For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife,
and they two shall be one flesh. ~Eph.5:31
Being real and transparent. It is one quality that will draw me to an individual. I have a hard time connecting and relating to people who only let you see and know the good stuff. Not that I need to know all the junk too but for me, a genuine person lets you in on some of their struggles and assures you you're not alone. Hopefully at the same time they can fill you in on how God helped them overcome the struggle or how He is working currently with them in that struggle. I have one friend who comes to mind instantly when I think of the word "transparent". We haven't known each other long and we have always lived in different states (and at one time continents) but she is the most real person I've ever met. Her transparency and willingness to let me see her heart, the good and the bad, is what drew me to her and what has bonded us. Even over the miles I know that I can send an email sharing a struggle and she won't judge but will understand without questions and genuinely pray for me. We can meet for coffee once a year and chat like we've been friends forever. This is the kind of person I try to be. No pretending, no exaggerating and no pride.
Often enough when I write a blog post that hits home for someone or I post something on Facebook, whether it be a status update or a photo I'm sharing I will get a private email from someone sharing their thoughts. I've been blessed that the emails and comments I receive have all been positive or just someone asking a genuine question. Recently I received one after I posted a photo of some chocolate-covered strawberries Ben sent me for Valentine's Day. This person apparently had jokingly teased her husband about how I got these strawberries and he "jokingly" got offended. She continued with, "I said [to him] its so easy to idolize him [Ben] when I only know good things and think of what a wonderful husband he must be, but then I have to remember I don't know all the little annoying things about him that you do!" I was not offended in the least by this comment. It has however, had me thinking ever since and I hope I can communicate my thoughts well.
What I portray about my marriage is absolutely real. We are truly in love and we genuinely enjoy spending time with each other. When I say he is an amazing husband I am not exaggerating. I'm not just spewing words in hopes that people will want what I have. When I choose to praise my husband publicly it is because I am so grateful for everything he does and he would never brag on himself (a quality that I love about him). I believe my husband is the greatest gift God has given me. He is a good man. He loves the Lord and puts Him first always, which means the kids and I are his priority. Does this mean that we never have a problem? No, it doesn't. Will you ever see me airing our differences or my frustrations on social media? No, you won't. Here on the blog though, if I feel as though our experience can help another couple and if I feel led of the Lord to share, then yes I will and so I will try...
Anytime you take two sinful people (which we all are) and put them together in one place to live happily ever after forever there are going to be problems. When I married Ben I had no illusions that I was marrying a perfect man but I did believe I was marrying the perfect man for ME. I still believe he is the perfect man for me. But that does not mean that we have not had some struggles. There is no real and honest marriage that can say they have never had struggles to overcome. I am not talking about circumstantial obstacles (though these obviously can add stress and disrupt a relationship) but rather the obstacles of our sinful nature. These are the ones that are hardest to identify and also the hardest to overcome because they involve our hearts. The Bible says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? -Jer.17:9. While yes we have had to address petty annoyances (which now, after 11 years, are basically non-issues) it has been the issues of the heart that have been the challenge. God has been graciously changing us and molding us to be more like Him and for that I am thankful. But God can't work with those who resist him and what He is trying to do in them. In order for God to change our hearts we have to willingly submit and allow Him to work in us.
There was a time when an issue would arise or a hurt would need to be addressed and talking about it only made things worse. Something that starts out small can turn into a very big thing if we are not communicating it in the right way or if pride is in the way. It got to a point where we were arguing often and what I noticed is we were arguing about the same issues over and over. We thought we were resolving it only to have it come up again in a short amount of time. It was never truly resolved. We were both discouraged and it became very clear to me we needed some outside help. Have you ever tried to say to a man, "we need to get some counseling"? Well if your man is anything like mine then you know that the idea was not well received. It took almost a year from the time I suggested it to the time we actually sought out help. When he resisted the idea I could have chosen to constantly bring it up and bug him about it. I could have refused to let it go but I was determined to not become that "continual dripping" the Bible cautions about. Instead I took it to the Lord in prayer. I wasn't only praying that God would show Ben counseling was necessary but I was praying that my heart would be changed because it was possible Ben would never come around to the idea. It took about a year of praying (and gently reminding Ben of this option here and there) before God changed Ben's heart on the matter. We met with friends, a husband & wife, who we respect a great deal and who have had a lot of experience counseling couples.They also have modeled a godly marriage before us. It wasn't going to be just anybody who would be able to tell us where we were wrong and needed to change. Have I mentioned that pesky, not-so-little thing called PRIDE? Long story short is that all it took was one session. Out of that one counseling session we not only resolved the issue that was plaguing our relationship but we learned something about ourselves too. Each of us had an area we needed to work on and change and it took a neutral party to show us. I can't speak for Ben but I learned that my method of communicating was not working with my husband. Times when I thought I was simply, "sharing how something made me feel", was being interpreted by him as criticism. Can I say that I don't still struggle with this? No, I can't. I'm a work in progress. The difference now is that I am aware of what I need to work on I can ask God for help. Counseling is not a bad thing and I believe that if more individuals were willing to let go of pride and not only admit they need help but seek it out then relationships today would be more successful.
We are just one story. Our issues were not huge when you consider what we could have been dealing with (or could be in the future) and for us one counseling session was enough to help us understand where the other was coming from and to wake us up to the changes we needed to make. For others the issues will be much bigger and require much more help. Every relationship is different and each come with their own set of blessings and struggles. Rather than focusing on someone else's relationship and picking it apart trying to judge if they are being real or not transfer that focus onto your own relationship. Dig deep and examine if there are unresolved issues that are keeping you from experiencing the true joys marriage can bring. Ask God to show you what your pride is not willing to let you see. Most important is get help if you need to and do it before that small matter turns into a matter so big there's no fixing it. Fix your problems before bitterness sets in so deep there is no uprooting it. It's amazing what an outside voice of wisdom can do in helping you see where you have been wrong and need to change. There is no shame in getting help. The real shame is not getting help at all.