1 Peter 3:1-2, 7 (MEV) – Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, so that if any do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 as they see the purity and reverence of your lives… 7 Likewise, you husbands, live considerately with your wives, giving honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they too are also heirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
I wanted to read these scriptures up front to be able to bring all of us to a clear focal point. I will come back to these verses later. Now, when it comes to the broad subject of marriage, the ugly truth is that guys and girls will have completely different thoughts and viewpoints concerning this God-ordained institution.
Most guys think about marriage the same way they think about a car. We just want it to work. We want things to run smoothly. We don’t want to understand it. We want it to work, but not have to work on it.
Unfortunately, some men would rather drive it (the marriage) until it breaks down, then trade it in for a newer model, than fix it.
As long as the marriage is working and it’s not broken down completely, why can’t we just continue to drive it? You know…”Do we have to talk about it?” Well, to be honest, the ladies are right. We do have to talk about it because we don’t want it to break down and trade it in for a new one.
Now if you’re single, today could really be some valuable information. For those of us who are hitched, we might sense a little discomfort or even some Holy Ghost conviction, and may have some follow-up homework. There probably could be some future constructive conversations to have with your better half.
We may have to regroup, backup, and re-think some stuff and probably will have some wonderful/difficult conversations.
Let me jump right in with a statement:
When we got married, we all approached marriage with a box of desires.
We all have these dreams and wishes–things that we believe a marriage is supposed to be like. I know I imagined…we were going to live in a big house. I imagined we were going to have kids. I imagined there where certain roles my wife was going to fulfill because my mom did these these certain things or roles.
Also, as a husband I would fulfill certain roles. I imagined we were going to drive certain types of vehicles and have enough money to spend on whatever we wanted. I imagined my wife would do this and that. I imagined how our marriage will be scheduled. That we were going to spend all our time together or we would spend time committed to the “Marriage” together. Some of our time with our friends or we’re going to merge friends, or maybe never let our friends meet.
In each of our minds, we had certain dreams, wishes and desires on how our marriage was supposed to be like. How the holidays would go. Men when you got married, you had a vision of what your wife would wear to bed or not wear to bed. Right? It’s kinda quiet.
Ladies you just knew he would love you for who you are. It won’t matter really what you wear to bed. This kind of thing is secondary.
We all had certain desires financially. Truth is we all come into the marriage with all these desires. We can’t help it that the thing all these desires have in common is “I”. This is what “I” envisioned. This is what “I” imagined. What “I” desired. What “I” wished for or what “I” pictured for our marriage.
It is all about I, I, and I. I can’t be faulted for that because I have never been married before. Or maybe you have been married before but it was his entire fault the marriage dissolved or her entire fault (well, most of it anyway). “So, in my next marriage, here is what I hope for… Here is what I wish for or what I imagine…” Once again, right in the middle of that sentence is “I” because what else can I do but wish for what I would wish for?
I can’t build a dream around what someone else desires. That doesn’t make sense. So, we come to marriage with a big capital “I.” All of us do and we walk down the aisle with a box full of desires.
Let’s get through the vows and let’s say “I do” because I have some wishes, dreams, and desires for our marriage. In fact, before we get married, we even talk about this stuff. Then we get married, either at the altar or on the honeymoon or a week or a month or the first year, we begin to do something subconsciously that impacts the dynamic of the relationship.
Without really knowing why and understanding what’s happening, we begin to take all these legitimate desires and place all these things where we want our marriage financially, how things are going to be romantically, who’s going to do certain task in our home. We unknowingly transition these into a different category:
Our desires become expectations.
Now, we don’t know when it happened or even how it happened. You are my fiancee and I just dream. Now you are my wife or my husband and I expect. That’s what the wife is supposed to do and that’s what husbands should be doing…right? Somewhere along the way, the wonderful, blissful dreams become expectations. When this transfer takes place, the dynamic in the marriage instantly changes. It’s changed primarily because it’s not the big “I” in the marriage. Now but it has becomes two big “I’s” in the marriage.
Everybody walks down the aisle with dreams, hopes, wishes and desires. That is normal and let me say that is not wrong. It is not wrong to dream or have desires. God even said in
Psalm 37:4 (MEV) – Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Once the big “I’s” collide, there are only a few options.
One option is you leave. Give up and walk away. You know what? I’m not going to be able to measure up to your expectations. That’s not what I expected. You don’t seem to be managing my expectations and you decide, “He just wasn’t a good husband” or “She wasn’t a good wife.” Now what does that mean? I had expectations about what a good husband was suppose to be and he didn’t measure up to my expectations. She didn’t measure up or he/she expected too much of me and I couldn’t meet up to his/her expectations so I’m leaving. I’m out of here. The problem is…
You pick up your box of desires and say, “I’m going to find someone else to dump these desires on.”
That’s why some of you might be saying, “My second marriage feels like my first marriage because, guess what? Again there is the big “I.”
The other thing we do sometimes is….
The stronger partner wins; so you conquer.
