Marriage is Not a Fairy Tale
- Jewell R. Powell Author, Marriage 101
- 2010 24 Aug
But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things. 1 Timothy 4:7-8
As I was growing up, I read all the fairy-tale stories like Sleeping Beauty, hoping to one day meet my prince and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, most fairy tales give us an unrealistic picture of what our life with the prince will be like. Cinderella met her prince at a ball, and then he came looking for her with a glass slipper. When he found her, they lived happily ever after—so you too will marry and have a fairy-tale ending, right? That is certainly what I had pictured for my life. You know, "Jewell sees Lewis from afar and is awed by his handsome presence. One day as she is waiting to buy lunch, she turns around and bumps right into her Prince Charming. They eat together and fall madly in love. They get married and live happily ever after." Well . . . not quite.
Between falling in love and getting married, Lewis and I sought God's guidance and attended an extensive premarital counseling class for three and a half months. The pastor stressed two things that I now know are so important: (1) that couples attend the same church so they are receiving the same teaching and are of the same faith, and (2) that their combined finances are in the black before they get married. He also added that we shouldn't set a date for the wedding before counseling, because people who have done so aren't totally honest with their feelings, especially if they have already put a down payment on a reception area, videographers, and other wedding expenses. After counseling, couples should be one hundred percent sure that they belong together before proceeding into marriage. If you do that, you will be able to weather the storms in your marriage much better when they arise.
And they will arise. All couples go through some storms, and your marriage will not be exempt. If you realize this at the beginning, you won't separate or divorce because of false expectations or doubts about whether your spouse is right for you. Instead, when you go through trials and tribulations, you will believe that you are supposed to be with your mate and therefore be willing to do what it takes to make your marriage work. I wish I wasn't giving this advice based on hindsight. I should have given myself this advice before our storms came (although I was and still am one hundred percent sure Lewis and I belong together). However, at that time, I just did not know how to get the victory concerning my marriage.
I fell in love with a wonderful man. Lewis was literally everything I wanted in a husband. I had written a list of characteristics I wanted in my husband, and I placed this sheet of paper in my Bible and prayed about it. When I met Lewis, I prayed constantly and asked God for confirmation on three different occasions, and God confirmed each time that Lewis was good for me. In fact, the last time, God told me to take out my list and see for myself! Lewis had everything on that list, which consisted of about twenty-five characteristics, except two for which he was seeking God's help. As I'm writing this book sixteen years later, he is actually more than I asked for. Praise God, whose Word is true, for doing exceedingly and abundantly more than what I can ask or think (see Eph. 3:20)!
Lewis and I dated for four years before we got married, and I knew without a shadow of doubt that my marriage was ordained by God. When we went through the storm, I still knew in my heart that Lewis was the man for me, but the devil kept whispering, "You can do better. You don't have to take this." I thought, "I was all right before I met him, and I will be all right when he is gone." My thoughts were stupid. I couldn't do better because I had the best man for me. We all want the fairy-tale marriage, which is having a perfect man (or woman) without flaws and a perfect life without challenges. That is not reality. Although Lewis is not perfect, he is the perfect person for me. And I am not perfect either. I may be a perfectionist, but I am not perfect. I hope you can face that truth about yourself as well, and say it out loud: "I, [fill in your name], am not perfect and neither is [fill in your spouse's name]." Good! Hopefully, confessing it will be a start to a "happily ever after" marriage.
How did Lewis and I go from "perfect for each other" to "I can do better"? When we married in May 1996, we were best friends and got along extremely well. We had some issues and some pet peeves, but the bottom line was that we knew God had put us together for a reason. One month into our marriage, though, we started arguing, and as time went on, the arguments got worse. Sometimes we could go weeks, even months, without arguing, but when we argued, we argued. I felt that he wasn't spending enough time with me. He loved to work, and still does, but in my eyes he worked too much. I could have seen this as something great—I had a man who worked hard to take care of his family—but I complained instead. I couldn't see that I was trying to use him as a substitute for something that was missing in my life.
