Does it Have to be Miserable?

If the month of June stands for anything besides the beginning of summer, it represents LOVE. It’s the traditional month for weddings, for brides and grooms, for roses and baby’s breath, and for the warmth of married love. Lavish ceremonies in cathedrals to simple nuptials on a beach, regardless of the number of guests, in spite of the cost, are supposed to be about the love between a man and a woman and their desire to be together. “ . . . and the two shall become one,” Scripture says, but what exactly does that mean? Is it just sexual union being taught in Genesis?

In the less than morally clean age we live in, couples often live together, enjoying all of the benefits of marriage (sexual and otherwise) that are really designed for the commitment of marriage. Unfortunately, many discover that without genuine, legal, and loving commitment, and that piece of paper that declares them to be “married,” their partners are without determination to remain “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others until death do us part.” Far too many discover that “playing house” does not a genuine love relationship make.

I look back to November 30, 1964, a frigid and snowy day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when we met. Oh yes, we felt the flame of immediate attraction, and at that moment it seemed to be all that mattered. We both had the thought that this would be a “forever connection” that would move quickly beyond an attraction to a deep and abiding love. And then on August 15, 1965 when we dressed in traditional wedding attire and stood before our chosen preacher, we were sure that we were embarking on a lifetime of romance, tenderness, sexual fulfillment and emotional harmony. Little did we know that we were not alone as we stood crying and perspiring in that stuffy, little church. In actuality, there were thirty (30) of us standing there!

It took us years of disappointment and misery until we finally discovered some very needed truths. You see, we had no idea then, that we were taking our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents with us to our honeymoon hotel. We now know through study, that we carry with us the “iniquities of our fathers” (and mothers) backward for 3-4 generations. (Iniquities speak of thoughts, intents, and inclinations.) The Bible tells us about the generations we carry in the Book of Exodus, in the 10 Commandments, and modern science reaffirms what the Bible has said. How did we know on August 15th, that my paternal grandmother, who was a nasty little woman, was inside of me, as well as her meek and tender husband. I had no clue that my maternal grandmother who was persistent and courageous, would have such a strong influence on me and my character. We knew the stories of Ron’s beginnings, well some of them anyway, but had no clue that all the men in the generations preceding him were prejudiced against women and were very quarrelsome, angry, bitter men.

For our first twelve years, all of our predecessors showed up, with us absolutely confused as to why we were behaving as we were, causing our relationship turmoil and sadness. It was only in desperation, that we began to research and study and discover some of the origins of our craziness. Our relationship had begun with high hopes for the future, but unfortunately we quickly moved from Dreamworld to Disillusionment. I remember thinking that what was happening was not what I signed up for, nor was it what we thought we would be experiencing from each other. Courtship had certainly been a strange parade of our very best qualities, and then reality set in! Disillusionment sent us to Misery, stage three. We didn’t want to stay there, so we kept trying things to repair our fragile and difficult marriage. We went back to our honeymoon hotel–a couple of times–but that Dreamworld experience was short lived and costly, and before we knew it, we were back in Misery.

The stats are that 75% of those who remain married live in Misery for the rest of life, but neither of us wanted that! So Ron decided to go back to school for a degree in Family Therapy, thinking that if he couldn’t fix his failing marriage, maybe he could help others. And after class number one, he literally dragged me to class two. It was there that all the “junk” from our beginnings and current life began to spill out. Things have to be acknowledged before they can be fixed! And then the repair work began.

The Good Book tells us that “My people die for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6), and we discovered that we were as dumb as a bag of rocks! The time of classes, learning, and sharing that it took for us to receive our degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy, and the experiences in Marriage Encounter and Marriage Enrichment, as well as our new desires to help others in marital trouble, coupled and fueled by God’s power, turned us around toward Awareness (of ourselves) and Acceptance of self and each other.

Most couples who are “in trouble” relationally, go through the same stages we did, if they want to make their marriage what it was designed to be–the symbol of Christ’s relationship with His people, the church. But, refusal to work through those stages, refusal to get needed assistance, leads to a life of Misery. Putting our pride in our pockets and getting help can (and should!) lead to a life of Acceptance. The choice is ours.

The 5 stages of Marriage are:

1. Dreamworld – You have the best mate possible and the road ahead is paved with gold

2. Disillusionment – What has happened? He/she isn’t who I thought he/she was.

3. Misery – Lack of communication, frequent arguing, no enjoyment together

4. Awareness – Oh, so that’s who I am, and who my mate is. I finally understand.

5. Acceptance – God gave me my mate to love, cherish and adore, and I am satisfied.

So . . . in which stage are you in your marriage? Do you want to stay there? If you want a better relationship, then first go through a process of self-understanding, and then do whatever is necessary to understand your mate. Commit to regular eye-to-eye in depth communication with each other, make time for just the two of you (inexpensive dates), study the happiness of each other and do what you can to enhance it, be tender and affectionate, link arms with a goal and purpose in mind that will benefit others, and make sure that your mate gets your first allegiance (other than God).

Read helpful books together, apply the info to yourself, and share with your partner. We suggest Heart Connection and its workbook. (You will each need a workbook.) Read a book chapter together, answer the questions in writing in the corresponding chapter of your workbook, and then share verbally, eye-to-eye and knee-to-knee with each other. The investment of time doing this together will benefit you both. If you can get into a small group for recovery, jump in with both feet! Let us know how you are doing as you journey through recovery and recommitment. Our prayers will be with you!

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