When I got married, I thought I knew my husband inside and out. I very quickly learned I was wrong, and it only took the honeymoon to figure out happily ever after might not exist.
The year was 2002. We were heading to Florida for our honeymoon. Bring on the beach, umbrella drinks, and a week of doing nothing, I thought. Well, not nothing. It was my honeymoon, after all.
So you can only imagine my complete shock when we didn’t pull up to a resort but to a place called Billie’s Swamp Safari.
What the hell is this? Does my new husband even know me? Seriously, who goes to a swamp on their honeymoon? While riding an airboat searching for alligators, I knew my marriage was already in trouble.
How can I already have doubts about our marriage when it’s only days old? Because I didn’t just marry Doug. I had to understand that behind Doug, there is his family. His family has a heritage that is responsible for molding him into the person I married. One that is completely different from my family heritage, btw.
The differences in our family backgrounds kept showing up way past our honeymoon. I grew up going to the beach every year on vacation. My mom would rent a condo, we would plop ourselves down in the sand, and for the next week, we would do nothing but beach, sun, and swim in the ocean. Doug grew up going to state parks, camping, visiting historical sites. In fact, he and his mom even rode bikes across Kentucky, which sounds absolutely horrible. So, when Doug planned our honeymoon, it was more adventurous because that’s what his family did, and of course, I assumed everyone went to the beach for vacation.
You would think the easiest thing to do to resolve our differences in vacation would be to speak to each other, but that would be another trait I brought into our marriage, avoiding conflict at all costs.
My family doesn’t like conflict of any type and have been known to even run away from conflict. So bringing up anything that might resemble conflict wasn’t happening. Doug’s family was completely the opposite. They were yellers, and the loudest one wins. That meant our fights looked like Doug yelling and trying to get me to yell back and me sitting there, looking off in the distance, wanting him to go away, or me getting up and walking away. This way of fighting caused strife, anger, and resentment between us. At one point, we were both hoping for a way out of our marriage.
The turning point for us was when we started going to church. The more we went to church, the more we realized that God was for our marriage. He even has stuff to say about problems that try to tear us apart like this.
In Mark 10:7-8, the Bible says, “For this reason, the man will leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh, so they are no longer two but one.”
In fact, this particular verse is repeated three times in the Bible, which indicates it is pretty important. I thought I had an idea of what this verse meant, but it wasn’t until we attended a marriage class at church that I started to grasp the full meaning.
We had to realize that we are two separate people shaped by two different family lines. But in marriage, we choose to become one. To do that, we had to put God in the center of our marriage. Not putting myself first or even Doug first, but putting God first. The amazing thing was the closer we got to God, the closer we got to each other.
The marriage class taught us how to become a student of each other. The more we prioritized learning about each other, like learning how our family heritage, good or bad, will have an effect on our marriage, the better we could work through our differences together. For example:
- I was a beach girl. He was a camping guy.
- He had big family celebrations for birthdays and holidays. My family had small, intimate ones.
- He was a yeller during fights. I was a runner.
- My family had a history of divorce. His family stayed together.
We realized our family heritage had been working against each other for years, and we didn’t even know it. We had to choose to become one.
So, during the class, we had an exercise where we wrote down every family tradition, including the bad, and decided what we were going to get rid of and what we were going to keep—together. Not as two individuals fighting to keep their preferences but as a united couple committed to becoming one.
We decided to keep beach vacations, throwing in an occasional camping trip here and there. We decided to rotate holidays, one year we are with his family, and the next year we are with mine. We decided to get rid of Doug yelling during fights and me running away—though that took a lot of time and practice.
We put our stake down and said divorce would never be an option. We even added new traditions like praying together before we go to bed. It’s never long or even an eloquent prayer, just thanking God for our family and another day together.
The more we let each other in on our past and how our family heritage had influenced us, the more we could connect with each other. It wasn’t so we can say one family’s traditions were better than the other; it was to better understand the person we married.
If you keep bumping into conflict in your marriage, try becoming a student of your spouse.
Next time you’re fighting about something, pause to ask them why they respond that way or care about that thing so much. Hear the story of how they grew up in more detail than you have before. Choose to care about the deep ways it has shaped them the same way your family heritage shaped you. Maybe try the same exercise we did to honor what each of you brought into the relationship but intentionally choose how to move forward together.
Getting to become one with someone else in marriage is an awesome gift. Don’t miss the chance to experience it. Trade the conflict for a deeper connection.