In marriage you have a choice. You can see truth, or you can see lies. You can focus on self, or you can focus on another. You can choose to forgive, or you can choose to let your anger simmer and grow to a rolling boil. You have the choice to take offense, or to take a minute. You have the choice to see the good or to see the bad. Well, actually you can see both, but you choose which one to focus all your attention. You have the choice. Marriage is prochoice, I guess you could say, for men and women. You can choose to stay, or you can choose to go. You can choose to work on it, or you can choose to wave the white flag of defeat. You can choose forever, or you can choose forever if; forever if everything goes well. In marriage you have a choice.
My husband wears his feelings on his sleeves. I’m not saying he’s some blubbering crier or anything like that. I’m just saying that if he’s happy you know it, and if he’s not, you know that too. He doesn’t hide his emotions like some men do, or perhaps it’s just that he doesn’t hide them well. He isn’t always the epitome of openness, but I can read him like a book.
“What wrong,” I asked my sullen spouse.
“Nothing,” he quipped quickly, without making eye contact.
I sighed. I hated it when he was like this! Ugh. It drove me crazy.
His silence reigned. He looked on expressionless at the highway while he drove. Sheets of dreary water dripped down the windows, and the gray sky seemed to mirror his mood. Normally quite the conversationalist, in this particular state he could barely answer a simple question. Any comment sent his way would be likely answered by a single grunt, similar to how I imagined a caveman replying to his cavewife when she refused to be carried away by his club upon her head or swoon at his masculine, mastodon hunting skills.
I considered my options. I could try to draw him out. I had already asked what was wrong. He had replied nothing. I knew something was bothering him. He knew I knew. He didn’t want to talk about it.
I sighed loudly.
He pretended not to hear my exasperation.
I could always stop talking, I thought. Yes, that might work. I could quit trying to joke with him. I could stop asking if there was anything I could do. I could just sit there beside him and not say a single solitary word.
We’ll see how he likes it?! Ha.
I mean, yeah, I knew I had a tendency to overthink things. It could be nothing. Nothing could be bothering him. It could have nothing to do with me. He might just have a headache. But even if he was having a bad day, wasn’t that allowed?
I pondered on my own idiosyncrasies. I thought of my occasional, hormonal outbursts, or how my mood could turn on a dime. I had a knack for worrying, and while I had certainly loosened the reigns of my control-freak persona, I still pulled out the crazy lady on occasion. I had bad days too. I had good days. But wasn’t that what life was? And wasn’t marriage the union of each other’s good and bad days, taking them as they came? Celebrating when it was warranted, but also mourning when it was due?
I had made my monastery vow of silence for maybe five or ten minutes, more likely eight, when I decided that was a dumb idea. I had a choice at that moment. I could fight fire with fire, or I could be an adult. I could stay angry, even though I knew not the details of my out-of-proportion wrath, or I could release my frustration. I could feed my offense, or I could offer grace. I could focus strictly on how the situation was affecting me, or I could look at my spouse and how I might give him grace. I could ignore my own faults, focusing intently on his, or I could realistically remember we all have them. I could take an inch, or I could give a mile. I could love unconditionally. Yes, that sounded nice.
I could realize that life wasn’t just about me. How was this situation bothering me? No. Perhaps consider how it was bothering him. Focus on why he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, or pray for him a solution? Stew in anger, or rest in love? I could remember he was human, like me, yet love him like Jesus did. Yes, that seemed like the right thing.
I reached out my hand and I took his. I didn’t say anything, and neither did he. I squeezed his hand anyway. I made a choice.
The moment passed, conversation picked back up, the storm cloud moved on by, the sun began to shine again, and laughter filled the air.
I never knew the cause of his quiet, the reason behind his silence. I don’t think you always need to. That would make it about me, make it about my desire to know. He was who he was, how he was, and so was I. There was so much good in him, it certainly overshadowed the occasional bad. I loved every part; that was my calling as his wife. I had chosen to commit my life to loving all the pieces, and each day I chose to keep on doing that. Even the most happy marriages aren’t perfect, but we can choose to love beyond that.
We can choose to take offense at every turn, or we can model grace. We can take a splinter of anger and build it into a fence, or we can sweep insignificant sawdust away from our heart. We can remove the plank of offense from our own eye, and we can utilize it better as a bridge to bind us. We can love our spouse like Christ loves the church (which is us, by the way). Satan desires nothing better than to stir marital discord. It’s his voice that whispers in the cracks of a silly argument, building self-righteous anger when it’s not necessary. The devil will show you the faults of your spouse. The Holy Spirit will show you your own. We have the choice of who we will listen to the most.
You have a choice in marriage. You can choose to build fences, or you can choose to build a bridge. You can choose to make yourself the centerpiece of the relationship, or you can choose for Christ to rest there. You can choose to pick apart every action of your spouse, or you can help them pick up the pieces. You can choose to hold a grudge, placing a wedge between you, or you can choose to forgive. When you get married you make the choice to love your spouse, but each day thereafter you must choose the same. Marriage is a daily choice of saying “I do.”
I do promise to love you. I do promise to see your efforts, to hold you when you are weak, to value you above myself, to love you when it’s not easy. I do.
In life you have a choice, and in marriage you have a choice each day. The only question is, what will you choose?