Every marriage desires more. A solid marriage desires greater depths and higher heights. A crumbling marriage seeks to recapture what was lost. No marriage wants to just move past problems. They want to move into the promise that stirred its beginning.
The marriage you desire is FUN. In it, each person experiences what it means to be:
- Free: You are loved for who you are, as you are, to become all you are.
- United: You are loved with unbridled passion without fear of separation or failure.
- New: You are loved through life’s changes and together you change life.
You can feel this. You know instinctively it is true. Marriage isn’t an institution to live up to, it’s a relationship to live into. Marriage doesn’t come with a blueprint to erect but with a design to experience. And that design is for each person to know with their partner what it means to be free, united and new.
Adam and Eve had a pretty famous marriage. It was an arranged marriage. Can you imagine if they tried to find each other through an online dating service? “Your search has returned 1 of 1 match.” Adam had the easiest pick-up line ever: “Ta-dah!” Their first date had no dress code and consisted of spare ribs for dinner followed by a duet of It Had To Be You.
God breathed into Adam the breath of life. Breath means you have a future to realize. You do not lose your best self in marriage. On the contrary, you are joined by a partner who refuses to see you held back and whose love is driven to surface your best. You and your partner are free.
Adam and Eve became one flesh. One pictures what is knit together and distinct. You are no longer two people others know, you are a couple. People don’t’ think of one without the other. There is another with whom you share a new identity.
Adam described their identity as “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” As one, you experience physical and emotional bonding. To be free does not mean self-sufficient. You are created to be connected. You are intended to depend on each other for physical need and emotional health. You are united.
God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to fill the earth. To fill means to furnish. Together you furnish what would not otherwise be. You are made new and you make new.
This is the marriage you desire. Each contending for your mate’s true self, you are irresistible to the other and inseparable. No matter what life brings, you shape it to the fullness for which your marriage is designed. And the world is better because of it.
When Marriage Is Not FUN
How does amazing love turn into abandoned love? How does passion pale? How are two in love lonely?
Adam and Eve began their relationship naked and unashamed. Then they turned away from God and tried to make sense of life on their own. They failed. Afterwards, God walked in the garden and asked, “Where are you?” That was a very sad day. For the first time in human history, distance was felt. One became several.
Adam and Eve were afraid. As a result, they hid. Then they covered their bodies. They were no longer naked and unashamed. Their relationship fractured.
Fear rooted in shame causes separation.
Shame is a distorted conviction of your worth, belonging and competence. It is the belief that you are deeply flawed: unworthy, unacceptable and unable. You believe it is only a matter of time until you will be found out and judged.
Fear is both immediate and underlying. We can be frightened in a moment. We can dread something over time. We fear the real and the imagined, the known and the unknown. At the heart of fear is concern for our well-being. We fear that people will not value us. We dread rejection. We cringe at failure.
Hiding and covering is the behavior of fear rooted in shame. To protect our well-being, we hide from people what could cause them to punish us or leave us. We cover our own insecurity in disguises of criticism and control.
Fear and shame is a vicious cycle. Our fear of disconnection and our shame in disappointment energize the cycle until, if unchecked, it spins out of control.
The problem is we enter marriage with ideals and images. They have been formed as we watched other marriages build or fall apart. They have been informed by what we have heard or read. Marriage then becomes an entity in itself that we try to realize or perfect. It comes with rules and principles. Now my worth, belonging and competence is measured by a standard or a model. My performance is on the line. Marriage becomes something I must live up to. In this, it does nothing but feed fear and shame.
But marriage isn’t an institution to live up to, it’s a relationship to live into.
In marriage, you will disagree. You will have different preferences. Your interests will not always sync. Words will be spoken you wish you could take back. Bad attitudes will need correction. Someone will do something stupid. Grumpy will wake up. Nothing in your marriage – family, finances, friendships, faith or sex – will always be the way you want. And none of them will be the core issue at the heart of any problem. Your real problem will not be a poor financial plan or conflict in communication or boredom in the bedroom.
The core issues are:
- Is someone’s sense of worth being validated or threatened? Does a person feel free and able to thrive or do they feel bound?
- Is someone’s sense of belonging being strengthened or challenged? Do they feel united or do they feel pushed away?
- Is someone’s sense of competence being promoted or diminished? Do they feel new and limitless or do they feel stuck?
At the heart of every FUN marriage is deep friendship. “This is my lover, this is my friend” declares the Beloved in the Song of Songs. As friends, we guard and encourage each other’s worth, belonging and competence.
When Adam was alone, God said it was not good. We think of alone as by his self, but there is a deeper meaning to the word alone.
God made for Adam a helper, Eve. The word helper is used elsewhere to describe God. It captures his activity to rescue and be victorious. It is not a word that means subordinate or inferior. Hebrew had four other words for helper and each of them denote subordination. None of those words are used in the account of Adam and Eve.
A helper is an agent of God in the life of another. To be alone means you are not in a relationship in which God is using a person to help you. You can surround yourself with people and still be alone if none of them are contending with you to overcome fear and shame. God wants to deliver everyone from fear and shame. He did so in Jesus. He continues to do so through people.
Marriage is the relationship in which fear and shame is defeated and worth, belonging and competence is promoted.
Marriage is not defined by roles and rules, commitment and covenant, communication and compromise. I didn’t marry a covenant, I married a person. I didn’t marry a commitment, I married a partner. I don’t fulfill a role but I do love a unique individual with different needs at different times. Compromise does not define selfless. My communication isn’t about understanding or being understood, it’s about affirming, accepting and advocating for this person I am crazy in love with and hope that when I breathe my last I do so lying next to them.
In this crazy love, I am committed and make covenant. I give and I take. I assume roles and adopt helpful rules. I do communicate. But marriage isn’t about that. Those dynamics serve my marriage, they don’t define my marriage.
Marriage is a relationship you live into because love is focused on a person. It is consumed with that person. You serve that person, not because of some standard you’re trying to meet but because someone whose best interest compels you. Anything short of that isn’t love; it’s law. And you can live a lot of law and never know love.
Your marriage was made for amazing love. Let’s make it FUN!