Sunday, July 17, 2011
12 years and counting…and marriage principles that helped us last
But these twelve years also marked some of the greatest struggles I’ve ever had. Marriage and raising a family sure can be hard work, so hard that many people give up. Furthermore, many of you know that I became a father and a husband at a very young age. I was 21, Jhean was 18; just mere university students who made a big mistake and scrambled trying to rectify things. Scary much?
But, here we are, 12 years and counting…and it has been one ride full of highs and lows. I believe we have been blessed tremendously with certain things as a couple, and as I pondered on what helped us stay together, I came up with a few ideals and marriage principles that helped us last, which I hope can help the dads and husbands out there, too.
Principle 1: know who your wife is in God’s eyes. My wife is a wonderful woman, but she has a very strong personality, and, growing up, she was not really trained to be gentle when it comes to what comes out of her mouth. That can often exasperate me. She has a whole bunch of weaknesses and flaws, too. But in no way will I let these be the cause of a split. Why? Because in the midst of my frustration, I make myself see that she is my co-heir in God’s grace. An equal partner in marriage and in God's inheritance for us, so obviously, someone who should be treasured. Here’s the verse:
“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Pet. 3:7)
Principle 2: Forgive much, because you have been forgiven much. With two very different, flawed people in one roof, conflict is a given. Forgiveness is a must, because there were times when I also had to be forgiven. Maybe if I was Mr. Perfect, I could have the right to not forgive her. But I have committed my share of booboos, so it would be very hypocritical of me to have a hard, unforgiving heart when she also has had to deal with occasional idiocy on my part.
The bible commands us to forgive each other not once, not twice, but seventy times seven times (Matt. 18:22). Can you actually keep count? (“Aha, this is your 469th offense! Just two more and that’s it!”) No, you can’t. So you shouldn’t keep count in forgiving others as well, spouse being on the top of that list.
Principle 3: Know each other’s love language. Gary Chapman’s classic book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts is a must have for all couples. The principles in this book would be a tremendous help, I tell you.
Basically, it’s like this: there are five different “love languages,” or expressions of love, that we all can understand: time, touch, talk, tasks, and treasures. However, each one of us has a particular love language that stands out above the rest. This is the love language that a particular person expresses the most, and it’s also the one who affects him or her the most when it is done to them.
For example if wifey buys me things (treasures) or does stuff for me (tasks), I’d appreciate it, for sure, but it won’t really ring my bell. However, if she gives me verbal praise, it would make my day…maybe even make my week. Guess what my love language is: talk. This is how I express my love, too. I’m sure if you ask any of the girls I’ve dated, they’d tell you that my love letters are so loooooong. Also, I’m known among my friends as a great encourager and counselor. Well, it’s because talk is my love language.
If you want to make your spouse happy, get to know your spouse’s love language and learn to execute it well. Wifey? Her love language is touch. Trust me, I’ve got that one down.
Another reason why knowing the love language is so important is because it is the one that hurts the most when it is violated. Remember earlier I said that my wife has trouble taming her tongue? She has realized that over the years, her harsh words have hurt me very deeply, much more than any other sin she has done against me. As for her love language, if I leave the house without giving her a kiss or a hug, she gets a bit peeved. A very close second for her primary love language is time, and I know I caused her a lot of pain when I gave more time and effort to my work than I did to her and the kids.
(Btw, there's also The Five Love Languages Singles Edition for those who are not married; The Five Love Languages of Children which is among the must have parenting books; and The 5 Love Languages Men's Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts, specifically for us, dudes.)
Principle 4: know your role, and do it well. Can you imagine riding in a car with two driver’s seats, two steering wheels, two gear shifts, and two sets of pedals? It would not be a nice ride, would it? A house that has two people in the metaphorical driver’s seat would surely have the same kind of chaos. My wife and I believe in the Bible, and in it are clearly defined roles that the husband and wife should play. We follow them, things will flow better.
Of course, following them is easier said than done, especially if you did not grow up in a household that modeled them. In a nutshell, husbands are wired to want to lead and to provide, and are called to love the wife like Christ loved the church (Christ loved the church more than he loved his own person. Do you think He wanted to go to the cross?). Wives are called to submit and to respect, and I think the Bible said this because God knew that the greatest need of men is to be respected by the people whom they love.
Now these roles were set up not because one is superior nor subservient to the other, as some, especially women, would think (“Submit to my husband? Whatttt?”) The roles were laid out so that there would be order. So that there would not be two drivers seats, steering wheels, pedals, and gearshifts. Equal partners; different roles.
What’s amazing is, if one spouse really does his or her role well, the other will likely follow suit. A very fulfilled wife would say, “My husband loves me so much that he always prioritizes my needs and the needs of my children over his own (like Christ loves the church). How can I not submit to a loving man like that?”
The husband, in turn, would say, “She shows me so much love and respect. Because of that, putting her needs before my own is not even a struggle.” It’s a healthy cycle.
Of course, our selfishness and sin will keep this from being easy. My wife and I struggle with this greatly. Trust me, we haven’t arrived yet in this principle, yet there has been a lot of growth in the past 12 years, for sure.
Well, my wife and I have been blessed to attend the almost yearly marriage and parenting seminars that my church does. We haven’t missed one since we started to worship at CCF. We make it a point to equip ourselves in this area, or else we’ll just grope in the dark and the possibility of us ending up like so many broken families out there is great.
And we learn so very, very much; even if we attend them for the nth time (well, now we are actually breakout leaders whenever these events happen). If we didn’t attend these, who knows what would’ve happened to us. Yeah, marriage is work, but regular work has a training period that equips the newbie for the job. CCF’s seminars are like that for marriage, and attending them is a must…especially if you don’t have good models anywhere else.
Principle 6: Join a couples small group. This is a HUGE reason why my wife and I are doing well. We have been blessed to be part of one of the several young couples groups in CCF. We are a handful of couples around the same age range, going through the same things, having the same mindset when it comes to family and career…and boy do we help each other grow.
A pastor or a priest (especially a priest, since he’s neither a husband nor a father) can’t help you out much with your domestic struggles, being in charge of a congregation of several hundreds of people. But a close network of couples? Genuine friends who struggle with what you struggle with, who try to walk in the right path alongside you? Definitely some genuine growth and counsel will take place, it’s impossible not to. (That said, our pastors are exemplary parents and husbands, and are tremendous at counseling if you set an appointment…but this can never be a regular thing)
Joining a young couples group is a definite must. I have learned as much from my good friends in the group as I have in all the marriage seminars I have attended. And that says a lot.
Of course, it takes a lot more than just a few principles to make a marriage work. But doing these six is a good start. And I for one am a very blessed man to have been married to Jhean for twelve years and counting. It’s been a fantastic ride, with the right amount of dips and weaves and exhilarating highs. Surely, I’m looking forward to many more years, as the best is yet to come.