Do you ever think, “How did I get myself into this?” Or, do you ever wonder, “What was I thinking when I made that decision?” Sure, we can all relate to that. Even the most careful and efficient among us experience moments of confusion and regret. That is a part of life and those moments show up strongly in our relationships.
Most likely, at this point in your relationship, you are happy – at least for the most part. You are getting to know each other. Maybe you are seriously considering engagement and fighting back the fluttering butterflies in your stomach.
What will she say when I ask? I hope I propose well!
When is he going to ask? I wonder how he will ask?!
Maybe you are even further along the pathway of love, staring marriage in the face.
The ring is on her finger. The venue is booked. The dress is in alterations. We are close to the finish line.
If you are reading this, whether you are dating or engaged, you are likely having fun, excited about the future, and ready to see what life will bring you. I remember being where you are. It is a lot of fun. It is a time to be treasured. It is a time to document. It is a time to burn into your mind for the future.
You may not realize it, but your mind will often return to this time in your life. In the Trace Adkin’s song, You’re Gonna Miss This, Trace tells the story of a young girl who could not wait to make it to the next phase in life. All the wise, older people in her life assured her that she would miss the stage of life she was in at the time. Nevertheless, she pushed forward, convinced that her discontented heart would be at peace once she obtained everything she thought she wanted. You may feel desperate to move to the next stage in your relationship because the world seems so much brighter over there.
Once we are engaged, we will be able to start planning our future and our families will take us more seriously!
Once we are married, we can live together, never have to say goodnight, and enjoy building traditions and memories with our own children.
And, it might be. The next stage of your life might be far happier than the stage you are in right now. In fact, you might be jubilant! Then again, the next year or so may hold several stressors and trials. Whether it is within the next year or over the course of ten years, you are bound to endure many seasons of happiness followed by struggles; that is the story of our lives: mountains and valleys. To get to the top, we must sweat, cry, and climb until every muscle in our bodies ache; but, it is worth it when we reach the top. Then, we walk into another valley and the process repeats itself.
God, Did I Really Hear from You?
More than once in our last fourteen years, Eric and I reached points in our marriage when we wondered if we had made a mistake in marrying each other.
Maybe I just thought God led us together. Maybe I just wanted it and tricked myself into believing He was opening doors and guiding us.
Those instances are a bit scary, especially the first time such thoughts cross your mind. So, I want to go ahead and let you know that you will have times in your marriage when you will wonder, “Have I made a huge mistake?!” And, your future spouse will ask the same question. I want you to realize those days are coming for two reasons: first, I want you to avoid panicking when you question your path in life. It happens to almost all of us and it is normal. Second, I want you to do what I wish I had done from the beginning. Combat those thoughts and questions with tangible reminders of why you chose to love this person in the first place.
Create a Memory Box
Go with me in your mind for a few moments. It is 11 pm. You and your young husband (or wife) have just had a serious argument. When there is nothing more to be said, your spouse speeds out of the driveway leaving you alone – angry, confused, and possibly in tears. At that moment you will be tempted.
Tempted to curse his or her name.
Tempted to throw up obscene gestures as he or she drives away.
Tempted to call your girlfriends, buddies, or parents and talk about what a piece of trash you married.
Tempted to mentally go back in time and dream about how good your life used to be.
Tempted to let your marriage slip away or push it off a cliff!
However, instead of screaming obscenities or calling your friendly neighborhood divorce attorney, you walk over to your bed, bend down, and pull out a large box full of memories. At the top are pictures from your latest vacation. Underneath is a boarding pass from last year when you flew to your best friend’s wedding and danced for hours. As you dig further, you find love letters you wrote to each other when you were apart that summer in college. You know, the summer you realized you were in love.
Napkins from your reception.
Pedals from your wedding flowers.
A bottle of shampoo from your honeymoon suite.
The Cracker Jack ring from when you pretended to propose after your third date.
The thank you note you left when your partner stayed up all night helping you write a paper.
The card from a special, just because, bouquet of roses that says, “Thank you for being you.”
As you hold the box in your lap and relive the memories, the anger starts to fade. Thoughts of ending your marriage or causing irreversible damage to his or her heart drift to thoughts of appreciation and reconciliation. Your memory box combated your temporary emotions by reminding you why you love your spouse and how much good you have between you.
Add Your Couple’s Creed
If you go to a craft store right now, you can find a large, decorative box to fit decades’ worth of mementos. If you do not already have a memory box, why not buy one and give it to your relationship (perhaps for Christmas!). When you present it to your special someone, have a few items already inside. As special occasions (or, ordinary fun days) come along, place a memory in the box and watch the contents grow. Along with the flowers, letters, and pictures, add a copy of your Couple’s Creed each time you revise it – and be sure to put the date on it.
Without physical reminders, our minds have a way of allowing memories to fade. Special moments in my life, such as the day I got my driver’s license, graduated high school, and got married, are not as clear in my mind as I expected them to be. “I don’t need to journal about this. I’ll remember it. How could I forget such a special day?!” But, you will. Newer life events will battle for space in your mind and you will find yourself searching for even trace memories of special vacations and dates. Memory boxes cannot capture every memory, but they can capture important feelings. They can capture the essence of a moment and the excitement of a season.
In ten – twenty – thirty years, you will be thankful to have a treasure trove of memories to bring you back to defining moments in your relationship and marriage. The smell of the perfume worn during your first dates. The song you were listening to during your first kiss. Save those moments. As precious as they are to you when they happen, they will be even more precious and meaningful in fifty years.
As you recover from all the Thanksgiving meals and start preparing for Christmas, consider starting your marriage off with a cradle for your special moments. Then later, when your heart is broken and you wonder if there is any hope or reason to stay together, you can pull it out and remember…
“Yes, I love him.” – “Yes, I love her.” – “Yes, we can do this.”
What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Mark 10:9, ESV)
What will you put in your memory box?