Day 11 - CMBA Blog Challenge
"You're not going to change me! That's just how I am!!"
Those were famous last words for us. Once you're committed to having a good, godly marriage, you just can't help but change. I believe that God is sovereign over our lives and our relationships, and that He sometimes puts people directly in our lives for the specific purpose of weeding out pieces of our personalities or characters that were destructive or ungodly. How has marriage changed me? Well, in a lot of ways, but I'll just stick to one thing that stands out.
In a strange twist, I've also been slightly outspoken, and I struggle with being judgmental and overly critical. That doesn't work very well in friendship. I've made huge mistakes in saying the wrong thing, cutting off friendships for very trivial reasons, condemning friends for simply being different, and just plain not thinking before I speak. At one point, I had pulled back from so many relationships and criticized so many people that I realized I actually had no close friends. That was a long period of going back and repairing relationships and I'm thankful that everyone has forgiven me and those relationships are stronger than they ever were.
Now let me tell you about my husband. Dave is extremely outgoing and consequently, has a large group of friends. He has a very empathetic heart; he rejoices with those who rejoice and mourns with those who mourn. He's great at intiating conversations and drawing out even the shyest person in the room. And the best part of that is that Dave really cares about all the answers to the "small talk" conversations and questions - it's not just a way to get people talking. He always believes the best about people, accepts people for who they are and wants to help them in any way he can.
Clearly, this is a huge difference to navigate in a marital relationship. This was something Dave and I really struggled with early in our marriage. He wanted to hang out with people all the time and I wanted to be alone or alone with him. He wanted to invite people over and the preparations for that stressed me out. We would go to social gatherings (mostly with his friends since I moved to his hometown) and he would leave me at the table alone (or I would park myself at the table alone, depending on how you look at it). I didn't know what to say to a lot of his friends so I just didn't talk to them; needless to say, that really frustrated him.
I'm not sure when it changed. It might have been when we finally found godly mentors share our struggles with. Mentors who modeled successful marriages. Mentors who considered their spouse's needs above their own. I remember my mother in law telling me about an area she used to struggle with and how she prayed that God would change her personality. I remember thinking that I never knew God could do that, and I prayed the same thing. In any case, our struggle with friendships did change. A lot. At one point, we were so miserable in this area that it became apparent that we were both going to have to see things from each other's perspective and try to operate in ways that were very unnatural for us. I started watching Dave and trying to figure out how in the heck he managed to initiate and maintain a friendship with someone he had never met. Then I hesitantly began to implement his strategies. Guess what? It works! And after much practice, I feel a degree of comfort in small talk. I don't feel stressed in a social environment anymore.
God has also convicted me in the area of judging others towards accepting them, sins and differences and all. Dave's open acceptance of others - myself included - was one of the qualities that attracted me to him in the first place. He was the first person with whom I felt it was ok to simply be me, no strings attached. I'm not very good at this non-judging thing yet, but I'm thankful that God put with me with someone who continually reminds me to look at situations from the other person's perspective and to not personalize every little thing.
On Dave's side, he stopped leaving me alone in social gatherings. Well, for a while. Now he can leave me alone to have his own conversations and know I'm fine. But when we started working on it, he just stayed by my side and tried to initiate conversation topics that he knew would make me feel comfortable. He's also gotten more considerate about inviting people over; he usually gives me a heads-up or runs it by me first so that I'm less stressed. I will admit that in this area, I need to work on a little spontaneity.
It's pretty cool how God uses marriage to shape our characters and personalities. I know that the typical modern day view of marriage is, "I change for no man! (or woman!)" but I'm pretty convinced that that probably doesn't lead to very successful marriages. Independence never produces unity.
How about you? What is the biggest area where you see marriage in particular has changed you?