Marriage has a Bad Rap
We live in a world where marriage can be portrayed in a negative light. Christian marriage is no different. It is no secret that the divorce rate of Christian marriages is equal to if not greater than non-Christian marriages.
It has been burning on my heart to write about marriage. Burning. I mean. It kept me up last night. Marriage is without doubt, one of God’s greatest gifts. I am a huge advocate of marriage. I think that the intended deep intimacy between a husband and wife is the closest representation to deep intimacy between us and Jesus. With this in mind. Marriage should be mind-blowingly incredible, right?
I love being Mrs Greenwood
I’ve been married 9 years this year. It has been eight years of deep intimacy, friendship and love. I am not lying. Mark and I are a great example of marital bliss. I adore my husband. I am not going to deny it or create problems in order to fit in with a cultural norm. I love being Mrs Greenwood. It is truly fabulous being the little brown inappropriate wife of a tall hairy Italian man. We laugh together, cry together, share every deep thought together, build memories together and are committed to one another forever.
So for those ‘Blissfully married’ couples let me be your kindred ‘happily ever after’ person. I’m a fellow member of the happily ever after club. For those about to get married let me be your voice of excitement for the future. For those of you who are not yet married or dating but dream about it for the future let me be your voice of assurance. It is as fabulous as you are imagining. Probably even better.
For those whose marriage is falling apart, let me be your voice of hope for your future. You both deserve so much more. God is jealous for your relationship. For those of you divorced or separated, resist the urge to compare yourself to me, or feel condemned but rather let me inspire you to dream about the glory and purity that God intended in a holy union between a man and his wife.
Make no mistake. Every single marriage, without exception, including my marriage, needs devotion, intentionality, openness, humility and accountability. I have learnt a thing or two in my nine years of union with Mark. It has helped me to articulate it on paper. Perhaps it will be useful to you too.
Let me be clear, I am no expert, and many have been married far longer than me. I have something to say though, and long to see marriage spoken about more.
So here we go. Lessons from the little brown writer. You will be glad to know that since Mark is Caucasian they are applicable to all colours of the skin. Brown, white, and everything in between.
1. 50/50 is a half truth
Have you heard the saying, “Marriage is 50/50?” I believed this for the first 4 years of our marriage. Marriage is “give and take” marriage is meeting in the middle. I can tell you people that this is complete and utter bollocks.
What if I told you this. Marriage is actually giving 100 percent of yourself to the other person. Let me explain. Since I have all my needs met in Jesus, every emotional and spiritual need I have are found satisfied deep in the Father. When it comes to marriage, I don’t ‘need’ Mark to feel like a woman, or to find a sense of identity. I am able to lay down my life completely for him as an overflow of my love with God. Yes I yearn for Mark, and pine after him even when he is just down the road at his office for the day, but my love, safety and identity is rooted firmly in the Fathers love and acceptance, so that I can truly learn to love Mark in an unconditional way.
Sounds unromantic right? But needing your husband is very different to loving your husband. This is different to a lot of things we were taught about marriage. However, this works. I promise you. Because I don’t need anything from Mark and he doesn’t need anything from me, then we are able to lay down our lives completely for one another 100 percent. After we learnt this, our marriage went to a whole other level. It changed everything. Our expectations of one another, our perceptions, our ability to fan each other’s dreams, our sex life, our finances. Everything. We found consistent and genuine love and affection for each other that did not need perfect reciprocation in order for us each to keep our love on and fight for our connection.
2. Do not underestimate the importance of Kindness.
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.” Henry James
One of my absolute favourite things about Mark is that he is always kind to me. Somehow over the years he has resisted the urge to become familiar or complacent with me. He still talks and acts towards me with the utmost kindness. If he drives my car, he fills it with petrol. He carries all the shopping bags. If I forget things when we sit at the table to eat, he races to get it. He always answers the phone with excitement and genuine happiness when I call. He sends me loving meaningless texts to tell me he misses me. Whenever he goes away he always leaves the house spotless with candles on the bench. The two things that make me feel the most loved. Aside from a Channel or a Gucci bag (I have never received either of these however I imagine that I would also class this as a momentous act of kindness).
Sometimes I have all the kindness in the world for everyone except for Mark. Perhaps it is because he is so consistently kind it is easy for me to become complacent. Sometimes, even the long grassing Indigenous man reeking of alcohol outside my house can invoke more kindness in me than my spouse. Seriously. I have had to pull myself up on this many times. There is Never any excuse to not be kind to your spouse. I so desire to be kindly spoken to him. To not snap or take him for granted. To stop being sarcastic. To notice the little things that he loves and do them. I can definitely do better at this. For I am learning how important it is to always choose kindness.
3. Embrace and celebrate each other’s strengths.
This goes for the big and small things. I am the worst cleaner in the world. I hate it. I am terrible at it. And it is not beneficial for Mark, or me, or the house, for me to clean.
Mark is the worst cook I know. He does not know how to boil eggs. It stresses him out if he has to think beyond taking a pot out of the fridge and reheating it on the stove. Or better yet, taking a ‘Dr’s orders’ box out of the fridge and reheating it in the microwave.
So I have absolutely no expectations on Mark to cook. None. Whatsoever. I do all the meal planning and all the cooking. And I get so much joy in nourishing his body well. I go to town! I make healthy versions of all his favourite things. Eggplant pasta, Thai peanut noodles, Sri Lankan lentils, and fresh salads all stuffed into wraps with home-made hummus. I even make him Nandos chicken and chicken curry if he is craving it, even though it upsets my plant based heart.
