A few months ago, I stumbled across the article, The Transforming Miracle of Marriage, online. It has really stuck with me because it points out how so often people think they want “out of” their marriage, job, or whatever, but what they really may be wanting is just a fresh start because they are so ashamed of what they’ve become.
See, a marriage is made up of two human beings who are going to make mistakes. Some mistakes are bigger than others, but the problems start when one person begins to feel such shame and failure that they decide that the marriage is what is a failure. They think they can’t please the other person, but the truth is, they don’t even like themselves very much.
Marriage can definitely be humbling: having someone there to see you at your best AND at your worst. Just think about the vows most us made at our weddings:
- for better or for worse
- for richer or poorer
- in sickness and in health
I’m convinced that God uses our marriages to help us to become more like Him: giving (even when the other person doesn’t deserve it), patient, forgiving, and strong.
The author in this article says that he thinks that God designed marriage to make us holy, even more than to make us happy.
That reminds me of how Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, says that even though a dog can be a challenge for us, it’s specifically the dog we need because it forces us to develop the character needed to work with it. He doesn’t look at dog training as “fixing” the dog. He looks at how the owner should be the leader finding a way to get what they want from their dog.
Rehabilitating a dog is not about “fixing” it. It’s about you, the owner, creating the intention for what you want, not what you’re feeling. Dogs pick up on feelings of fear, doubt, or worry – and they will move to fill them by attempting to become dominant.
Practice unwavering leadership every day, especially on your walk. The energy you’re projecting internally is the message you’re sending to your dog.
Think of that in relation to people. Do you find yourself always trying to “fix” the other person? Or do you feel like your spouse is always trying to “fix” you? That doesn’t feel good from either side does it?
I like how Cesar gives tips at the end of the article on how to be the leader that your dog needs. Marriage is much more complicated than dog psychology, but perhaps you can see some similarities too:
- Dedicate at least 45 minutes of time to the dog’s walk in the morning. Let the dog know you have a consistent pattern that you expect it to follow. (Consistently spend time with your spouse.)
- Don’t expect more from your dog(s) than your own children. (Don’t expect perfection.)
- Avoid nurturing your dog’s fears or unstable mind. Imagine a successful scenario and hold it in your mind when dealing with your dog. (When your spouse is in a bad funk, try not to fall apart too. Love them unconditionally and talk about things they can look forward too, rather than just their troubles.)
- You are the source of your dog’s energy. You are the role model. (Marriage isn’t always 50/50. People struggle. Sometimes you have to be willing to go 80/20 or even 90/10. Ask God to give you the strength for that when your spouse is weak. Be positive!)
- Challenge the dog’s mind – dogs want to know what to do with their lives. (Dream together. Have fun together. Don’t let daily life grow stale.)
- Dogs need”on” and “off” time. Engage them fully in structured times together; then they can relax and avoid impatient or destructive behaviors. (Find ways that you can work/play together, and then also give them time to just do their own thing. We all have different needs sometimes.)
If you or a friend are struggling in a marriage, I hope you’ll look beyond the circumstances and try to see the primary wounds or emotions that are creating the circumstances. God so desires to heal those wounds. Sometimes things are pretty complicated, and sometimes you can get pretty weary of dealing with the same issues over and over again, but it is so worth it and so much healthier in the long run if you can find a good Christian counselor and really work through things.
As the article says,
Marriage based on life in Christ invites us to divorce the lie—an idealized view of our spouse—and embrace reality—two sinful people sharing strengths, weaknesses, joys, and struggles in lifelong commitment. As the Whiteheads describe it, “The challenge is not to keep on loving the person we thought we were marrying, but to love the person we did marry!”
Yep, that’s where the rubber meets the road. When we see our spouse (or ourself) at our worst and consciously choose to work through our issues, instead of thinking the grass is always greener on the other side.
Does any of this make sense? Did I lose you when I started comparing things to dog psychology? I just know what an impact that article made on me and thought I’d post it here to see if others could relate.
P.S. – Don’t worry. My marriage isn’t falling apart. I just know that Tony has stuck with me through some of my worst times this summer when I know that many others would have jumped ship.