Healthy Relationships

I don't normally publish posts like this because they are out of my comfort zone and I am also not structured in the way that I write, so this is going to be a bit different...but I was too excited not to share.

Chris and I have noticed that in the time we've been married, a lot of people come to us to talk about relationship stuff. I do not say that with even an ounce of pride, but rather we hope (and assume when people come to us) that people see Jesus in us and in our marriage and if they's all Jesus and not much of us at all--but we play a big part in submitting to him. And it is an honor to get to talk to people we love about love! We cannot claim to have decades of marital experience, and we have been mocked before by older individuals who think we are naive and still rolling along on the waves of newlywed bliss. (Nothing says honeymoon phase like lowering your little baby girl into the ground. Ugh.) This notion is simply not true, and although there is value in years of experience, we are always happy to shed light on why WE love marriage so much right NOW and our CURRENT experience in being married. I can tell you that our love for one another has only grown since exchanging vows, and I believe the reason is because of what I will talk about in this post.
And for a final kicker- I like to tell people that my parents have been married for quite some time and STILL model the type of relationship that I will talk about here.

Those are my disclaimers. Criticize me if you will. (**What I have noticed, is that people who are unhappy in their relationships often like to project their unhappiness upon people who are happy. If it means making young couples feel like idiots for being young, or assuming older happy couples are being will happen one way or another.)

I figured I would share this not because I think it's groundbreaking, but because Chris and I struggled hardcore to find books and teachings on marriage (can be applied to dating too!) that we felt really hit the nail on the least regarding the relationship that we were experiencing together. We sat and listened to terrible advice that didn't seem to apply to us, we read chapters of books that we thought were over the top or over complicated, and we ended up scrapping almost every single "Marital Preparation" book for one single and worthy resource: the Bible. I am NOT knocking all books out there..I'm sure there are plenty of amazing ones that never got recommended to us. But in our experience, when we really got down to what we were looking for...we found all that we wanted to aspire to in our relationship in the pages of scripture.

So, after so many attempts to find something that encapsulates what we have experienced in our relationship and marriage (outside of the Bible)...I was PUMPED to find a super easy to understand and stripped down teaching on marriage that I believe gets it right and really describes what Chris and I have found to be true in marriage. So here it is and I will briefly jot down the components to the "marriage house" and if even one person finds this helpful, my job here is done.

Unconditional Acceptance- This is NOT the unconditional acceptance of any kind of behavior. This is the overarching unconditional acceptance of the desires, dreams, personality, etc. of your partner. It is based upon the idea of FREEDOM to be the person God made you to be. When differences in personality arise, unconditional acceptance on both ends leads to compromise FROM both ends. Unconditional acceptance means both parties are not seeking to control the other, but rather are determined and committed to cultivating freedom in the heart of the other. Danny Silk likes to say "Unconditional acceptance means you are not me and I am not you. You get to be you and I get to be me." [Please understand that if you do not have unconditional acceptance of one another in your relationship, the pillars and roof of the house cannot stand, as this is the foundation of the house. Working on unconditional acceptance is key if it is not already in place.]

1. Love- This love is an intimate and genuine love for one another, a commitment to selflessness, and it should lead to feelings of safety, joy, and encouragement. God is perfect love and perfect love casts out fear. Even though we are NOT perfect and cannot love as perfectly as God, our love that we give to our partner should never lead them to feel anxiety or fear. Love is not always a feeling. Love is an action. If the feelings of love are missing right now..that's okay. Ask yourself how you can show love despite how you feel. If love, as a feeling, IS should also be expressed through your behavior and words.

2. Honor- Honor is often mistaken as the need for one half of the relationship to fully submit or to be controlled, however, honor is not control. Honor also does not equal power for the one being honored. Both individuals should practice honor by being committed to meeting each other's needs and elevating one another in their strengths, talents, desires, and dreams. Honor means privilege, pleasure, pride, and joy in the way that you view your spouse. It is dishonoring to talk about your spouse's weaknesses to peers (even if said in a joking manner.) It is dishonoring to downplay your spouses successes. It is honoring to take pleasure in the things they enjoy in life. To take pride in the work that flows from their hands. Honor seeks to uplift. It's amazing the perspective shifts that occur in thinking about ANY person outside of ourselves when we choose to honor (or elevate) the person's strengths.

