My husband and I recently celebrated twenty two years of a marriage that almost didn’t happen. After four years of a stormy, long-distance relationship, Jose’s proposal was anything but romantic.
He had come to visit me, and after a weekend of arguing, we’d finally said goodbye since he had to catch his plane home. Sad because our time together was over and convinced our relationship had ended, I was at home sobbing. When the doorbell interrupted my tears, I almost didn’t answer it.
To my utter shock, Jose stepped inside, kissed me, and shoved a ring on my finger.
“We’re going to get married. Do you hear me?” he said.
Then he went back out to the taxi to get to the airport. The ring on my finger didn’t make me feel anything like I’d imagined it would. I still felt miserable and insecure.
Amazingly, we’re still married 22 years later, but I wouldn’t recommend this way of starting out.
By God’s grace, my husband and I enjoy a mostly happy marriage, yet we’ve had our share of struggles. If you’re married, I bet you have too. Conflict comes with any relationship between two people who are alive and breathing. But we can avoid needless conflict by taking proactive steps towards a more peaceful relationship.
I’m learning 3 steps towards a more peaceful marriage:
1. Have Realistic Expectations.
When I married Jose, I thought he’d make me happy, and that didn’t happen like I imagined it would. On one hand, he makes me the happiest woman in the world. Yet some days I still feel depressed, lonely, or misunderstood, just like before I married, and my husband can’t meet my needs like Jesus can.
Unmet expectations cause conflict, and I realize more every year how unrealistic mine can be. Often I expect Jose to:
- Notice something’s bothering me and ask about it.
- Listen to my venting and show sympathy like my best girlfriend would.
- Love me perfectly, even when I’m acting unreasonably.
In other words, I’m expecting him to fulfill the roles of Mind Reader, Girlfriend, and Jesus.
2. Look to God to Meet Your Needs First.
My new marriage mantra is “Let your husband know your needs, but look to God to meet your needs.” I’m doing my best to learn how to communicate my needs, but give Jose freedom to respond as he can. When I look to God first, I don’t need my husband quite as desperately.
Ultimately no one loves me like Jesus does. When I focus on Jesus’ love first, I’m freer to love my husband with no strings attached and receive the love he’s able to give.
3. Accept Your Mate as He Is.
When we married, I had an unconscious, undercover mission: to change Jose into a female clone of Betsy. Of course, I didn’t think of it in quite those terms, but wouldn’t life be easier if he thought and did everything just like I did?
I still revert back to that mission from time to time, but both of us have come a long way in learning to accept and give freedom to the other person. If we focus on the positive things we like about our husbands, nagging irritations grow smaller and lose their hold on us. When we encourage their dreams (even when we secretly wonder if they might just be crazy) we’re letting go of control and trusting God to lead them.
Friend, I still have days when I get bent out of shape because Jose can’t read my mind, be my girlfriend, or be my Jesus, but I’m making slow progress. When we look to God to meet our needs and accept what the other person is able to give, more peace results. Which one of these steps could you try today?