No couple is as happy as a bride and groom on their wedding day. True or false?
On our wedding day, Rick and I thought we were the ideal couple: close, crazy (about each other), and connected.
However, at year 35 of our own marriage, we made a huge stride toward even deeper connection. The result? Our marriage is now better than it has ever been. Ever.
Don’t misunderstand me; we had a good marriage in the first 35 years. My husband was a pastor. We had two great kids together. We met in a Christian group in college and attended seminary together. We had lots of adventures: pastoring, church planting, and owning a Christian bookstore.
I could go on.
But at year 35, we experienced a radical shift. It came as a surprise. God sneaked in and changed me. When I changed, the dance of our marriage changed. Then Rick changed. Then our ministry changed. And it was all good.
The shift started in 2008 when we were invited as a pastoral couple to investigate a ministry with roots in healing for sexual abuse. As I listened to the presentation, I sensed God telling me to participate even though sexual abuse was not part of my history. I signed up.
In my group, I unpacked my childhood story and saw how I had been affected by it. In my family of origin I had learned to keep the peace at the cost of speaking the truth in love. I learned that my peace-keeping silence was my way of protecting myself from being hurt, rather than trusting God to protect me. My peace-at-any-price style had shaped our marriage, not in a healthy way.
There it was: the bald truth. I was in my 50s and needed to grow up!
I signed up again.
In the next sessions, I went deeper into how I needed to confront my husband where he needed to be confronted. I started to risk more confrontation, loving confrontation. The dance steps of our marriage started to change.
My husband followed by also participating in a group. He, too, was unaware of how much his family of origin had affected how he did life now. He saw his unhealthy way of relating to me, that he had to be right and in control, and he was broken-hearted. He moved toward me in repentance. Not only did our dance change, but we also started playing different music!
Others saw the change in us, the redemption.
So why, after years of pastoral ministry, three seminary-level master’s degrees between us, and access to every possible Christian book, did such a huge shift occur?
In these groups, we looked at our own childhood stories without minimizing or dismissing their impact on us. We saw the connection between our stories and how we show up now with each other in our marriage. We recognized our own brokenness. We gave each other grace for being broken people.
- Did we love each other before the shift?
- Were we committed to each other before the shift?
- Had we grown together through the years? Silly question. Of course.
- Had we gone through hard times, the painful University of Growth? We had advanced degrees from that school.
The Shift brought us to deeper connection, exactly what we long for in marriage: physical, spiritual, and emotional connection.
We saw clearly that we needed to relinquish self-protective patterns and let God do the protecting. Therefore, it was a time of deep spiritual growth; it meant turning from the sin of taking God’s role in our relationships to letting Him do His redeeming work.
Do you see any of the following dis-connecting issues in your own marriage?
- Self-contempt, other-centered contempt
- Wearing masks, hiding
- Stonewalling, silence
- Having to be right
- Being out of touch with emotions
- Not using one’s voice
Is this an exhaustive list of everyone’s dysfunctions? No, this is a partial list of Mavis dysfunctions!
God delights in redemption, however, and this is truly beautiful. He took our dysfunctional history, redeemed it, and gave us opportunities to use it in profound ways in ministry.
Those who led us into redemption modeled vulnerability and we have followed in their steps. I write vulnerably about marriage in emails available at http://wholeheartedmarriageonline.com/free/. Rick and I share vulnerably at marriage seminars. After one session, a participant said, “If the pastor is that messed up, there is no hope for the rest of us!”
Truthfully, the pastor is healthier than he has ever been in his relationships, including our marriage. He was simply being authentic. And truthfully, there is hope … for all of us!
Embrace change. Seek out help. Find freedom. Change the dance.
Back to the opening question: Is it true that no couple is happier than the bride and groom on their wedding day? Or perhaps, rephrase the question: As happy as a bride and groom are on their wedding day, what do they have to look forward to in terms of more intimacy and a growing connection?
The answer is more, always more!
God can bring change at all stages of a marriage, even after 35 years. Growth can happen in year 5, 15, 35, and 55. That is truly something we as married couples can look forward to.
More joy is available – just around the bend!
Guest Post Author:
Sharon Mavis invites peeks into vignettes of the Mavis journey out of dysfunctional self-protection to deeper connection at http://wholeheartedmarriageonline.com/free/. In other words, you can laugh with us at our insights as we continue to grow up.