Gnawing off your foot to save yourself is sometimes the answer, I guess. If Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie can’t do it, whose marriage is safe? They have a nanny!
And we good Christian girls should have perfect marriages, tiny waists, and never… ever say the D-word.
Ha. I said it.
And no, I am not getting one… nor have I ever had one.
Before I got married, I was given three pieces of advice:
- Never go to bed angry.
- Never say the word divorce.
I was forced to ask; If I got in in a fight with my husband and he decided to go to bed before we found a resolution, do I submit and go to bed too… or stay up so as not to go to bed angry?
Early on I had a problem with the first two rules. My husband Justin and I come from a hearty lineage. He is German. I am Scottish-Norwegian. We fight with ancestral flair.
Nazi versus Viking.
And my thick calves, breeding stock hips, and extraordinary capacity for adjectives put him at a disadvantage that sometimes warrants an early bedtime.
I would never buy a car or take a vacation without him.
I love him.
I like him.
I respect him. And we talk all day via text or phone call. We are friends and partners.
And I don’t think that throwing the D-word around is any more helpful to a good fight than me attacking the character of his dearly departed mother, but after 25 years I would also like to interject… it isn’t the end of the world either.
The frugal view of behaviors that are becoming of a good Christian wife have always left me feeling less than. If I overslept, burned dinner, or sent a kid to the HOP HOUSE in mismatched socks… I believed I was failing Justin and Jesus.
Indeed my list of THOU SHALLs had me chained to an existence of shame and unhappiness.
In a recent conversation with a friend in the throes of marriage horrors of her own, I heard myself say something that left us both in shock. I knew what I was supposed to say. I knew the rote Christian speak: It doesn’t matter if you’re not happy, you should submit to and serve him, and then you will be blessed…
But, instead, I said, “Why don’t you just leave?”
As I argued against every reason she “couldn’t,” the course of the conversation changed from can’t stay to wait a minute… I don’t want to go.
A new wave of freedom entered her marriage, and I have never seen her so happy.
Unbeknownst to her, at the same time, my husband and I were at rock bottom. Tragedy after tragedy, malady after malady, and disaster after disaster had worn us down and left us void.
We spouted ugliness.
He slept on the couch.
We went to bed angry… and woke up angrier. And in the midst of one of our worst days, he said the wrong thing at the wrong time about the wrong socks.
And I said the D-word.
But it wasn’t a threat or ultimatum… it was an offer.
Under the heavy burden of finance, family, and law if you truly believe that miserable is your only option… you pick miserable.
I didn’t raise my voice, I just said it a matter of fact. “This isn’t our only option.”
I am not a feminist. I am comfortable with and believe that Justin should take out the trash, hold the door, and hang things on the wall. The man can find a stud like some kind of third-eye carpentry savant. Granted this might ruffle some feathers, I believe God hates divorce – but He came to bind up, heal, and restore. And He knew that legalism only produced rebellion. So what if we weren’t hell bent on the rules of marriage and we were all for the friendship and communion of relationship?
What if every Christian counselor, friend, pastor, and wise mentor didn’t give the same old advice of submission but instead listened to the voices of the broken and noted; everything is permissible… but what is beneficial?
If you are getting smacked around and your pastor tells you to submit… that is of no benefit.
If your adrenals are shot and you are thinking of fresh and creative ways to hide a body… the best advice might be some freedom. My friend and my husband were both set free when they came to the realization, “Wait… I have a choice?”
Assume I told you that you HAD to read my blog every day at 9 am and if you didn’t you would meet with an ugly accident. Whether the accident part was true or not, very few if any of you would have much interest in my blog.
The option to choose brings us to a place where we contemplate what we want.
And then the list wasn’t of the reasons they were trapped… but the reasons they wanted to stay.
To the same extent, I want Justin to have clean socks, and I want him to have his jeans folded, and shirts hung nicely in his closet. For years I made our bed and cleaned our room, my efforts were for him to have a comfortable place to relax after work. But looking back I believe there was a point where I did it for him, and, a day things changed, and I was suddenly doing it, because of him; because it was my duty. Because I had no choice but to submit to him as a leader. When things were at their worst – I stopped doing these things altogether, and I stopped doing his laundry, most rebelliously.
Law, legalism, and rules breed rebellion and resentment.
But in the place of want to… instead, have to, I want him to have a cleared spot to remove his boots. I love to see his shirts lined up and wrinkle free, although I don’t understand his die hard commitment to beige. And I know his socks must be folded not rolled, because if I roll them they stretch out and he has skinny ankles… and they slip down in the toe of his boot.
What if, instead of some liberal and desperate protest for my rights or my honor and celebration, where my body and mind WILL NOT be bossed around – what if I was counseled to love well?
And rather than some uber-conservative, legalistic, and religious law bound covenant where hellfire, brimstone, and obedience to an alpha male are the consequences of my wedding vows, what if… I was counseled to communicate with my friend and partner – as a team?
I know it isn’t always this simple, there’s some marriages that can’t or won’t make it. But given a choice, would there be less failed Christian marriages? Would we feel less trapped, victimized, miserable, and more adored?
I don’t know…
But given a choice…. I’d sure love to stay.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Romans 13:8: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Today I worked in conjunction with my friend Rebecca Huff of That Organic Mom. Rebecca shares more of her marriage story here.