Thursday, June 2, 2016

Real Life Marriage

Someone told me the other day that she appreciated how honest I was about marriage and how I'm not afraid to say that the highs also come with the lows.  She asked me, "How do you make your marriage work?"  My answer was simple, we recognize that marriage is not about being happy all the time, but rather it's about commitment and giving 100% even when it feels like your spouse is giving 0%.

Society sets an unrealistic expectation for what marriage is suppose to be and it totally sets us up for failure! Just take a look at the divorce rates these days, it's out of control (yes, there are a handful of rightly justified divorces happening and that's not what I'm talking about here, but for the most part, I believe it's mainly a misunderstanding of what marriage actually is in the first place)! And if we aren't careful, we contribute to this problem rather than being a part of the solution. Let me explain...

We all like to look like we have it all together, don't we?  We don't like when other people see our struggles or our flaws because it makes us feel inferior, and judged, and less-than. Vulnerability is a scary thing!  We want to fit into that perfect mold that society created where our houses are always clean, our marriages are always blissful and romantic, and we always make parenting look fun and easy.

You fight in the car all the way to church and then as soon as you set foot outside you put smiles on your faces and act as though everything is perfect.  Sound familiar? We are guilty of this!  You feel like your marriage is crumbling and yet when your friends ask how you are doing, you tell them that everything is going great!  You post photos on Facebook and Instagram that show nothing but your best moments; your I talking to you?!

We cling so tightly to that image (even when we don't realize it) that we end up setting that unrealistic standard for the people around us.  We accentuate the highs and eliminate the lows as we share our lives with others.  And what happens when we do this?  They see our stories and they THINK the grass is greener on the other side.  If they knew the whole story...they'd know better!

I love my husband so much and if I could go back in time, I would choose him all over again. But love is a choice, not a feeling! It's rare that we go a full day without arguing about something!  We are opposites in so many ways--if I say up, he'll say down.  If he says go, I'll say stop.  We are wired very differently! Living together peacefully is hard most days (I'm a difficult person to deal with sometimes!!  ...don't tell Patrick I said that though, I hate to admit when he's right! LOL)! We are both super stubborn and some days we straight up do NOT like each other,  and yet other days we have a ton of fun and we get along great!  I drive him crazy with my messy car and my overly-optimistic outlook on things which, to him, comes across like I don't care and I'm being unrealistic.  He drives me crazy when he puts the dirty dishes in the sink rather than the empty dishwasher and when his realistic approach to life comes across to me as negative and pessimistic. But here's the thing...what we focus on, expands!

Did you get that?!  What we FOCUS ON, EXPANDS!

There are so many things I love about Patrick, but if I choose to stay focused on the negatives, those are the things that will continue to grow in our relationship.  If I'm looking for a fight, I will surely find one.  If I'm looking for love, or grace, or kindness, I will find that as well.  It's my choice!  I am 100% responsible for the quality of my marriage.  If I don't give 100% effort with 0% expectation of any return, then I am setting my relationship up for failure.  And the same goes for you!  Divorce is often split 50-50, but not marriage.  Marriage HAS to be 100-0. YOU are 100% responsible for your life, your relationships, and everything you do!  Marriage isn't about things being "fair" (as much as we wish it were!), it's not about always feeling happy, and it's certainly not about trying to change your spouse into the perfect person!  Marriage is about giving everything you've got...100%!  We have the choice of how we will act, what we will do and not do, and how we will respond to what is done to us!  THIS is what people need to know about marriage!

It's crazy how much relationships morph over time! In the beginning phases, you can't get enough of your significant other and everything they say and do is perfect and loveable and you are constantly HAPPY.  As your relationship grows, you start to notice more and more differences, little things they say or do start to drive you nuts, and arguments start to pop up and disrupt your constant state of bliss.  This is NORMAL!  Dating is often about the feeling of love, marriage is about the commitment of choosing love. Two imperfect people can't make a perfect relationship!

Do I love putting myself out there and sharing with the world what goes on behind the scenes in our home?  Not's much more comfortable to be honest to put up my wall and only show you all of the good stuff that I want you to see.  However, I am called for something more (and so are you!).  I am intentional about sharing REAL life with you because it's not fair that the world sugar-coats marriage and makes us think it should always feel like a fairy tale.  Society tells you that there is something WRONG with your marriage just because it's HARD!  ...I want to deliver a different message!

Marriage is TOUGH!  It can be exhausting sometimes and it's humbling to say the very least.  We have to learn to say "I'm sorry", and mean it, even when we feel like our spouse was more at-fault than we were.  We have to learn genuine forgiveness...the kind that doesn't hold a grudge and pull out past experiences in our daily arguments. We have to extend grace to our partner when we really don't feel like it.  We have to OWN 100% responsibility over the quality of our marriage, regardless of our spouse or our circumstances.

When we learn how do this, we experience the true JOYS of marriage!  It's hard, but it's SO worth it!  A difficult marriage can also be a beautiful, perfectly-imperfect, FUN, joy-filled marriage!!  The love we develop through the hard times and our unending commitment to one another will be deeper and more fulfilling than we can ever imagine it could be!

I challenge you to do 2 things with me today:

1) Take COMPLETE responsibility for your relationship.  Make the mindset shift and start focusing on what YOU can do rather than what you wish your spouse would do!

2) Stop editing your love story!  Be open and real about the highs AND the lows (and don't misunderstand what I'm saying here...this is not permission to start throwing your spouse under the bus and talking poorly about them to your friends, or sharing confidential information about your relationship with the world!  This is your opportunity to to be honest in admitting that your marriage isn't perfect!)  Every single marriage is hard, and no matter how much we think we know about another couple, we only see a fraction of the real relationship, so don't compare your real life situations with the facade that others put up.  Humble yourself in order to share hope with others!  

**And just remember, the grass is not greener on the other's greener where YOU WATER IT!

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