Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Christian marriage really looks like


When Andrei and I were engaged or maybe newly married, I remember talking with a friend about how hard it was to find time to spend together as a couple. She had been married a while already and had a few kids, and kind of laughed a little in response. "I remember those days!" she said. And I wondered what other kind of marriage relationship there would be, once you're not striving to spend every minute of every day together.

One thing that happens sometimes if you're church members is that the ministry that might have brought you together in the first place often keeps you physically apart. You might fall in love with someone by seeing him/her serving others, but later that service is what keeps your loved one from coming home earlier. And your family life might be interrupted by ministry-related phone calls. Even weekends are often taken up by "church activities." When Andrei and I were dating, my dad once visited our church on a Sunday, and wondered if we had had an argument. We never even bothered sitting together at services because I would sing on the worship team and then go to sit down just as Andrei was getting up to preach or make an announcement. Half the time I would leave to go teach Sunday school and never even be in the room at all aside from dropping/collecting my coat.

We spent more time together BEFORE we were dating, going to McDonald's after church with our small group! We were all free to just hang out!


I don't think there is just one right or wrong way for married couples to continue serving, whether it's one or both of them, together or separately. But it can be hard to prioritize. Who will stay home with the sick child? One spouse may be more active in the church, while the other may need the spiritual nourishment more. And what will others say, hearing of these decisions? A church can bless a couple's need for more family time, but there can also be resentment or hurt feelings.

This is kind of a tangent, but I am not only talking about people in leadership positions. I think that in a close-knit church body, just one couple getting married can radically change up the friendship circles. The couple may choose to attend a different small group, or stop volunteering in certain capacities, leaving vacancies for others to step in and provide a new dynamic. Each spouse will likely have had his/her own social group prior to marriage, and now there will be decisions about which friends to include in an invitation. In my case, I was in a "girl group" for years, and still miss that closeness, even if they might not want to hear me blab about parenting all the time. Sometimes it makes sense for the spouses to take turns seeing their friends separately, rather than being "joined at the hip."

As for being together, even couples that are blessed to work or serve together a majority of the time will have to alter their strategy once they have kids. We all need time to "get stuff done," so taking turns holding the baby (and sleeping) while the other works becomes a necessity. With two kids, you now get to choose one or the other, in a "divide and conquer" sort of way. I sometimes hear moms in big families talk about how it's so much "easier" when a few of their kids are out and they're down to just one or two at home. Hard to imagine!

When we were dating, we dreamed of being married one day and waking up next to each other to start the day together. I wonder if that is actually a reality for anyone out there! It's nice for one spouse to get up and see the other off, but it's also important to get as much sleep as possible, especially if you have kids. And, let's be honest-you might even wake up in different rooms!

So...I guess my friend was right that focus changes in different phases of married life. I still miss my husband whenever he is out, and look forward to spending time with him, but we're not usually focused 100% on each other. I think we are both still learning to support each other in growing spiritually, especially when it means making sacrifices so that the other can serve or have some special fellowship time. It's very true what the Apostle Paul said: a married person's interests are "divided." (1 Cor. 7:34) So there is a lot to learn in that regard.




4 comments:

  1. I love that "family farm" type of ministry. But, then (fortunately) neither Craig nor I have every been the kind of people who sit on the same side of the booth in a restaurant. (That's actually one of our little jokes.) I think we feel closer both working for one cause, than we would doing anything else just because it was "together". (Not that he is able to help much at the church at this point.....but we are working together, nevertheless.)

    Even amidst the craziness of all of the adoptions and various troubles, we have always spent time together. For years and years it was getting up early to share a cup of coffee (or two) and conversation over the paper. Now that I don't have to get up early to take anyone anywhere (Anastasia is homeschooling and Monica not in school yet), I sleep in but we have time together at night. Not precisely romantic, but nice! I think it may be helpful if people aren't romantic, without those expectations. Fortunately neither of us is.

    In fact, only yesterday at the hair dresser did I notice a card on the counter from her husband and realized that I NEVER ONCE considered "doing anything" for Valentine's Day for Craig - no more did he, for me. But we both helped Monnie make some cards.

    The irony here, is that only 6 months or so ago this same hairdresser shared with me that she and her husband were divorcing. Apparently that is off...but funny that THEY celebrate the holiday while Craig and I who never considered such a thing, just enjoy our romanticism-free day.

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  2. That sounds very romantic! Your family, I mean. We don't really have a "joint ministry," which is part of the problem! We both have tons of interests that don't always overlap, and no time to do it all. I think if we had a car we'd hop in and go more places as a family, but as it is, we take turns and leave the kids at home, for now. I think they (David) are pretty clueless about "church" for now.

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    1. There are also phases of life, as you mentioned. Right now we never have time to make/buy each other gifts, and have a mutual understanding that it's more helpful to be helping each other out with childcare than going to the store spending money we don't have on things we don't need! Still, gift-giving has a certain meaning, and I hope we'll get back to more of it in the future.

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    2. I'm all for gift-giving (though I think an "in" joke is 10 times more connecting), however, "Hallmark" holidays - the "forced" kind are not appealing to either of us. Christmas and birthdays - yes. Valentines, not so much....

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