Early in Claire and I’s marriage I remember being shocked by how reactive I was to some of the things she did.
For some reason I could not stand when Claire would correct me or offer a different perspective on how to do something. I felt belittled and unapproved of.
Often times defensiveness would surge, angry words would fly out of my mouth, and Claire would end up confused and hurt. My reaction was totally disproportionate to Claire’s intent.
“What the heck was that all about?” I asked myself, often embarrassed by my lack of self- control.
There were some inner forces at work that seemed out of my control. As if there was more at play than just Claire and I’s conversation.
It took sometime, but eventually I came to realize that I have an inner world and that inner world is shaped dramatically by my past.
Let me repeat that, because this is so important.
You have an inner world and,
Your inner world is dramatically shaped by your past.
Realizing this was both freeing and frightening. Frightening, because it shattered my view of my own independence. I liked to think of myself as an independent, autonomous person who was free to be whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted. To admit there were forces affecting my relationship with Claire, and that these felt outside of my control was threatening.
On the other hand, it was immensely helpful. After coming down off of the disillusionment that my family might have had a greater impact on me, for better and for worse, than I originally realized, I was invited to pay attention to these inner forces so that I could understand them and grow in self-control.
An uncomfortably funny image might be helpful to describe what I am getting at here.
In a very real sense there are more people in your relationship than just you and your spouse. It’s as if the ghosts of your parents, grandparents, friends, and ex-boyfriends/ girlfriends are sitting at the table, all offering their own perspective of the situation every time you fight.
I know, I know, scary right? Or it might sound like an average dinner at your parent’s house. Either way, the point is there are more voices in your relationship than you may realize.
For example, if you had a dad that was hyper concerned with cleanliness and order, you might find yourself getting irritated if your partner is more relaxed in their organizational habits. Even though you may not consider yourself a clean freak, when you encounter someone else’s “mess” you may find yourself getting anxious. If this is you, you are not alone.
This can also happen with more serious patterns like alcoholism, abuse, or other types of negative cycles. Long story short, your story matters A LOT. And there is no better place, in my humble opinion, to learn about your story and how it’s shaped you than marriage.
Marriage is not an escape but a mirror. It reveals your tendencies, preferences, weaknesses, and most painfully, your sin.
Don’t resist this process, embrace it. The sooner you embrace it, the more it will actually help your relationship. This is all a part of the two becoming one. Learning how to take all of the beautiful and messy parts of each others history, personalities, and giftings and merge them together to create something totally new.
Marriage isn’t a fresh start; it’s taking the accumulation of a bunch of resources and creating something unique. It’s like any good movie or story. They take their experiences, viewpoints, and personality and use them as resources for creativity. It reminds me of a conversation Claire and I had with a couple that has begun mentoring us recently. We were sitting talking about marriage and they said,
“Every marriage is completely unique. The way both of you process life together and impact the world will not be like anyone before you.”
You and your spouse have been created uniquely by a good Creator, one whose creativity, ingenuity, and innovation cannot be compared with.
The combination of variables that make you you are infinitely hard to figure out. The way you experience life, your likes, dislikes, hopes, personality traits, fears, doubts, and gifting are still not enough to describe you. Now imagine two people, equally unique, coming together to form something new.
How incredible is that? God is indeed making all things new, which includes your relationship.
But let me warn you.
This process is not all rainbows and chic-fil-a salads. There are a lot of areas in our lives that are hard to talk about let alone think about. If kept in the dark, these are the things that will exert the most negative influence on your relationship.
This becoming one business can be utterly painful. But this pain will not be wasted if brought to the light of love, forgiveness, and healing. Claire and I are both a testimony to how God works in the midst of really hard stuff. We cling to the reality that nothing is wasted in God’s hands, not even those damaging experiences that want to disqualify you from love. That is not our God, and that does not have to be your story.
So a quick review of the main thoughts before you leave.
- You have an inner world and that inner world is shaped by your past.
- Your story matters A LOT to how you relate to your partner.
- Marriage is the place where that story surfaces again and again.
- The sooner you embrace it, the more healing you will experience.
- Diving into your past is not for the faint of heart.
- With God, nothing is wasted.
“And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.” (Romans 8:28).
If this work is something you feel ready to dive into more seriously please leave a comment below. We want to resource you with anything that would be helpful for you to experience God’s best in your relationship!