3. Self-Control- This is taking full responsibility for your actions and words. I can NEVER blame my spouse for how I am behaving towards them, even if I am behaving this way in response to something they have done. Another way to put it is "If I ever stop showing my love to you for any reason, it is solely my fault." This leads back to unconditional acceptance. Self-control should never be conditional. I choose to handle myself in a particular manner (modeled by God) DESPITE anything you do or say to me.

4. Responsibility- This goes hand in hand with self-control, but is focused on how I handle my ability to carry out what needs to be done. Responsibility should never fall on one member of the relationship. (i.e. it is popular in today's dating culture for girl's to seek out guys who fully lead and pursue in the relationship. This puts so much pressure on the husband [or boyfriend or fiance] to always be making the best and right decisions and to be the one who is always pursuing, when each of these things needs to be committed to on both ends. Guys-yes! Pursue your girl! Girls-pursue your man!) Take responsibility in sharing the load and know that there is not a one size fits all approach to your responsibilities in your relationship.

5. Truth- This one can not be under-emphasized. Honesty is an absolute must. (As a personal aside, Chris and I tell each other literally everything. Everything. Yes-even when it is awkward, uncomfortable, or even if it seems trivial. There is not one issue in any part of my mind or heart that Chris doesn't know truly how I feel about. And because we have established a relationship of honesty and transparency, he could probably predict how I feel about things we've never talked about because we have built such a transparency into our relationship.) Back to honesty: ****if there is fear in sharing our true feelings and thoughts, we need to revisit the foundation of unconditional acceptance. Fear comes as related to honesty when there are issues of control, power, or fear of rejection. If a foundation of unconditional acceptance has been established, honesty should not be hindered by the issues mentioned. 

6. Faith- Faith in something outside of your relationship (aka Faith in God.) We answer to God and we are governed by God as a unit. Faith as a couple does not mean that one person does all of the "answering to God" and then relays the "plan" to the other person. Faith is shared and if God is the master of your marriage (via your individual relationships with him as well as your relationship with God as a family) there should be evidence of it in your life together (i.e. the fruit of the Spirit.)

7. Vision: What are we building towards as a family? What are our goals as a unit? Plan together! This does not mean one person's goals being forced upon the other! Not all of your goals have to be the same, but when our marriages are submitted to God, he has a plan for us as a unit! (Some examples of vision God has given to Chris and I for our marriage are adoption, living in intentional community, missions, and  modest living.)

Lastly, the roof is what sits upon the pillars and creates the shelter. When each pillar is in place, it makes room for a covering of peace, love, and joy in a marriage. This shouldn't be a surprise as these three characteristics are also some of the fruit of the Spirit! We have found that when all of our "pillars" are in place and being payed attention to, peace, love and joy reign in our relationship and household. Again, this has nothing to do with the "honeymoon" stage or even your current life circumstances. We have found that even in the midst of losing our child, peace, love and joy remained with us. Even in the midst of Elsie, these things remain. If we look back on times in our relationship when some of our "roof" was missing, it was most certainly because we were denying aspects of our pillars.

So there you have it! This model was presented by Danny Silk at a relationship conference, and if I can find a link to a book about it I will include it later.

Lastly- if some of your "pillars" need reconstructing, don't forget to stress what you do well together. Maybe honor needs some work but the rest of your pillars are solid. Maybe you have crazy faith as a couple but you struggle to love one another in the ways that you need it (...this reminds me of the love language book which I am a HUGE fan of.) Don't get caught up on a broken pillar. Focus on it and be intentional about repairing it together without tearing down everything else you have built together that is good! And if you have broken pillars and only one of you wants to recognize it or work on it---YOU work on it anyway! Don't break the pillar down further. Do your part and be the example.