As a single girl with a desire to be in a good marriage in future, I set about preparing myself to that reality. I read a lot of books on christian relationships and marriage. I prayed for God to make me a better person everyday. I listened to quite a few discussions and teachings on marriage. I attended quite a number of relationship seminars. I observed a lot of married people around me and took note of what I wanted to emulate and what I wanted to eliminate. Then finally, hubby and I participated in a marriage preparation course. So I would say in terms of theoretical knowledge, I was definitely well prepared for marriage. I mean, how much more preparation does one need?
However, I think we can all agree that knowing something is one thing, but putting it into practice is quite another. I'm sure many of us know the benefits of eating a healthy balanced diet, having regular exercise, making time for daily praise worship and bible study, etc. But in reality we still struggle to put these things into practice. The same thing applies to relationships. I knew what marriage requires, but it wasn't until I was actually in it, that I had to start practicing them. So I'm going to talk about a few of those things that are essential in any relationship, but I sometimes struggle to practice.
Submission: I've talked about this subject before (here) when it first came to my attention as a single person. I read books about it, asked other people questions and thought I knew what it was all about. But getting into marriage, I was now faced with the reality of living it. And here is where things really become interesting, knowing that this man is now my husband, and he now has legitimate authority in our home. Several times, we have been discussing an issue and it seems like he has made his mind up while I am trying to convince him to take on my view. It takes a lot to know when to back down and accept hubby's decision. Sometimes I can get him to see my point of view and then we both agree on the way forward. Yet, sometimes I feel with every single bone in my body that I am right, but he disagrees and I have to accept his final decision. We have had situations where hubby and I couldn't reach an agreement over something and then later, I feel the Holy Spirit convincing me to go along with my husband's decision. And I've found that when I do, everything usually works out better than I could have planned it. It takes a lot of getting used to, and I'm still not sure I've fully grasped the hang of it, but God is helping me. It has made me think that God put the man as the head of the home to make the tough decisions, so really when I submit graciously, it takes the pressure off me. It still takes a lot of grace and practice, but to have peace in your marriage, I recommend following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Compromise: In relationships, there are two people coming together from different backgrounds, with different opinions, different values and different ways of doing things. Sometimes there is no right or wrong way to do something, we just have a preference for the way we are used to. For example, I hate waiting for ages at train stations and airports so I prefer to arrive very close to the scheduled departure time and board immediately. Hubby likes to leave enough time beforehand and arrive early, in case there is a delay on the way. Now, I find that I get irritated waiting for thirty minutes doing nothing, and he gets irritated if he arrives two minutes before departure and has to run to catch the train or flight. As it is, neither of us can have our own way all the time. So to avoid fights, there has to be some sort of compromise between us as to when we should leave home and when we should arrive at the train station or airport.
That is just one example out of many of the different situations in which I have to practice making compromises. There are so many other things, such as how we spend our income, how we spend our leisure time, how we celebrate birthdays and Christmas holidays and so on. Compromising usually means letting go of some of my choices, and trying to find a middle ground that we both agree with. It's not always easy, but I'm still learning.
Apologising: Who would agree with me that apologising is not always easy? Saying "I'm sorry" usually involves admitting you have done something wrong. Or you are guilty of something, or you have hurt the other person's feelings. Most of the time, it was unintentional too, so you have to apologise even when you didn't mean to annoy or hurt them. It's not easy to say sorry, we all know it's far easier to make excuses for our behaviour. More than once, hubby has pointed out something I did wrong and I have found myself making excuses, or trivialising it as if it doesn't matter. But if it mattered enough for him to point it out, then I should say sorry and try to make amends. I know I expect him to apologise immediately when he has upset me, so I should be ready to do the same thing when I upset him. It's something I'm asking God to help me with, because I struggle with admitting that I'm wrong.
Obedience: This is closely related to submission that I've talked about. Obedience to any authority doesn't usually come naturally, as we human beings have a tendency to question why or rebel when asked to do something. Even when God asks us to do something, we sometimes procrastinate or demand to know the reasons why. And we can carry this attitude into our relationships. Of course I'm not saying that I have no free will of my own, or that I must obey my husband even if something goes against my conscience. But if I put my pride aside, and I recognise that he is acting in love, then obeying him becomes slightly (slightly!) easier.
There are a few more things I'm going to talk about, but I'll continue in my next post.
Stay blessed and favoured!