I only seriously dated one girl before getting married.
We were good friends through high school until I became smitten by her smile. After graduating, we dated for nine months, and then were engaged for nine months because I knew she was the one for me. We tied the knot when I was 20 and Kelly was 21, entering this beautiful thing called marriage with wide-eyed wonder.
Barely out of high school, we were ready to take on the world. We didn’t have much. We didn’t have money, but we also didn’t have debt. We really didn’t have much emotional baggage either. But we had plenty of love. We both wore glasses colored with roses, that painted our love and our future with optimism.
But just like any marriage God had many lessons for us to learn along the way that unexpectedly shaped as a couple and impacted us as individuals. Here are three things I learned from getting married young:
First, growth is inevitable. Marriage teaches us so much about ourselves and, if we’re willing to learn, God uses it as a place to develop our character and shape us into the men and women he desires us to be. Entering marriage at a young age, I thought I knew about love and romance. However, I was a hopeless romantic. More accurately, when it came to romance, I was hopeless.
I was patient and kind, but I was also self centered. As a young adult, I was not very sensitive to the needs of others, in particular my new bride and it was an area in which I desperately needed to grow. Even to this day, God is continually working this in me. While we both agree that we would never change the fact that we got married at a young age, I definitely had some relational growing up to do. Fortunately, I married someone who was patient and we grew up together.
Second, conflict is good. Early on, we were not very good at dealing with conflict. I just assumed that all conflict was bad and if ignored, it would eventually go away. Not the case. One specific time late at night, I could tell something was bothering Kelly, and I asked her about it. She answered ‘no’ with her mouth but ‘yes’ with her body language. I took her at her word and went to sleep. Rookie mistake!
Through these kinds of experiences, we both learned to be direct, open and honest, and we made a commitment to not be passive aggressive in our communication. It hasn’t always been easy, because working through conflict requires time and patience, but in the end, we learn to truly understand each other, it brings peace and resolution, and it strengthens our relationship. Most importantly, we’ve learned that extending love and forgiveness, follows the example that Jesus gave. He loved us; gave his life for us, while were still sinners. Since he did that for us, we must do the same for others, especially our mate. Looking back, making this commitment to work through conflict was one of the best decisions we’ve made and it’s impacting us today, almost 20 years later.
And finally, oneness in marriage takes effort. I’ve discovered this principle to be foundational to a successful marriage relationship based on a quote from Dennis Rainey. He says,
“Every marriage is either moving toward oneness or drifting toward isolation.”
In other words, there is no middle ground; a couple is either moving together or moving apart. This may not seem groundbreaking but it succinctly captures in one simple sentence what I need as an ongoing north star for our relationship. In fact, I put this phrase in my phone so that I can look at it regularly and added this action question, “Today, how am I contributing to our marriage moving toward oneness?” I’m realizing that if I’m not contributing to our relationship moving toward oneness, the default is that our relationship will drift toward isolation. Again, there is no middle ground.
Loneliness in a marriage is not God’s design yet I know many couples who are experiencing this isolation.
Whether you’re dating, engaged, newly married, or celebrating the golden anniversary, this principle should be the bedrock of every relationship. It will guide us in how we communicate, how we manage our calendar, how we work through conflict, and how we make decisions together. It will help us say sorry when we’re wrong and extend forgiveness when we’ve been wronged. It will lead us to encourage our spouse when they’re discouraged and speak words of life when it’s needed. Finally, as James says, it will help us be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19 NLT)
What can you do today to move your relationship toward oneness and how can you respond in a way that accomplishes oneness? Learning to work through conflict rather than avoid it brings us closer to our spouse and follows the example that Jesus set for us. This love then will extend beyond ourselves and our spouses, to those whom we influence and those who influence us. Each of us can have incredible impact on our marriage relationship and beyond when living according to these principles, and it shapes us into the men and women God desires us to be.
Matt Mylin is pastor of Worship Center, a church in Lancaster, PA. He and his wife Kelly have three children and reside in Lancaster, PA. For more info go to worshipcenter.org or email email@example.com.
Welcome to TrueLoveDates.com! I’m Debra Fileta, Professional Counselor & Author of the book True Love Dates, and I created this blog as a space to pair psychology and Christian spirituality to address all things love, dating, and relationships.
This summer, I’ve invited some incredible people to share their heart with the rest of our blog community for my #GuestPostSeries! I’m so excited to hear their stories and share their messages with you as well! Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave my guest writers some love and affirmation in the comment section below. — Love, Debra