In fact most of the meals that I designed from Dr’s orders are actually a version of food I have fed my husband. Instead of focusing on the fact that he couldn’t cook and didn’t enjoy the process of cooking, I chose instead to not only cook for him, but to cook for him like he was the King of Arabia and I was his cute little adoring Oompa Loompa. I pour my heart and soul into it. I think there would be no one in the whole of Darwin who gets healthier more delicious meals than my husband. Let’s be clear, Mark is easy to cook for. He is not the kind of person to take me for granted. It’s like having an encounter with gratefulness every day at meal time. Bless
Although I hate cleaning, I absolutely love cleanliness. I feel so much more on top of things if the house is clean. My man knows this. Every single week Mark allocates at least 2 hours of his time to clean the house top to toe. He takes his clothes off (aside from his undies) puts his earphones in, turns up his favourite music (Flume, the non swearing version) and absolutely goes to town. He scrubs like there is a house inspection in ten minutes. He even bought a high pressured gernie so that he could do a good job cleaning the veranda. It is an act of worship for him to the Lord. By the time he is done, the house shines from top to toe. He tells me he finds it satisfying. Mostly I know he does it because he knows how much it means to me.
These are only small examples. But it spills over into bigger things. For example Mark loves theology. Theology bores me to tears. To tears. However I celebrate his love for it. Thank goodness he loves it. He is changing people’s relationship with the Father! The only way I can celebrate it wholeheartedly however, is by not being threatened by it or by believing some weird lie that because he is called to it I must feign interest in it. Absolutely not! I can fan on his dreams and I feel absolutely no pressure to share that strength.
Mark is not passionate about nutritional health like I am. He has no desire to build an international platform or voice for it. However, he celebrates and fans on my dreams. He puts up my articles, manages my business and website and celebrates my successes more than I do.
Celebrate the strengths, and differences in one another.
4. Have fun outside of work, ministry and business with one another.
Some of my favourite times with Mark are the times where we have had no other agenda except to have fun with one another. With work, business, ministry and family, life gets busy right? We have learned over the years the importance of having fun. With each other.
We love to plan trips to Bali or other destinations where we do nothing but enjoy each other, nice food, shopping and the beach in a nice hotel. I love Hotels!
My favourite thing to do is to go shopping and dress Mark! I seriously get so much joy out of this it’s almost a little weird. You should see us. I save up money, then I pile up shirts, pants sunglasses and everything in between and dress him up and down. It is like he is my own personal project. From the fitting room you will hear “fabulous”,“ I don’t care what you think. It’s irrelevant.” Or “Oh you actually look a little chunky in that”, “Get that off it’s making me nauseous”. “Absolutely, that is so gorgeous I would mortgage our house to buy it” (For the record we don’t own a house yet. This is hypothetical). Mark humours me, bless his socks. Actually I think he enjoys it. At least for the first hour or two.
We love to go on huge walks and talk about everything. Correction, we love to go on huge walks while I talk about everything and Mark occasionally contributes. I like to tell him about my day. Including every single little thought. Mark loves it… Occasionally as a treat I let him preach to me for one to five minutes.
We love to have movie nights and hide away in bed with treats and watch a movie. I nearly always fall asleep half way. Poor Mark is then stuck watching a Christine friendly movie far into the night (to be clear, Christine friendly includes, Cinderella, Despicable me, Julia and Julia, Chef, and Notting Hill). Those kind of deep thinking, action packed, life changing documentary type movies that all the world changers enjoy. Amen
Go and have some fun together. Put it in your diary. NO one else is invited. If you have children get babysitters. If you think you’re too busy, then stop believing lies, you’re actually not. If you have no money then get an old sheet (your bed sheet even) and pack a picnic of boiled potatoes and go and enjoy nature together. I don’t care what you do but have some fun unrelated to work, children, business, church and other people.
It’s foundational to marriage.
5. Encourage other relationships.
I believe it has been foundational for our marriage that Mark has had strong intimate Godly relationships outside our marriage with a small group of very close friends. I also have had a very small handful of intimate close relationships outside of marriage. While Mark is my absolute best friend and I am his, we are not meant to be each others only close intimate relationship.
I encourage and celebrate Mark’s time with his brothers. I love his Bromances. I don’t begrudge it. They edify, encourage and equip each other. I am zealous for their time together. I develop a deep love for them too. Oh and also I don’t feel pressure to have the same relationship with their wives! If I do naturally then GREAT! If I don’t, I don’t force it.
Mark is the same with me. He firmly encourages me to go deep with my girlfriends. To invest in them. To spend time with them. He loves them and cherishes them as well.
Sometimes we hang out as couples, other times we don’t. Both is important.
Having strong Godly friendships outside of marriage is something that we have always invested in. It has been such an important component of our marriage. Girls don’t lose your girlfriends. If you have don’t have any, pray and ask God for 1-2 people you connect with and go deep with them. Invest in them. Love them fiercely like family. Make them your people. Build relationships outside your marriage. We have found it so beneficial to our married life. Life is meant to be done in community.
I think I’ll stop there. Is this helpful? Please let me know if it is. The difficulty about pouring yourself out on paper is that I am not always sure if my words are resonating. Pretend I am needy and tell me your thoughts.
I feel like marriage is something, that in the church we can be quiet about. My desire is to be an example in transparency so we can all cultivate healthy intimate relationships, good habits, and openness to learn off one another. Most of all I want to cultivate a spirit of kindness, oneness, joy and respect between one another in our marriages and relationships.
So reflect on my words, perhaps they may help cultivate or maintain intimacy and oneness in your relationship the way they have for mine.
Stay tuned. I have a bee in my bonnet for marriage and I will be writing more!
Until then, you are deeply loved and richly cherished,
The Healthy Hiccup