riches or want. I want to give more to this one whose story is intertwined with mine and not to others who only play a secondary role. 
 
Because one motivation is out of love and the other is to be impressive. He knows me too well to be impressed; he sees my best and my worst. I can think that those who don’t know me well are impressed with me. Maybe they are sometimes. 

The impressions are fake. They don’t see me when I’m tired and the kids have been up all night and I’ve not had any coffee. They don’t see me roll my eyes or raise my voice or apologize for sarcastic answers. 
 
He does. He chooses me anyway. 

And every morning I choose him. 

How To Be a Better Wife

One of my deepest fears is that my husband or one of my boys will die. I doubt I’m alone in that. To love is to be vulnerable. And not just vulnerable to the loss of that person but also to their actions. You cannot experience the benefits of love without the vulnerability that it demands. 

Marriage is a deep commitment. It’s a bond that strengthens and develops (at least with two people who are seeking to serve Jesus) over time. My husband is my best friend. He is my favorite person and I love to have him around. But we’re not just husband and wife. First we are Christians and knowing that changes my marriage. 

Marriage isn’t eternal even though it’s supposed to be to the death. (Matthew 22:30) My husband could die. (Perish the thought as he was in the air when I wrote this.) My husband could walk away from Jesus and our family. I can’t imagine the totally separate and terrible pain of those but it wouldn’t be the end.

Being a wife is a role that God has given me; it’s designed into this life that I live now. But it’s not who I am. I am a daughter of God.

This husband is not just mine. He belongs to God first and I am here to help him. I am here to cheer him on and I have to release him to do his work. Sometimes it means he’s not home as much as I would like. My attitude makes a big difference with his traveling and his work and his work at church. I can make him miserable or I can send him on to do God’s work for him regardless of the cost to me. (My husband prioritizes our family well but this is still a fact of life.) 
I do not expect my husband to make me happy. That is not his job. He is as incapable of making me happy as I am incapable of making him happy. That is between my heart and God. I must go to God for many things that it would easier to expect of my husband. Easier for me to expect but impossible for him to perform. 

I don’t get my worth from my husband. My husband thinks well of me; he believes in my talents and abilities. But if he were to walk away from our marriage and tell me that I was worthless and ugly and useless it wouldn’t make those things true. Nothing would have changed. Yes, those words would hurt my heart but they would not be true. My worth comes from what God says about me and He says that Jesus went to the cross for me. That’s all I need to know. 

That means I can free my husband from the responsibility of making me feel valuable or important. He doesn’t have to make me happy. I can get all of that from God and be free to give myself to him and this marriage and our family.

Because he’s not just mine and I’m not just a wife. There is a fine line between prioritizing my husband as my most important person and expecting him to be my everything. Knowing that makes me a better wife.