True Love Is Not What We Thought!

To commemorate 20 great years since I married my college sweetheart, I took some time this week to think through some of lessons that I’ve learnt about marriage. The biggest one is that the pathway to love is not what we thought it was! Let me explain…

 attractedTwenty plus years ago, like any typical dating couple, we did some rather unconventional things! Have you ever seen a guy outside a dress shop carrying a ladies handbag as the girl he loves looks at and even tries out different outfits? That was me. Little did she know then that I hate window-shopping! She was no different; she sat with my friends and watched the rugby games I played in. Little did I know that watching sports was not on her top one hundred favorite things!

 A big complaint in marriages today is that people no longer feel the same way about each other as they did when dating. Or do the same things. Somehow, they figure, the love must have run out along the way.

 The problem however is in our definition of love. If you ask people what love is, you’ll get definitions that have to do with feelings – like ‘love is holding her hand and feeling your heart skip a beat’, or ‘love is gazing tenderly into his eyes’. Or as one person put it, ‘love is a feeling you feel when you feel that your are about to feel a feeling that you’ve never felt before’!

christmas4But the bible’s definition is radically different! As 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous ‘love chapter’) says ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’

 Have you noticed none of these things are ‘fun’ or ‘romantic’? Love is a dramatic action of giving despite my feelings. And the only way I can offer such unconditional love is because I have experienced the same love from my heavenly Father!

 true intimacyThe interesting thing is that as we begin to embrace God’s definition of love – something begins to happen in our marriage. We stop trying to turn the other person into something they’re not. We accept them as flawed people who have been loved by God. And they accept us too in the same way. And true love begins to flourish, in the only atmosphere it can – one of kindness, forgiveness and acceptance.

So… you need to determine even before you begin the journey together that divorce is not an option. I like a bumper sticker I saw once that read, ‘be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet!’ Don’t be fooled; every marriage faces problems. But the paradox is that it’s only as we allow God to use us to bless the other person regardless of how we feel, that we eventually find fulfillment, joint purpose and true intimacy with our partner.

Okay, I need to say this…

I truly love you Carol. You are my lover, helpmate, partner, fellow dreamer, co-creator, mother of our lovely children and purpose companion. The last twenty years have been more than incredible and I’m amazed at God’s genius in giving me you. May the next 20 be even more awesome! Also, I hid this little nugget deep in the post to see if you’d read it till the end 🙂

Where was I? Oh yes, we’ve even written a couple of books together based on the lessons we’ve learnt in our relationship and marriage! ‘Ndoa’ is a ten-week course for couples preparing for marriage, or for already marrieds who want to strengthen their foundation. ‘Finders Keepers’ helps you figure out how to find and keep the love of a lifetime. You can get any of these from the bookstore at any of the Mavuno campuses.

True love was not what we thought it was; it turned out to be much harder but ultimately much sweeter. God bless!

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Remaking History

‘I had no idea when we got married that he would turn out to be abusive!’

crying womanJanice held her head in her hands as she sobbed. Her story was one I’d heard many times before. She had sworn she would never end up in the same situation as her mother – married to a physically and emotionally abusive man. When she met Jack soon after college, he was so attentive and caring, the complete opposite of her father. The first time he had hit her was several months into their marriage, and then he had apologized profusely and sworn never to do it again. But now, 4 years in, she was terrified of her husband and feared that the baby that she carried in her womb would become exactly like her.

Why does history repeat itself in relationships?

The reason is that people tend to attract people at the same level of emotional maturity as they are. It’s common to fantasize that when you finally meet Mr or Ms Right, they will fix you or make you a better person. But the reality is that a relationship only compounds the state it found you in! If you are lonely, you’ll attract another lonely person and each of you will demand that the other provide the companionship that they’re incapable of giving (that’s why they got married to you in the first place!)

attractedPut another way, you don’t attract what you want; you attract who you are! Clingy, desperate women tend to attract uncaring, insensitive men – and vice versa. The reason it’s not always obvious at first is that unhealthy people attract people with complimentary dysfunctions. For example, people with addictions tend to be (unconsciously) attracted to people who are co-dependent; saviors types who have a need to be needed. Unfortunately, your partner will not only not be able to help you, but they may actually oppose your healing because your remaining as you are meets their need!

