Marriage Goals: Lessons from My Parents' Example
We live in a society that likes to over simplify.
It's one way our society deals with the inundation of information at our fingertips. We employ our thumbs to endlessly scroll through the information and images on our phones, giving our minds little time to process what we're inputting.
Sometimes we take a moment to give a cursory glance at thoughtful (long-winded) captions, but we'd much rather reduce an appealing, aesthetically pleasing visual to a catchy, easy to remember hashtag like #relationshipgoals.
In our "busy" lives, very few of us take the time to thoroughly examine the background or subtext of the many images that flash across our screens (cell phones, tablets, tvs, and even our minds), much less question them. Unfortunately, that can dull our senses and our ability to be in touch with, present in, and aware of reality.
When most things are programmed—purposely positioned, edited, filtered, air-brushed, made-up, photoshopped, and carefully curated—the raw, unadulterated lens of reality is often one we begin to shy away from. In those moments when we can't help but collide with real life, we're often left reeling. And on the other hand, we often overlook the beauty to be found all around us in the mundane and everyday things.
I believe in goals. I believe in planning and putting measurables in place. But I refuse to accept the over simplification of something as serious as marriage in hashtag form (#goals) without knowing and questioning what it is that hashtag programming is suggesting I aspire to.
Recently my parents, who have been married for 32 years and exclusive for 37 years, sent me a picture that my sisters and I dubbed "goals."
It wasn't a compressed, or reduced, context that caused us to say that, but rather our intimate knowledge of the behind the scenes, the years of subtext buried beneath their genuine smiles, that led to an unfiltered, picture perfect moment.
A United Front
For as long as I have known and understood my parents story, I remember wishing I would marry my own high school sweetheart.
There was something about my parents' relationship that I found desirable, even when I disagreed with them or thought they were too old fashioned.
As a young child, I never saw my parents openly argue. As I got older—much older, their approved courtship age— they revealed that while they always had a united front, it sometimes required them hashing out any differences, with lowered voices, behind the closed doors of their bedroom.
Their business was nobody else's business...not the children's and certainly not the business of anyone outside the house.** (**My parents strongly believe in couples agreeing to seek godly counsel together when necessary.)
As I got engaged, and Danny and I went through our premarital class, it was important to my parents to let me know the reality of marriage, and not just the filtered version children should grow up with.
They made it clear that just because I didn't grow up seeing them argue, didn't mean that agreeing on something always came naturally. In short, they didn't want me to freak out and run for the door at the first sign of incongruity, because its NORMAL.
Marriage: Two Become One
The idea of becoming one in marriage means you first have to accept that there are two separate people, each with their own unique personalities and flaws, from different backgrounds and with different experiences, and each with baggage to unpack. The two become one, but it's a process.
The process of becoming one isn't without abrasive rubbing, fiery refining, and severe molding, all with the goal of creating a marriage that is beautiful and its own separate entity.
That was easy to hear, but more difficult for me to put in practice, especially that first year of marriage.
But perhaps the greatest lesson my parents taught me about marriage, through their own example—the thing that makes my sisters and I (and maybe my brother and my husband?) look at them and declare "goals"—is the power of contentment.
The undeniable chemistry that remains between them after all these years, the obvious sense of ease with which they move in each other's company, the laughter they share, and the longevity of their marriage, are all the result of their commitment to God, to each other, AND to contentment.
My parents' marriage has not only survived, it has thrived, even while enduring the stress, tensions, and strain of:
- migrating to a new country
- working opposite schedules
- raising children
- facing financial emergencies
- dealing with rebellious children (don't look at me, I was perfect LOL)
- grieving the loss of loved ones
just to name a few.
But rather than let the difficulties of life push them apart, I have witnessed my parents dig their heels into the Rock [read: Jesus], and cling to each other as they pray to persevere until the storm passes over.
This was by choice (commitment), not by chance (convenience).
My parents have never tried to compare, or compete, or keep up with other couples. They found what works for them and have remained content in that.
Of course, I've seen their relationship evolve over time, but those changes only ever came from within and happened organically, as opposed to being brought about by external influence.
What I Mean By Marriage Goals
God did allow me to marry my high school sweetheart, but our story is not like my parents.
Our marriage is not a carbon copy of theirs—it's not meant to be.
EVERY marriage is different. No two successful marriages will work, or look, the same way.
But the level of contentment my parents have achieved in their marriage, that has led to the longevity of their marriage, IS attainable.
That's what I desire, that's the inspiration I draw from, when I see them and think, "Marriage Goals."