You know…. “You will do what I expect you to do.” There’s usually a dominant a partner in a marriage. The weaker one cowers and the dominant finally explains and explains and explains to the point where your partner can finally understand what it means to be a good husband or she finally understands what it means to be a good wife.
She begins or he begins to live up to your expectations. As they begin to try to reach that bar or jump higher or duck lower or spin faster, all of a sudden you feel like it is starting to work out. This is actually becoming a pretty good marriage.
What you don’t understand is that it’s very easy for me to be me. In fact ,I like me some Jerry. And it’s very easy for you to be you. Never once have you woke up in the morning and said, “Okay, remember (slap slap) be me! Be me!” But it is very difficult for me to be Teri and it is very stressful for Teri to try to be me.
So, when you win in those first few years of marriage, and when you finally explain for the thousandth time this is how a husband is supposed to be or this is how a wife is supposed to be–or this is supposed to be the schedule; this is how we handle the money or this is how handle conflict, finally, someone says, “Okay, we will do things your way.”
You think things are great because being that way is effortless for you because you are you. It takes no effort being you but when your spouse decides they are going to be you, it is extraordinary stressful. But you don’t know it because it’s so natural to be you. It’s not natural for them to be you. So, consequently, you think things are great and for a while they may be.
Now the flip side of that is…
The spouse that is subdued or conquered decides, “I’m just going to conform.”
If that is what it takes to make you happy, if that is what it takes to make you feel like we’re having a great marriage, if that’s the way your mother did it, if that’s the way your daddy did it, if this is what it’s going to take for you to feel like we have a functioning marriage then I’ll put out the big white flag. “I Surrender.”
So you feel like you have to conform. Maybe out of love or maybe out of duty, Maybe out of you don’t know why. Maybe to just keep peace. “Ok. Ok, don’t keep threatening me, I’ll do whatever it takes.” So you conform. Conforming to be like someone else is incredibly stressful because you where not made to be like them but you still try.
Here’s my observation: Mid-30s to late 30s that begins to break down. Emotionally, physically…people who have been in a marriage where they have tried to pull up to that bar and measure up, they break down.
You try and try and try to measure up and the other partner is saying, “This is great… This is awesome…This is what I’m talking about!” Well, eventually all of this conforming, trying and measuring up begins to unravel. Do you know what the problem is whether you are conforming or the one being conformed? The problem is “I.” “I” is right there in the middle. You have an “I” marriage.
The other option and probably this is….
The option most people opt for is compromise.
Compromise says, “Okay, you do your part and I will do my part.” We’ll split the bills. We’ll split the time. Christmas here. Christmas there. We’ll just compromise with the money, our kids. You’ll have your friends and I’ll have mine. You will have your time and I will have mine. You will have your space and I will have mine. We have it all worked out.
Everything goes good for a while. However, the problem with the compromise marriage is it’s still an “I” marriage. “I will do what you ask me to do if you do what I ask you to do. I, I will do my part if you, you will do your part.”
I’ve got to make sure I get enough of my part; enough of the “I” part for me to be happy. I just takes the two big capital “I’s” and place them in the middle of the marriage. The compromise marriage is still a commitment to “I.”
Here is how you know you are in an “I Marriage.” Either you are your spouse will say things like:
I’m really concerned about MY marriage.
I’m really trying to save MY marriage.
I’m concerned about the marriage. The focus of your concern, the focus of your prayer request, the focus of your attention, of your passion is not a person. It’s “the Marriage.”
People in a compromised marriage are very, very, very committed to the marriage and that’s not a biblical view of marriage.
The great news is, never in the Bible are we commanded to be committed to a marriage. We are commanded to be committed to a person. Remember what we read earlier in 1 Peter? If you’re committed to the “marriage” and you’re not happy with the one you have, guess what, you can go out and get another marriage.
You see the focus, the goal, the important element, it’s a thing; it’s not a person. Marriage takes your “I” and his “I” and becomes the I in the description. It is not to be the Goal…It is not to be the End. So often in our culture, people say, “Let’s just keep our marriage together.”
That means I, I, I, want to make MY, MY, MY marriage Survive, Survive, Survive. I will do whatever I can do to make sure “The Marriage” stays together. This is not a biblical view or a kingdom view of marriage. We are not meant to be survivors. We are equipped to overcome, to conquer, to thrive when everyone else may be struggling.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN A COMPROMISED MARRIAGE?
“I WILL IF YOU WILL.”
That’s not a covenant; that is a contract
In a “CONTRACT MARRIAGE,” do you know what the first thing to go is?
Romance and Intimacy; because when you were dating you couldn’t stay away from each other.
It was like this fairy tale dream and you thought about them all the time and they thought about you. “I wonder what they are doing right now.” “I’m here for you and you are here for me.” You weren’t there for the marriage. You cared for, served, loved, sacrificed, gave to a person. Now all that seems like a pipe dream, not a reality.