When I got married, I lost practically all my friends. In hindsight, God had separated me from them to draw me closer to him. Therefore, Lewis was the only person I had to talk to or do anything with. I needed him to give me more time because I didn't have anyone else. So my marriage started falling apart right at the beginning because I was looking to Lewis to fulfill me in areas that were now vacant. I eventually learned that God is the only one who can supply all my needs (see Phil. 4:19). If I am unfulfilled, it is not because of my spouse, children, friends, or job. I was putting that weight on Lewis, which was wrong. Psalm 118:8 says, "It is better to trust and take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man" (AMP).
Now I am not troubled by what Lewis does or doesn't do because my expectation is not in him, but in God. I go to God first, and he will direct Lewis or whomever else to do what is needed for me. As David wrote, "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him" (Ps. 62:5).
We also argued about finances. Lewis is a saver, and I am a spender. (I am still working on that part!) So he kept his money separate from mine. I started hearing "your money, my money." I used to get so mad because as a couple, it's our money. I didn't like him telling me that I couldn't buy the things I wanted (not needed). I worked hard every day. I thought I deserved nice things for myself and my house. Again, my thoughts were out of order. I realize today that if I would have taken my husband's advice concerning finances, we would be stronger financially by now. But I thought he was punishing me.
Then we argued about children. I wanted to adopt first, and Lewis wanted a biological child first. After three years of marriage and not being able to conceive (and after three years of arguing about whose fault that was), he finally agreed to do foster care. We eventually adopted our foster child and afterward conceived our second child.
Guess what? Even then, we still argued. We argued about how to raise the kids. I am the disciplinarian parent; he is not. Then there were the arguments that came before and after I became a stay-at-home mom. He could not understand why I needed a break and time to myself.
Many of the arguments we had were simply because we viewed things differently; we had different expectations of one another, finances, raising children, and so on. The issues and challenges we were facing went on and on, and although we continue to deal with issues, we handle them a lot differently than we used to. I seek God as to what I should say or do and whether I should even do anything at all. Now our disagreements and challenges bring us closer to one another instead of dividing us, as they did before.
The biggest challenge you will face in honoring Christ is to change (be transformed into his image and likeness) through doing what his Word says. Biblical change is defined as dying to self and getting rid of selfishness. If you want a marriage that honors God and works the way he designed and created it to, you must be willing to let go of all your selfish desires. Only then will you see his desires for your life and marriage fulfilled.
Your prayer should be that you are not and never will be selfish— that you will be not a lover of self but a lover of God. It is human nature to be concerned about your own needs, wants, and desires.
Christians, however, should be more concerned about the welfare of others. We must seek God on a daily basis to help us turn our attention from being consumed with ourselves to wanting to display Christ outwardly to our spouse and others. Second Timothy 3:2-5 gives a description of those who are "lovers of their own selves" (selfish). Are you the kind of person who focuses on what makes you happy and how someone else can please you rather than how you can please someone else? If so, then you are probably one of the people that Paul was writing about. In my own life, I see myself as a giver, so I get offended when my husband tells me I am selfish. In my mind, there is no way that I am selfish. But there are times when I am selfish, especially with my time and love toward him. There also used to be times when I would get mad at him and not talk to him for days. I wanted to make him suffer because he hurt me. That's selfish.
What many of us see as "selflessness" really isn't. We give what we want to give, to whom we want to give it, and when we want to give it. If someone needs to be loved in a different way than what we are used to, or if someone wants us to do something for them that's inconvenient for us, we don't want to do it. This isn't true selflessness. It's selfishness, because we are the ones deciding how, when, and to whom we will give.
Your focus in life should be to please God, not yourself. We must constantly be in a state of pleasing God and being a blessing to others. Below is a list to help you see whether you are self-focused or God-focused:
Belief/trust in God
August 28, 2010
Excerpt from Marriage 101 by Jewell R. Powell. Copyright 2008 by Jewell R. Powell. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.
Jewell R. Powell is a teacher and marriage coach. She and her husband, Lewis, founded the "Happily Ever After" Marriage Ministry, which equips couples to overcome marital difficulties. Jewell lives with Lewis and their two daughters in southern Maryland. Find out more at www.marriage101.us.