I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted my marriage to look like. I didn’t realize this of course when I was married but rather, down the road when my husband was not meeting my undisclosed requirements for a happy marriage.
Things like sit-down family dinners, who would read the bedtime stories and what movies were appropriate for children were foundational points I assumed everyone felt the same way about. Was that not the typical "American Dream"? Happy, wholesome, "Leave It to Beaver", family-oriented togetherness? I couldn't fathom that seemingly-simple lifestyle would not be as important for someone else as it was for me.
It wasn’t only family activities I had pre-conceived expectations about but also behaviour. I went into marriage with an idea formed of what I believed our partnership would look like. My husband and I would be each other’s best friends, tell each other everything, go on monthly romantic dates and have weekend road trips as a family. We would never ever argue in front of our children. We would work together, not against one another and we would find a way to peacefully blend our differences.
I’ll give you an example of the kind of "blending" I mean.
My aunt and uncle enjoy different hobbies but found a way to blend their interests to still have "togetherness". While he fishes, she sits on their boat and writes. They spend time together without having to do what the other is doing or change who they are. To me, this is a beautiful blend of different interests.
To be totally honest, I don’t know exactly what my husband expected but certainly, he also came into the marriage with preconceived notions of his own. One thing I can assure you of is it was a different idea than what I had!
Culturally-speaking, we are extremely different. In the beginning, I tried so hard to be a good “latin wife" to him but I was left feeling frustrated and honestly, kind of oppressed. Maybe it was my inner feminist but serving him reminded me of my Grandmother’s era and I felt as though I had gone back in time multiple decades. Though I know serving is many women's love language, it wasn't mine. Instead of serving him in love, I served him anger and resentment and it left me feeling bitter about our relationship.
Beyond that, I didn't grow up in a home where "the woman of the house" did all the cooking and cleaning so the expectation that I was to do it all made me want to snort, sputter, spit out my drink and say, "WHAT?!". And suddenly, there it was...
"I don’t feel like I can be the kind of wife you wanted me to be… and I don’t think you can be the kind of husband I wanted you to be."
It was a moment of choice. Do I give up on the dream of the partnership I wanted? But before I could make a decision, I had to mourn the loss of the dream.
- The marriages I admired and wanted for myself, I had to mourn.
- The picture of what my family would look like, I had to mourn.
- The way I wanted my children raised, I had to mourn.
This must be why they say pre-marital counselling is so important! If we can let go of our preconceived expectations before the problems arise it gives us an opportunity to make new expectations- together.
In my marriage, we have blended cultures, blended children, blended hobbies, blended expectations and even, blended faith. I would say pretty confidently that absolutely nothing fundamental has fit easily, even when we thought it would!
Two boys almost the same age?
"They're going to be best friends! Okay, wait.... they're not best friends... what's that they're fighting about? Did someone say something about killing someone? Are they fist fighting now?! Oh my goodness, is that BLOOD?! EVERYONE STOP SCREAMING!!!!!".
On each of these areas, my husband and I have needed to find common ground. If we couldn't find that common ground, the issue was left in limbo. Why? Because we were both protecting our own dream and expectations.
Often, it comes down to, "Who does this issue matter more to? If you’ve dug in your heels about something but you know, in the long run, there are other things that matter more to you, it might be worth relaxing a bit. Let go of the dream and know that God is still working in your situation.
“And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”
I know it isn’t easy.
I was, and sometimes still am, sad about the loss of the dream of "partnership" I had for marriage. Never mind the addiction for a moment, I’m talking beyond the addiction. There is a marriage beyond the addiction, you know.
Click to Tweet: I was, and sometimes still am, sad about the loss of the dream of "partnership" I had for marriage. Never mind the addiction for a moment, I’m talking beyond the addiction. There is a marriage beyond the addiction, you know.
There can be no true partnership while active addiction is happening, that's the time we mourn but when our loved ones go into long-term recovery, a whole new set of problems arises. Much more "normal" problems but problems nonetheless. Things we didn’t have time to focus on beforehand because the addiction was so consuming.
Do not be afraid of these things, it's a good thing. A sign the tide is changing. A new season is coming. You've turned a corner, You're off the detour and back on the hi-way of marriage.
But as you well know, your marriage may not ever look like a “normal” marriage. As much as that can hurt, it isn’t always a bad thing. You can have an abnormal marriage and still have a great relationship!
Yes, this experience can truly make your future, healed relationship stronger. My husband said something to me recently about how he has a connection to me that he would never be able to have with any other woman because of what we've been through together. Do you know how special that made me feel? How secure? In that moment, every difficult day I swallowed my feelings to do what was "right" and forgive him, felt worth every painful second.
Not to mention that most greatness has been birthed from adversity and abnormal beginnings. The great writers, painters, philosophers, chemists, biologists, sports figures- do you think their lives were a picture of “perfectly normal”? How about simply “perfect”? No, they were abnormally great. Fighting for their position in our world’s story. Vision-changers. Rule-breakers. Innovators. Determined. Gritty. Defied the odds and beat the statistics.
“Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong.”
You know who else defied the statistics and beat the odds? Jesus.
What helped me to get through the grief was to take my focus off the partnership I wanted to have with my husband and focus on the partnership I wanted to have with Jesus.
What do you want that relationship to look like? It's safe to expect great things from your relationship with the Lord. He will blow the preconceived expectations you had for your relationship with Him out of the water (in a good way, of course). And when you walk with a world-changer, your world will inevitably change.
We may not have dinner together as a family every night as I had hoped we would when I first was married but my nine-year-old son now tells me that Jesus sits at the table in his Papi's seat and keeps it warm until he gets there.
In an instant, with one small word of faith from my son, any grief I felt for the expectations I had is replaced with fullness, awe and pride- and a new dream is born. One where I raise this amazing, Jesus-loving, Godly boy who will grow up to make the heart of a woman full. He will love her in such a way that she doesn't feel grieved by her husband because he is her partner. He always comes home for dinner because when he was growing up, he ate dinner every night with a family: Mom, brother and Jesus.
And in a funny way, my husband's addiction was where that seed of faith was rooted. An experience that the enemy tried to use to destroy my family, God used to bring us closer to both Him and one another. I have a son who knows that his Papi always has a seat at our table and when his earthly father is absent, his heavenly one is always present.
What a gift that is!
So when you're mourning your dream of partnership, know first that it is okay to cry. It's alright to be sad about where things are at in your life! But please don't lose hope that God can turn a tough situation into something good or make it even better than you had once expectantly dreamed.