Every successfully married couple will accumulate items of value and meaning through their years together. Retirement accounts, furniture, and photo albums are a few examples (and in my family, books). Most of all, they will accumulate memories. All of these accruements are a testament to their years of growing together as one flesh, and of their sharing in all phases of life together.
As important as learning what to accumulate, successfully married couples also learn what to divest themselves of. Success is not just a matter of accumulating; it is a matter of letting go, too.
When my brother found all of his watering holes in the back country of New Mexico dried up by the drought of 2011, he knew he faced a crisis. He emptied his pack of all unnecessary weight to begin his hike out. Eventually, he even abandoned hundreds of dollars worth of hiking equipment along the trail, knowing the weight of that equipment sapped what little reserve of strength and will he had left. Only by these austere measures was he able to struggle on, eventually reaching civilization and water.
Married couples not only acquire the items mentioned above that bless their journey and make it more pleasurable, but they also acquire unnecessary items that sap their strength and drain their will to endure together. They must learn to sort through the stuff they have accumulated, keeping what blesses the union, and abandoning the rest on the side of the trail. There are several such items.
Photo compliments of Jhen Shark Photography
One is unrealistic expectations. We all marry with high hopes and expectations of our spouses making us happy. We may even harbor the delusion that our spouses want to do everything necessary to provide us with utopia. One problem is that our spouses have the same delusion that we are going to provide all their needs for complete happiness. Not only is this a misguided notion, it is impossible to fulfill. While God created marriage so that we could find a degree of completeness with our husband or wife (Genesis 1:20-25), there is no way one person can fulfill us in every way. There are some deep needs that only God can fulfill for us. Wise couples learn quickly that unrealistic expectations are a heavy burden that endangers their journey and need to abandoned.
A second accumulation that is both unnecessary and dangerous is resentment. Resentment is the angry, seething feeling we harbor toward someone for hurts we have experienced at their hands. Feeling deprived of having our needs met is one source of resentment. Another is when disagreements between spouses degenerate to arguments where each intentionally seeks to hurt the other. These hurts can continue to accumulate and intensify over time, leading to further escalation of trouble in the relationship. Resentment needs to be abandoned immediately, and the only effective way that can happen is by forgiveness. Forgiveness is an essential friend of a married couple, freeing them from the deadly burden of a rotting heart.
Photo compliment of My Boysterous Life
Selfish pursuits is another burdensome weight on a marriage. When we become one flesh through marriage, our goals and aspirations become as one. We no longer think for just one, but for two. As children enter the union our thinking expands to include them. The needs of the marriage and family take precedence over selfish interests. In some cases, a husband or wife may choose to give up hobbies and even career choices in the best interests of their family. The goal of a married couple is for their achievements and accomplishments to benefit the whole family.
My brother survived heat stroke and dehydration only because he chose to abandon unnecessary weight to travel more lightly. Our marriages will survive and thrive if we likewise give up any impediments to our journey, including unrealistic expectations, resentments, and selfishness.
What are some burdens you have unloaded along your marital journey?