The result? Two very dependent people, each working hard to ensure that their partner never changes because then their need might then not be met! This is like two patients with no doctor. Or two ticks with no dog. I know, that’s gross. Point I’m making is that you don’t want to end up there!

thinkingIf you don’t take time now to deal with issues from your past, they will only reappear in your relationships at a compounded level. If you don’t resolve that issue with your mom, deal with that rivalry with your sibling, or sort out that lack of trust that you have for others, it will only reappear ten times bigger in your marriage. It doesn’t matter what qualities you put on your list; you will only attract people like you. Only a whole person can attract another whole person!

The best thing you can do for yourself and for your spouse (present or future) this ‘month of love’ is commit to do whatever it takes this year to become the spiritually and emotionally whole person that God created you to be. History does not have to repeat itself!

18 Marriage Lessons…

To commemorate the 18 great years since I married my college sweetheart, I took some time to think through 18 lessons that I’ve learnt about marriage in that time. Please vote for your top 3 and I promise to expound on them in a blog post soon! So… here goes…

  1. A great marriage consists of two good friends – everything else is hype
  2. A cord of three strands is not easily broken
  3. If one of us wins, we both lose
  4. You’ll never meet all your spouses needs!
  5. Marriage takes mutual sacrifice
  6. Divorce is not an option
  7. Our marriage is the means to an end
  8. We need a common approach to parenting
  9. We need a common approach to in-laws
  10. Takes a lot of time to get it right!
  11. If you can’t lend trust, don’t get married!
  12. Opposites attract! And soon attack 🙂
  13. These are the ‘good old days’
  14. If the grass is greener on the other side, water yours!
  15. Don’t be a ‘child centered’ marriage
  16. Absence makes the heart go wander
  17. Parenting is a team sport
  18. Schedule spontaneity!

So… voting lines are open 🙂 Please let me know which three you’d like to hear more about!

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Thanks to all who voted! Will let you know soon which the three winners were. Watch this space!

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AND THE WINNERS ARE…

#4 – You’ll never meet all your spouses needs!

#7 – Our marriage is the means to an end

#1 – A great marriage consists of two good friends – everything else is hype

The people have spoken 🙂

The Ressurection Of Healthy Dating…

Here are a couple of charts on the progress of a dating relationship. The first shows what many relationships today look like. The second shows what they could look like if some radical couples dared to defy the madness and swim against the culture. Do you hope to enter a dating relationship, are you in one already or do you know some people who may need your wisdom and advise one of these days? Then read on!

Continue reading

Dating Books

I mentioned a couple of books by Joshua Harris this past weekend during the ‘Buyer’s Remorse’ sermon, which was part 3 of the Finder’s Keeper’s series. You can watch the video here or join the conversation

Tired of the madness that dating has become today? Wanting to avoid the mistakes that so many around you have made? Wondering if there’s a better way? Harris in ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ shares his real-life story of giving up on dating and focusing on being the one.

Same author, different context. So you’ve found a person you’re attracted to and want to take the next step. Harris makes the case for courtship, an approach as different from modern-day dating as day is to night. He shares his own story as well as that of others who’ve taken this counter-cultural approach, to show you that yes, it is possible! The appendix includes ‘8 Great Courtship Conversations’. As in people today have so forgotten how to have a real conversation! You’ll enjoy this one.

Read any good dating books that you can recommend to people hoping to one day meet the one, or people who are already in a dating relationship? Please leave a comment!

Excerpts From ‘Be The One’

Here are some excerpts from this past weekend’s message at Mavuno Church, ‘Be The One’. You can join the conversation at www.mavuno.wordpress.com. And you’re welcome to join us for part two of the ‘Finders Keepers’ series this next weekend!

  • Whether conscious or unconscious, we all come to relationships with a list of expectations.
  • There’s a big problem with our mate selection criteria today.
  • Sometimes the bible has more drama than a Mexican soap-opera!
  • Humans perform differently under test conditions than they do in real life.
  • If you operate by that external focus, then your only choice once you finally meet the person of your dreams is manipulation.
  • Looking for a Mr/Ms Right to satisfy your needs is transfering the responsibility for our joy/significance/happiness/self esteem to another person. But this is a burden we should never assign to another human being because they’re bound to disappoint!
  • Stop the insanity! Shift your focus! It’s only when we turn to God that He helps us to become the person we were meant to be.
  • Clingy, desperate women tend to attract uncaring, insensitive men… and vice versa!
  • Like attracts like. A relationship only compounds the state it found you in! Lose the list, you are your own best list… you’ll only attract people who are like you.
  • Unhealthy people attract other unhealthy people, with complimentary dysfunctions.
  • Stop searching for the One, be the One.
  • Only a whole person can attract another whole person.