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Those Words


“This just isn’t going to work out.” The dreaded words. The end. It's over. In my years of dating experience, I’ve heard Those Words several times. I’ve also said Those Words a time or two. Whatever partner is on the receiving end of Those Words is undoubtedly disappointed, hurt and saddened, but it’s a harsh reality that many relationships don’t always work out.

The majority of dating relationships end prior to walking down the aisle. But once you say, "I do," you never expect to hear Those Words ever again. But too often, it happens anyway. Families are devastated, hearts are shattered, and covenants are broken.

When you realize a dating relationship isn’t working for you, that’s when you utter Those Words or some variation of them. The thing is, though, after you say “I do,” you no longer get to say Those Words when the going gets tough--even if you feel the relationship isn't working. Every relationship has its ups and downs, marriage more than any other. That’s why we say what we say in our wedding vows—“To have and to hold until this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part.” Traditional wedding vows date back to 1549 in The Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Even 500 years ago, people saw the importance of total commitment in marriage--that no matter what may happen, you will stick by that person--that you will choose to love that person. Once you make those promises, you no longer get to utter Those Words--even when it feels like it will never get better. Because that's part of the problem--it's not that the marriage won't get better, it's that it feels like it won't get better. There's a huge difference between the two. And our feelings often lie to us. 

Marriage is the most difficult relationship any human can have. We tend to want to think of ourselves in a positive light, but marriage compels us to confront the darkness in ourselves. We live every day with our spouse as a mirror reflecting our character back at us. Sometimes, we really don't like what we see in the mirror. We may blame our spouse and get upset at the things he or she is doing or not doing, but ultimately, it's the log in our own eye we need to take care of--not the speck in our spouse's. The proximity and intimacy of marriage forces us to look inward at every flaw and selfish desire we have and either deal with it or repress it.

If we choose to deal with it, there is another person involved, so we don't get to be a lone wolf. We don't get to deal with our character flaws in a secret closet. In marriage, we have to confront those flaws in the presence of another human being. We have to be willing to open our soul to our spouse, and that can be scary. It requires humility, self-awareness, vulnerability and a desire to truly become a better person in order to deal with the log in our own eye.

In marriage, it’s only when we refuse to confront our own demons that we begin to think about Those Words. It's when we only want to focus on the speck in our spouse's eye. It's when we are not willing to humble ourselves, be self-aware, or make ourselves vulnerable--Those Words come to the forefront our our minds. And ultimately, if you don't have a desire to become a better person, then marriage isn't for you.

There are myriad excuses spouses use when uttering Those Word to the one to whom and with whom they made a covenant. Some might say, “But I didn’t know x, y or z about my spouse before I married them.” There are always going to be parts we don’t know about other people, no matter how close we are to them. There are parts about ourselves we have yet to discover. Only God knows everything about us. We spend our entire lives making ourselves better and becoming more Christ-like. Only in death and ascension to heaven do we become perfected. We are humans, and we have pain and hurts that need to be dealt with, and marriage was created in part to help us heal from our pain and hurts. Thankfully, God doesn't exclude us from heaven because of our imperfections. His calling on our life and His love for us is irrevocable.

Other excuses include, "We just can't get along," "We aren't compatible," "We don't agree how to raise the kids," or "I'm not in love with you anymore." I'm sure there are many more, and I could write a rebuttal to each one. These words are all just an excuse to hold on to pride and not put your spouse first. The bottom line is that if you set aside your pride, then you can find win-win solutions to every one of those problems. It's not easy to put your spouse first. It's not easy to look inside yourself and allow someone else free access to yourself. It's not easy to be married, and there are many uncomfortable moments. Mark 10:8 says that two flesh shall become one. Soldering two souls together doesn't sound like it would be a comfortable experience. But it's the reward at the end that makes it worth it.

Losing sight of the reward also brings thoughts of Those Words. If you allow yourself to think Those Words, then it's highly likely you won't be able to see all the other options you have to save your marriage. And you definitely won't be able to see all the blessings God has in store for you that he can only give to you through the marriage relationship. As Pastor Jimmy Evans says, every marriage has a 100% chance of working if you do it God's way. And it's true--when two people love each other and are committed to not just their vows and the other person, but truly committed to making themselves a better person, marriage cannot fail. A marriage never "just doesn't work out."




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