Before I got married, I was the marriage expert. Seriously, just ask my mom. I knew all there was to know about marriage and how married people should treat each other. Even though my head knew that marriage was a lot of hard work, my inexperienced self really thought that many people could do a lot better – they just weren’t trying hard enough to make their union work.
Some of my assumptions may have been true, but my “I get it, why don’t they…” attitude was a set up for future humbling. Let’s just say my mother was not always excited to hear my take on how she related to my dad. From time to time, I was reminded that I’d never been married. Once I did get married, it only took me a few weeks to realize that I did not have it all figured out.
Marriage is hard work, but not only that – everyone’s marriage is a little different. Personalities interact differently with each other. Some marriages struggle with stubbornness, some struggle with communication, and some struggle to find common interests. It may be true that a lot of us could do better in our marriages, but the safest bet for you is to focus your attention on your future marriage and not on the shortcomings of other relationships.
I’m not sure if God was laughing when he paired Eric and me up, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if He was. We are almost complete opposites. He likes variety; I could eat the same meal every night for a week. He likes to lead; I like to follow (which, actually, that works pretty well). He likes theories and I like facts. I like movies; he likes games. I am a North Carolina girl; he’s a California boy. We are just two completely different people. So let the humbling begin!
Learning to live with someone completely different than my dad, and most of the men I knew, was more than a little challenging. Most of my preconceived theories about life and love were left at the curb for trash day.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how I made fun of a teacher who wore a lighthouse jacket year round, and then later I ended up marrying a guy who wears a jacket year round. The theme I have seen running through my life is this – when I am critical of people, it comes back to bite me. This is not just something I have noticed in my own life, but in others’ lives as well.
There are people who make comments about how other people’s children behave – only to later have a child of their own that misbehaves even more. Some people get annoyed and roll their eyes at others for being late – only to struggle with punctuality themselves later on in their lives. America is full of people who grew up making fun of the fat kid – only to end up fat themselves and/or with fat children.
We can’t fully know what’s going on in someone’s heart and relationship. We can only know what we observe and what we are told. If we allow ourselves to think, “At least my relationship is better than theirs…,” we need to look out. What seems to separate judging from heartfelt concern is spirit. If we approach someone’s shortcomings in a haughty spirit, we are asking for trouble.The Bible warns against this in Matthew 7:1-6. That passages starts out with, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (ESV). If we are concerned about sin we see in someone’s life and relationship, we can privately address it with the individual, but in a loving spirit, with grace, and an understanding that it is only by the grace of God that we are not in the same situation. (Galatians 6:1-2)
This lesson hit me hard recently when I found myself intensely angry at someone in my life that walked out on his family. Though I didn’t understand the situation from the inside out, I used phrases such as, “How could he?!?” and “I would never…” when I talked about the situation. Sometimes I’d talk about it until I cried.
After listening to my seething anger several times, my mom admonished me to be careful of how I was judging him because someday I could have a son make the same mistake. That hit me like a ton of bricks. My careless judgments of his actions may not come back into my own marriage, but into the lives of my children. Considering how hurt I would be if someone judged my children the way I was judging him was a wakeup call. By the grace of God, I will pray for those who make hurtful decisions and ask God for their reconciliation to Him – and to their spouses.
As you look towards your future marriage, notice when you find yourself judging someone else’s relationship or marriage. Maybe you are hard on your parents or siblings for how they treat their spouses. Maybe you have friends you think could use some of your expertise. My advice is to pray for them to grow and learn to be better spouses and to focus your energies on being the best spouse you can be when the time comes. If the opportunity does present itself to talk to someone about problems in his or her marriage, approach the conversation with a humble spirit.
Do you find yourself judging others’ relationships or comparing them to yours?