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Easy Doesn’t Do It . . .

In a counseling session several years ago, the counselee Cheryl (name changed) was debating the pros and cons of marrying her sweetheart of about a year and a half. As we worked our way through our list, she sighed, sat back heavily onto the couch, and started to cry. After a few moments of silence I asked, “What is it that you’re thinking or feeling right now?” She replied, “I don’t know if getting married is right for me or not. What I do know though, is that being single is just so hard.”

I remember smiling at her and responding, “Cheryl, if you think that being or remaining single is harder than being married, then don’t get married.” She immediately sat upright, wide-eyed, surprised, and asked, rather abruptly, “Why? How can sharing everything – responsibilities, finances, accountability – be harder with two people than it is with one?”

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That conversation has been played out between my chair and the couch in my office dozens of times over the years. And when the expectation is that being married will be easier than being single, my response is always the same, “I don’t think you have thought through or accepted the personal cost of committing your life to another person.”

Bold statement? 

Yes . . . 

But I care too much about that potential marriage being fulfilling and pleasurable to allow the other people to go into it somewhat blindly. 

Oh I don’t have all the answers, and have plenty of diplomas on my office wall to prove it. At least 98% of my degrees were earned from the “School of Hard Knocks.” And in my own younger years, I had no clue about the work – the personal cost – the sacrifices – that were needed for a marriage to become good, and succeed.

Getting married is the easy part . . . 

Staying in a progressive, satisfying union with the same person for the rest of your life is perhaps the most difficult challenge of our time. I am not at all surprised that the divorce rate in our current state is at more than 50%. What does surprise me however, is that 40-something percent of marriages succeed. 

So why all this chatter about the difficulty of marriage? Certainly it is not to scare anyone off from becoming married. Instead, we have to remember that marriage is work . . . Hard work. It’s like a second full-time job – and certainly not less important than our profession. It would help us all, if we paused before walking through the door after coming home from work and say to ourselves, “OK, I’m showing up for my most important job, and I need to work hard when I get in there.”

Our wives need to know that to us, they are the most important person on the planet – bar none. If true, the way that we prove that to them is in how hard we are willing to work in order that the relationship thrives – grows through the hard times – and that we are not only able, but willing to work hard with them so we can all relish in the knowledge that we are willing partners for life.

Everything and everyone around us as husbands tells us, “Be the man. Go for the brass ring. Nobody tells a real man what to do. Satisfy your passion.” The Bible’s message to husbands is exactly the opposite -“Crucify yourself.” Here’s how Paul put it in Ephesians 5:25: 

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for her.”

Let me be real here. I am not always successful in this. There are more times than I’d really care to admit that I have been ego-centric, self-centered, and self-focused and not respected the expectations and hopes that my wife has of me/us in our marriage. I have recently had to explain myself in ways that are embarrassing and humbling. Regardless of my intent, and in spite of my promises, I have lost my focus. Thankfully, little enough damage (in my moments of “braindeadedness”) has been done and she has found within her heart enough grace to understand and forgive me for the errors of my ways.

It’s too easy for me (and I’m guessing you, too) to allow my emotions to escape the confines of reality and common sense . .

And duty . . .

Even the best of us make stupid, selfish decisions. I take my place in the classroom of “jugheads.”

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But the reminder that the cost of commitment to my wife and kids is worth all that seems to be sacrificial to me, is what brings me – and sometimes not so gently – back to earth.

Do you have your own stories of struggle in this area? You know that “putting them out there” serves as an encouragement, or as a learning point to the rest of us. I’ll keep writing about it as God puts it on my heart. But I know I’m not alone in this – and need partners – warriors – to affirm and encourage those that are embattled by the same enemy. I look forward to hearing from you (men or women) about it.

Keep working! Keep winning!

And, as always . . .

FINISH WELL!

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