Some things you don’t forget.
The first date, the first kiss, the first time “I love you” was uttered – these are all treasured memories for a couple when they look back over their relationship.
But just as memorable are the setbacks – the moments when love was hanging by a thread.
During 20 years of marriage, music and ministry, my wife and I have experienced triumphs and tragedies that have taught us a lot about ourselves. While some obstacles appeared through no fault of our own, most of our biggest challenges were due to our own decisions. Those decisions came close to wrecking the beautiful life we share now.
Here’s three decisions that damaged our life-long commitment and almost cost us dearly.
- Staying distant. When there were signs that my wife and I were not on the same page, rather than getting closer to her and engaging the issue, I chose to stay emotionally detached to ‘let her work it out.” I reasoned that if I simply gave my wife space, she would figure out what was bothering her and would share it with me when she was ready. The truth is, it was that very space that was bothering her. When I became distant, she moved farther away in response. I had a choice to either engage in the struggle with her, or abdicate my role as her support and confidant. My choice to do the latter created a huge gap in our ability to communicate.
- Allowing distractions. The easiest way for me to escape my emotional and relational challenges was to let something else occupy my mind. Those opportunities were plentiful. I allowed my work, my need for approval, my creative passions, and the opinions of other people to distract me from the hard task of making my marriage successful. By focusing on the distractions instead of my responsibilities as a husband, I attempted to put a tiny band-aid on a gaping wound in our relationship. It took a major wake-up call to make me realize that distractions had almost cost me what mattered the most.
- Practicing self-deception. At the heart of every decision are the beliefs of the decision-maker. As I continued to evaluate my options and my choices, my heart was telling me that I was weak, unable to handle the hard stuff, and that I deserved what I was getting. That self-image destroyed my desire to correct my actions and engage in the process of reconciling with my wife. In truth, I was only deceiving myself. I had bought into an image of someone that I wasn’t, and until I corrected my view of myself, I was unable to make the proper adjustments to correct what was wrong in our relationship. You can’t love someone as you love yourself if you don’t know who you really are.
These three decisions were a major roadblock to a successful marriage. They kept us from experiencing the freedom and love that connecting on a deep level can bring. Only when I made the decisions to engage in the emotional work with my wife, to eliminate the distractions, and to link my self-image with my identity in Christ, did things begin to improve.
It all begins and ends with decisions. I encourage you to make the right ones.