Preface: This is part one of two posts regarding oneness in marriage. This first post hits on a few things that can be very divisive and hinder the process of two becoming one (which is about far more than just physical intimacy). The next post will focus more on finances and how proper management of finances within marriage can build unity while improper management will divide and destroy. I am obviously no expert. Make no mistake, I mess up on a regular basis, but I’m determined to continue to learn and grow in this area, and with that, I am also determined to share what I’m learning.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
There should be no other relationship, outside of our relationship with Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit, that as is close and as intimate as our relationship with our spouse. We aren’t just a partnership or a team. We enter into a covenant relationship (an oath that establishes a lifelong binding relationship) with our spouse and with God when we get married. We leave our family of origin and we cleave to one another. Every other earthly relationship and thing moves into second place (or third or fourth as the case may be), and we are literally two joined together as one.
Yet, it seems more and more often, I see couples entering into marriage wanting to maintain their independence and some degree of separation. Sometimes it’s unintentional, and they just don’t know quite how marriage and the transition into married life should look. But more often than not, they are intentionally setting out to maintain a state of independence within the marriage relationship. It’s as if they’re always hedging . . . just in case the whole marriage thing doesn’t work, they want to be able to move on with as little collateral damage as possible. Here’s the thing, it shouldn’t be easy to move on from a marriage. It shouldn’t be something constantly sitting on the shelf as a possible option one day in the future . . . you know . . . just in case. If it is, then you’ve already failed. If you’re not all in, then I’ll go so far as to say, you’re not in at all.
The further I get into my own marriage, the more I learn about the effort and intention it takes to have a great marriage, and it does take effort and intentionality and hard work. But it’s worth it. I’ve recently had a few conversations regarding marriage and independence and what it means to “become one” as well the downfalls of maintaining independence within marriage. There are a number of ways this drive to maintain independence in marriage can play out. There is no way I can cover all of them so I am going to hit on just a few lessons I’ve either learned personally or by watching others navigate certain boundaries and even mistakes they have made (it’s always beneficial to learn from the mistakes of others y’all). Anything, no matter good it may seem, that hinders the growing together of two separate individuals within the marriage relationship needs to be looked at and evaluated and at the very least, reworked because ultimately that is the goal, two becoming one. And make no mistake, it is both an instantaneous and life long process . . . the process becoming one.
Perhaps it’s allowing other family members (your parents, your siblings, or even your kids) to occupy the place in your heart and in your life meant only for your spouse. This can be a huge struggle for young married women in particular. I know it was for me. While my parents, thankfully, understood the importance of encouraging independence in marriage, we literally lived next door to my family which, make no mistake, was a huge blessing in so many ways, but I (not my parents . . . I) struggled with pulling back from the constant family life in those early years. It can be immensely hard in those early days of marriage to adjust and set appropriate boundaries with extended family. We love our parents, siblings, grandparents, and so on . . . as we should. We honor and respect our parents in a Godly and biblical way, but once you are married your mama and your daddy (or grandma and grandpa . . . whomever fills that role for you) are no longer in first place behind Jesus. They get moved down the line. It’s not that you cease to love, honor, and respect them (do not hear me wrong . . . they are an integral part of our lives), but you are no longer subject to or supposed to be in obedience to them. Sometimes you’re going to have to say “no”. Sometimes you’re going to make decisions and choices they don’t like. Regardless of how they feel (unless they are financially involved . . . more on that in the next post), they should respect your decisions as a married couple and should never dictate to you what your married life is to look like nor should they should take precedence over your spouse. And ultimately the intimate details and decisions of your married life are between you and your spouse and God. You should not be sharing intimate details of your life with your parents, siblings, etc. that you aren’t sharing with your spouse first and then only share with their permission.
Continuing in the same vein but extending outward a bit, perhaps it’s desiring to maintain friendships and relationships in a way that is unhealthy for your marriage . . . unpopular opinion: be very careful with friendships with those of the opposite sex especially if your spouse is not, at the very least, an equally close friend of that person, and even if the friendship is a shared one, always do whatever you can to maintain appropriate and proper boundaries. . . like I said . . . unpopular opinion . . . your best girlfriend or guy friend is not more important than your spouse. They should not be privy to the intimate details of your marriage nor are they a sounding board . . . i.e. there to listen to all your griping and ranting and raving . . . for all your marital issues.
If you are having issues or struggles in marriage you need to seek objective, Godly counsel from someone who has a stable marriage that has been doing this a minute (or two) longer and will encourage you and give you wise and objective and most importantly, Godly advice regarding your relationship with your spouse. Your mama, your sister, your BFF . . . they love you dearly, but they are not objective . . . going to them with your marital conflicts will only hinder and not help the issues.
And then there are work and hobbies and social and church events that can all too easily interfere with time that should be given to your spouse. All of it good and necessary in our lives. But if it’s creating a wedge in your marriage, you need to take a pause. We live in a workaholic society that does not know how to set boundaries between work and family life. Likewise we often idolize our social calendars, our girls’ and guys’ nights out (which are fine in moderation), sports and school events, even church activities and ministry, while placing our marriage on the backburner. We put far more effort into work and social relationships than we put into our marriage relationship. We are constantly connected via email and text and social media, and we need to be able to put all of that down and aside and focus solely on our spouse for a period of time every single day.
I’ll add this, if every activity . . . vacation . . . date night . . . involves family and friends . . . if you cannot do fun things with just the two of you without other people there to be a buffer or to help keep the fun and conversation lively and flowing . . . you need to take a step back and evaluate why that is. You need to work on that. You should value and covet time with just the two of you, not just at home (if you happen to currently live alone) but also in doing things together that build a bond and a relationship. Another lesson learned from watching others, is that of seeing “empty nesters” that are at a loss when their homes are no longer full of children and all the activities that go with raising children. They don’t know how to be together without constantly having kids and family and friends around because they didn’t build that bond over the years. And it’s so easy to see how that happens. Kids are demanding, and as Jimmy Evans* so often says, “They just want to possess your soul,” and they will suck the life out of your marriage if allowed to. Your children are not, nor should they be, number one in your marriage. Likewise, extended family, friends, church, work, and all the other wonderful things in life can and will dominate your time and marriage if allowed. And believe me, even the best and good things in this world will divide you if you aren’t intentional in maintaining oneness.
Having said all that, and I know, I’ve said a lot, one of the most divisive areas in a lot of marriages is the area of finances. So many couples want to divide and separate rather than consolidate and share when it comes to money, and this specific thing has been the main topic of recent conversations with a couple other married couples.
As soon as we were married both of our names went on all of our bank accounts. There was no division of money. We have, at various points in our marriage, traded places on who is bringing in more income (not necessarily who is doing more work and side note: I bring in zero income now because I do not work outside the home), but the second that money hits our bank accounts, it doesn’t matter who earned it, it’s both of ours. There is so much to say and cover on the topic of finances that I’ve decided to create a completely different post regarding that topic, but I also, felt it was important to briefly touch on it here.
The motto in marriage should never be yours, mine, and ours. If it is you’re going to find yourself struggling more often than not. Instead you should always be working toward oneness and living continually by the motto what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine in every area of marriage.
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