Good news – Jon and I have been declared compatible.
I know everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting for that news. Well, we completed a premarital assessment with my counselor and we are, in fact, compatible. We are in agreement about most things and are working on developing strong communication and good habits to help us navigate the few places that we aren’t already in sync. We obviously still have things to work on, but we are moving in the right direction. Which is absolutely what you want to hear when you are preparing to get married.
The truth is, Jon and I are trying to be intentional about how we grow together. The counselor’s encouragement was to keep doing things intentionally. His caution was that relationships don’t grow by accident – if we want to keep our relationship in a good place, we have to keep doing the necessary work.
The same idea is expressed in the book “Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts” by Les and Leslie Parrott. In this book, they reiterate the idea that marriages last because people work at them. It takes time to adjust to marriage, and the feelings of love wax and wan at times. The commitment to love and honor each other keeps the marriage going.
Honestly, the statistics of divorce are scary. (Side note – did you know that couples who live together prior to marriage are more likely to get divorced? One more reason to date God’s way rather than the world’s). While people cite a variety of reasons for divorce, for Christians, it always has the same root cause – sin (on the part of one or both spouses). Sometimes, one “big” sin brings the marriage crashing down; for my first marriage, that sin was adultery. Sometimes, a series of repeated, unrepentant sins build to the point of divorce – selfishness, pride, poor stewardship, etc. I believe this is why God hates divorce – because, within a Christian context, divorce requires one or both spouses to be in rebellion (sinning). And the ramifications of that sin are incalculable, lasting a lifetime.
Here’s what that means for marriage – a successful marriage isn’t about finding “the one,” as if an elusive soulmate exists out there, who will bring you joy and fulfillment. All the marriage books that I’ve read (and I’m reading A LOT) agree on this point. Joy and fulfillment come through God. A successful marriage takes two people pursuing God and pursuing each other, despite the imperfections they have.
I think what is intimidating about preparing for a second marriage is that – I planned for the first one to go exactly the way I described above. Imperfect people, working together to draw closer to God and each other. Divorce was not on the table. It wasn’t an asterisk at the bottom of the page or a secret “out” in my mind. At all. And, my ex expressed the same commitment. Repeatedly. Right up until he “changed his mind” and decided that he didn’t mean it anymore. This fact causes me such deep insecurity. How do I reconcile the fact that his feelings and therefore his commitment changed? How do I overcome the fears created by him meeting a new person who caused him not to mean his vows anymore?
Jon has his own insecurities and fears in this area. Together, we spend a lot of time talking through our fears and doing our best to reassure the other. (In fact, after he read the first draft of this post, we spent close to 30 minutes talking through these issues. He always starts the conversation with ‘You know, those decisions were not about you,’ and ends with, ‘I love you and will choose to love you every day for the rest of our lives.’)
We read and plan and work to be as ready for the next step as we can be. We are currently working out the best way to hold each other spiritually accountable without making the other person feel judged or condemned in the process. We are working on expressing our thoughts and emotions, even when they are hard to hear. And I’m working on being more assertive (more on that later). Many couples put more effort into planning the wedding than on preparing for marriage: we are doing our best to prepare for a lifetime together.
Ultimately, our success comes down to Jon’s closing line – choosing to love each other. It isn’t about maintaining a certain feeling – feelings are notoriously fickle. It isn’t about studying statistics and percentages. It isn’t even about marrying “the one” right person, or agreeing on 9 out of 10 questions on a survey. The success of our marriage depends on each of us – first, our willingness to submit to God and then our commitment to working on our relationship. Those actions are 100% in our control.