You, Me, and Us
When I think about my husband, it’s often with a question mark: he is both the person I know best and an enigma. I have memorized his mannerisms, know all his favorites, yet am still constantly surprised by things that he says and does. Perhaps that’s what keeps things interesting after ten years of marriage—there is always something new to learn.
Yet the traditional images and representations of marriage sometimes seem to be in conflict with this dynamic. We are told that marriage is the ultimate union, the place where two become one. The Bible says, “and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh,” (Mark 10:8 , NIV).
It sounds romantic, but for a modern American woman, it can also be a little unsettling. Am I supposed to completely give myself up in order to be in a relationship? What does it mean to be “one flesh”? Are we supposed to be inseparable, to always agree on everything?
What You Give Up
Marriage inevitably involves a certain amount of compromise; you can’t continue to live your life the way you used to. In the same way you need to make room for another person in a practical sense—sharing the kitchen and making space in the closet—you need to also make space in your heart.
In order to have a healthy relationship, you do have to give up some parts of yourself, but maybe not the parts you think.
I am learning that the parts of myself I’ve had to give up are judgment, selfishness and jealousy. It’s not always easy, but necessary. By sacrificing those things, I make room for compassion, patience, acceptance and empathy. It’s not a once-and-done deal either: I am constantly having to give up the parts of myself that keep me from loving, in order to make room for the things that help our love grow.
Together Where it Matters
I don’t agree with my husband on everything; there are certainly things he does that I am not crazy about, and I’m sure he would say the same of me, but we’re together where it counts. We are committed to our marriage, not just for each other, but as a covenant with God. We love our children and agree on the kind of home we want them to grow up in. We know that no matter what happens, we are partners, and will offer each other a soft place to fall.
It can be difficult to find a balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your relationship. If the pendulum swings too far one way, you risk losing your identity, and stop being the person your partner fell in love with in the first place. But swing too far the other way, where you are only focused on yourself, and you risk leaving no room for your partner.
Living for Your Spouse
Change always brings about fear. Even if the change is good, it can be uncomfortable. When we step out into unknown territory, that fear of not knowing what to expect can cause us to falter. We start to ask ourselves, “Will I feel tied down? Will I be trapped?”
The principle of give and take suggests that true love requires us to love our spouse more than we love ourselves. That certainly seems to imply that we are on the losing end, but the Divine Principle says that this is not the case. When love is given it is multiplied. And did we forget the other side of the equation? Our spouse is supposed to love us that way, too.
What if, instead of thinking of what we are losing in order to come together, we looked at what we are bringing? Love is about surrendering to another person—not the kind of surrender that looks like a white flag waving in defeat, but the kind of surrender with outstretched arms, ready to offer up all of ourselves and to receive in return.
Working on ourselves is part of the equation of making a great marriage. We will continue to grow and mature even after we are married. We will continually have to give up selfishness for the sake of love. The trick is to grow together, side by side, and intertwined.
I take time for myself, and my husband takes time for himself as well. We don’t share all the same hobbies or friends, but we make it a point to come together on what matters. That coming together of two people doesn’t mean losing ourselves as individuals, but it does mean creating something completely new, our marriage—the place where we are one.