How marriage works on you

How marriage works on you July 21, 2011
How Marriage Works on You
(Marfis75, Flickr)

I’ve written in the past about the mystery of marriage, how it transforms its participants. That’s part of its very purpose, to conform us to the image of Christ and deepen our communion with God.

I’ve still got a long way to go and, as they say, results may vary, but here are three positive ways that marriage to Megan has begun to change me.

1. Learning to love better

The more circumstances require you to love like Christ, the more like Christ you become. That’s the hope at least because such circumstances pop up in marriage all the time — little moments where loving poorly can cause enduring damage, and loving well can heal, or at the very least prevent harm. You know how it goes: a conversation takes a turn that maybe neither one of you saw coming, or your spouse calls you on one of your shortcomings, or a crisis suddenly manifests. It could be the finances, the kids, the work hours. It could be all of those, as often happens, all mixed up. The question is: Can you love your spouse well through the difficult moment?

Not always, if you’re like me. But I find as these opportunities increase, so does my facility in handling them. That hasn’t always been the case. I’ve been married before and failed spectacularly. But by trying to make loving well my top priority in such moments, navigating life’s difficulties has become easier, and our relationship has strengthened in the midst of very trying times.

2. Seeing weaknesses better

Like many couples, Megan and I share different strengths and weaknesses. In some ways they are polar opposites, and this has really served us well, me particularly. Because I’m weak where she’s strong and vice versa, I’ve become much more alert to behavior patterns and thought processes of mine that are problematic. These are things I either failed to notice before getting married or never thought were terribly important. It turns out they are wildly important in some cases, and I never would have seen them outside my marriage.

Marriage is a mirror that reveals many defects. It’s also a hospital to heal some and a gym to discipline others. And I need all of those things.

3. Wanting to be better

I’m not content to love poorly or let my weaknesses win. There is too much riding on my marriage for that.

Before marrying, I was pretty self-satisfied. I had outward pressures to grow and mature, pressures that were even acute from time to time, but since marrying I find myself internally driven. There’s a push from within to grow and mature, to be what Megan needs me to be, what my children need to be. As a single person, self-improvement didn’t seem to matter much. As a married person, self-improvement has become imperative.

These are only three areas. There have been many others, and I’m sure God has used my marriage to reshape my character in ways I’m not even aware of. Here’s what I do know: When you go to work on your marriage, marriage goes to work on you.

This is not to say that I’ve attained to much of anything. I only have the rest of my life (and eternity) to grow more like Christ, and I’ll need every minute. When striving for the upward call, we ought never plateau. But I know where I’ve been, have a sense of where I’m going, and am overjoyed to be on the journey with my wife.

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  • This is a fabulous post! Mike and I have found this to be true in our marriage as well. If we can see the beauty of marriage to transform us then we can truly give thanks in the difficult things.

    BTW, I love this quote: “Marriage is a mirror that reveals many defects. It’s also a hospital to heal some and a gym to discipline others. And I need all of those things.”

    • Seeing those difficult things as opportunities to grow is helpful; especially when you can see your spouse as someone to face the difficulty with. God is using it all to shape us.

  • I wish I had understood this concept earlier in our marriage. It would have prevented much heartache. The good news is, it is never too late to embrace marriage as “a mirror that reveals many defects” as well as “a hospital to heal some and a gym to discipline others.” We are living proof.

    Love watching you and Meg flesh this out.

    • Thanks, Shelia! It’s great seeing you and Mike flesh this out too.

  • Rob

    Great post. I’m a newlywed who is experiencing these very things right now. I never realized how selfish I could be until we tied the knot. Having a successful marriage is the most important thing to me after my relationship with God. I’ve adopted a mindset to do whatever I can to serve her at all times no matter what. God is working is working in me as a result of that prayer, and I am seeing growth. Keep posting about topics like this. I need all the help I can get lol!

    • Rob, that’s great to hear. Stay at it, and stay far away from self-satisfaction. It spoils more than you can imagine.

  • Mary Graham

    WOW, Joel. I always love your posts and this one is no exception. All that you say I find helpful even as a single person, growing in relationships with others. Selfishness comes so naturally, doesn’t it? Or perhaps I’m just good at it because I’ve had so much practice! I appreciate you and Megan and love knowing you better through the ways you both bare your souls when you blog.Thank you.

  • Hutch

    Thanks for this post. If more men were “not content love poorly” the culture that we live in would be drastically different. Too often men need to be “right” when times are difficult, instead of understanding that being right is much less important than showing love, honor, grace and forgiveness.

    • That’s a fact. Being right is usually not enough. We’re not married to databases or dictionaries. We’re married to people who need love and as much as we do no matter how right we think we are.

  • The note about God using marriage to shape your character. This is so true, considering my husband and I have known each other since 1984. Good stuff!