But when you settle for the sake of peace in the home and for the kids…sometimes compromise is the first step toward where things need to be. Granted, when settling for your space, my space, your friends, my friends, my time, and my money–we get it all split out and worked out. It is just another one among a million “I Marriages” that are out there. The thing God intended for you to experience in marriage, you will never experience because ultimately you’re just committed to you. It’s just another way of juggling expectations.
Is anybody getting the picture yet? Okay. I want to spend our last few moments talking about a dynamic in marriage.
So many couples are at the place where they can’t quite define and get their hands around what is really going on; what may be wrong. You are asking, “How in the world did they ever get from where they were to where they are now?”
All you know is “I just don’t like it and I want to blame him” and he wants to blame her. We counseled and we talked and we read the books and even went to seminars and conferences. We can’t seem to get things resolved and here’s why:
As long as I am dumping my desires on Teri, and as long as she feels like she has to dump her desires on me, we’ll have a marriage centered on expectations.
The intimacy, romance and all the stuff that makes marriage great begins to evaporate/dissolve. Here is why: When your desires are translated into expectations, you move you relationship from a
Covenant (unconditional) Relationship vs. Debt/Debtor Relationship
When you transfer at the altar, or some time during the marriage, your desires to expectations, you say, “I’m going to dump them on my spouse. I expect, I expect, I expect.” Suddenly you have entered a debt/debtor relationship with your spouse. Another way of expressing an expectation is YOU OWE ME.
“You’re the wife or you’re the husband, and you OWE ME! You’re the provider and you owe this to me.”
“You’re the wife and I demand you clean the house and take care of the kids, and supper is ready when I get home because I work soooooo hard. YOU OWE ME.”
“We stood at the altar and we promised before our family and friends and we said…blah…blah…blah and now I am holding you to it, you owe me!”
Well, your spouse says, “You owe me too!” And you said in front of family, friends and even God!!!! I promise this and that…Blah…Blah…Blah. I’m holding you to the promise you made.”
We all can build a strong, convincing case why our spouse owes us this stuff and, as justified as you may feel and very well might be, you still end up in a debt/debtor relationship with your spouse.
Here is the ugly truth that rises to the top: The result is intimacy, romance and trust are squeezed out. They are gone. These three things are the glue that helps hold the marriage together.
In a Debt/Debtor relationship, there is no margin for an expression of unconditional love.
If my expectation is this box (expectation box) and I get this; how much credit does my spouse get? Not much because all that’s what husbands are supposed to do. That’s what wives are supposed to do. Right?
Congratulations! You have now made it up to zero now; You’re up to break-even now! You’re at par! I’m not going to throw you a celebration party because you’re doing what I expected you to be doing. You’re not going to get credit for loving me. You’re simply doing the elementary stuff of meeting the expectations and obligations as a husband or a wife.
Once the marriage evolves into 2-big “I’s.” it is a debt/debtor marriage and it squeezes out the potential for receiving or expressing unconditional love. Love is a gift and if everything is expected, there is no opportunity to give or receive.
Let me explain it and make it clear: You’ll never have a personal, in-depth, perfumed letter with a gift card from your mortgage company. Why? That’s the deal that’s the expectation. The only time you get a letter or get any attention is when you miss a payment. That’s the way some of you feel about your marriage. As long as you do everything right, everything is peaceful. But there’s not a lot of love. The minute you mess up, leave something undone or miss an expectation, you will get some personal attention and it’s always negative.
If I desire something in my marriage and Teri fulfills that desire, then I know it is love. But if it’s an expectation, there is no love–it is only getting up to the bar, to zero. We have taken desires and moved them to expectations. As long as expectations are there, you will live from the stand point of “you owe me.”
When two big “I’s” get locked in a battle of “you owe me” and “I owe you.” Romance, intimacy, community, connectivity and trust begin to die. They wither away and become non-existent. The opportunity to express and receive unconditional love is flushed down the drain. It is gone because of what’s in that box right here (expectations).
The conclusion is not that we shouldn’t have any dreams or desires or let go of everything; that’s not realistic. They are legitimate God-given dreams and desires. The desires to be respected, to be cherished, for companionship, the desire for intimacy and, as sex relates to intimacy, it’s a God thing.
Love, understanding, appreciation, to be desired, followed, heard, to be taken care of, respected; those are God-given desires. They are legitimate. However, the minute I take those God-given desires and skillfully place them on the shoulders of my wife, the God-given desire begins to feel like an expectation.
Then I begin to relate to Teri as if the owes me. When this happens, something happens to the key dynamic in the marriage. The love begins to erode. You can’t express it. You don’t recognize it. All of a sudden, a little time of doing this has passed and now we don’t love unconditionally.
We’re at the place that we can’t make dreams come true. We’re simply trying to raise our performance to a certain level-the bar or attempt to meet a certain standard that the spouse has set for us.
Let me close today by giving you an indicator, a clue, a tool that will help you discover if by chance that you may in your marriage have moved from this box to this box. From “God-given desires” to “My expectations.”
It’s really simple. It’s two things…
By your expression of gratitude toward your spouse.
By your acts of service toward your spouse.