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Column: Definition of marriage learned before big day


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I recently took a class at my church that completely changed my life. The class was called “Sacred Marriage,” and it opened my eyes to what a real marriage should look like.

I am extraordinarily blessed to have a fiancé who wants to foster the strongest relationship possible. We read books and often talk openly about what could make our relationship better.

I will get into more details about the class and my relationship, but first I have to admit that getting to this point in my personal growth took a long time — 30 years to be exact.

While I was single (much longer than most people I know), people would often say, “You just haven’t found the right one yet,” or, “You are smart for not just settling.”

But, now, after taking this class, I have realized that the problem wasn’t that I hadn’t met the right man. I wasn’t the right woman. I was not mature enough to understand what I needed to know and do to be the right woman to form the other half of a strong, resilient marriage.

Just like everyone else in the world, I was living with completely incorrect definitions of marriage and what my role would be. I was so selfish that I thought marriage was intended to make me happy, to fulfill my needs.

Thankfully, I have learned the true definitions, and I am going to share them with you and every young woman who ever asks me for advice about dating in the future.

Let me start by sharing an example of the way love is portrayed in popular culture. Keep in mind, this is the wrong approach.

I recently watched a movie called “I Give it a Year.” It follows the lives of newlywed couple Nat and Josh who are deliriously happy despite their differences, though friends and family aren’t convinced that they can last.

(I’m about to give away the ending to the movie in case you want to skip the next paragraph, but it only got 5 out of 10 stars, so you aren’t missing much anyway.)

On their first anniversary, the couple’s friends throw them a surprise party to celebrate their year of marriage. With childlike excitement Josh walks into the party and asks Nat to divorce him. Nat cheerfully answers that his divorce request has made her the happiest woman in the world.

It seems that the world has decided that marriage relationships are expendable — like every other commodity. We have become so selfish and self-absorbed that a husband can now be thrown out like a broken toaster or traded in for a “newer model,” like a car.

The message not shared enough is the one that shows the reality of every relationship. It doesn’t matter if you are married to the most gorgeous, richest, most perfect person in the world — you will still fight, you will still have disagreements about everyday living because you are two human beings trying to co-exist. Marriage is a relationship that is inherently difficult and glorious at the same time.

Hollywood loves to show the beginning of relationships when everything the partner says is sexy and everything they do is amazing. They make us believe that if we find our “soul mates” we will stay giddily in love forever. The truth

is — that is just not the truth.

Thankfully, I am learning the true definitions of marriage and commitment while preparing to marry my fiancé, David. We are getting married in 68 days and are blessed to know the truth about marriage.

Gary Thomas, author of the book “Sacred Marriage,” says that marriage is a relationship of love, service, sacrifice and ministry toward our spouse. He says that love is not an emotion but a policy and commitment that we choose to keep.

We will all marry someone who at some level is selfish, has insecurities and an ego and annoying tendencies, Thomas says. Our spouses will not always meet our individualized and selfish demands, and it is impossible for them to always be the spouse we “dreamed of.” But don’t forget, your spouse married the same type of person. We will also never meet all of their dreams and expectations.

David and I are blessed to be starting our lives together knowing that we will fight, accepting that we are different and that we will not always meet each other’s needs. But, we are also blessed to know that there is not another person in the world who would meet those demands any better.

Thomas says it so much better than I can. He says, “If you were to divorce your spouse, interview 200 ‘replacement’ candidates, put them through a battery of psychological tests, have follow-up interviews conducted by your closest friends, spend three years dating the most compatible ones, and then spent another 40 days praying and fasting about which one to choose, you’d still end up with a spouse who disappoints you, hurts you, frustrates you and stumbles in many ways.”

Thankfully, David and I know that our needs are not the same and that we are both imperfect people. Knowing this, we talk about what makes us happy, sad, angry and resentful, even though those conversations are far from easy or comfortable. We are learning from other couples, who are reminding us that when we face struggles we are not alone.

We know that marriage is not going to be easy, but thankfully we are gaining the tools we need to work through the hard times and celebrate the great times.

On his website, www.garythomas.com/books/sacred-marriage, Thomas gives the following advice, “Every one of us is married to an imperfect spouse. We confront different trials, different temptations, and different struggles. Learning to love, appreciate, and to be thankful for that imperfect spouse is one of the most soul-transforming things you can do. It’s not an easy journey, but it’s a profitable one, and I urge you to remain committed to it today.”

In the final class session, we were encouraged to ask ourselves the following question every day “How can I show my spouse more love today than he has ever felt before?”

If you know David, ask him how I’m doing. Accountability is crucial.

Paige Harden is a proud lifelong resident of Columbus. A former Republic newspaper reporter, Paige is now a freelance writer and public relations consultant. She can be reached by email at paigerenaeharden@gmail.com.

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