Trisha, our boys and I are on vacation this week. We are excited for some time away as a family. We are honored today to have a guest post from Nicole Unice. Nicole is a counselor and author of She’s Got Issues, a book that helps women find freedom from ordinary issues that keep them from loving well. She works at Hope Church in Richmond, VA and loves her crazy life with husband Dave and their three kids. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.
I wore a crinoline to puff out my already-poufy white dress. I was all of twenty years old when I pranced down the aisle in my T-strap high heels to marry my college boyfriend. I loved the presents, the parties, the potential for our brand new life.
I marched down that aisle between family and friends and spoke vows to God because I believed in love. I believed that my good intentions were enough, and that just wanting to love well made me actually able to love well. I had no idea what I was doing; old enough to considered an adult, young enough to be a childish idiot.
And then life began. And it was a mixture of joy and of pain. We laughed and we loved, but somehow the hard seemed stronger than the easy. I hated when he told me what to do. He hated when I nagged him. I hated that he didn’t lead; he hated that I tried to control him. I yelled, he sulked. I slammed doors, he tuned me out.
I remember driving down the road one day, wondering what had become of my life. A country song came on the radio, singing “she married, when she was twenty/ she thought she was ready, now she’s not so sure” And I cried. I cried for what was and for what could have been. This was not what I expected. This couldn’t be love. And I remember thinking, “Is this what marriage is supposed to be?!?”
What I didn’t know then was that the answer was yes.
Marriage is supposed to be hard because life is hard. And life is hard because hard is the Miracle-Gro of the soul. On our wedding day, we stood face-to-face to speak promises to one another because this posture becomes a reflection for life. Our marriages create mirrors for our souls.
When I hated when he told me what to do, I came face-to-face with my pride. When I hated that he didn’t lead, I was introduced to my impatience and doubt. When I slammed doors, I saw the ugly face of my anger. The hard things in marriage made me see myself: prideful, insecure, anxious, selfish. The marriage mirror presented a choice. Will I take the hard and use it to grow, or will I turn my back and refuse to look again?
Too often I thought staring into his face was about me pointing out his weaknesses and faults. But I’ve learned that staring into his face is staring into my own struggles.
As my counseling supervisor used to say, “marriage isn’t broken. People are broken. If you help people get healthy, their marriage gets healthy.”
The marriage mirror helped me get healthy. It humbled me. It taught me that I certainly didn’t have it all together, so I couldn’t expect perfection from my husband. It taught me my own capacity for good and for evil, and for the necessity of boundaries around our lives.
Almost fifteen years of looking into that marriage mirror has showed me that love isn’t about a fantasy, it’s about hard work and sacrifice. It’s about vulnerability, courage, perseverance, and faith.
Marriage will lead you into the truth of yourself. It will open you up in a whole new way to your own need for grace and for a Savior, and for the strength to love beyond your own capacity. And the richness of that love and the life it brings is what makes the hard become the good.