Love Month Finale: Happily Ever After

February 23, 2011

Yes, it’s time for Love Month to ride into the sunset of “happily ever after.”

I’ve had a great time featuring Love Month and seeking out interesting people to talk to.  I hope you read something this month that was meaningful to you.  Thank you so much for making February the biggest month since last September in terms of visitors.  (Plus, it’s a short month.  Woo!)

I want to close Love Month with a simple thought.

I don’t like fairy tales.

What I really mean is people refer to really good couples as having a “fairy tale” relationship.  It seems that their lives are so great, it could only be possible because of the presence of tiny flying pixies sprinkling magical dust on everything.  You know, Prince Charming, a damsel in distress, all that junk.

People want “fairy tale” lives.  People are inspired and get all dreamy-eyed by “fairy tale” weddings.

Not me.  Fairy tale weddings make me barf, which it turns out is not socially acceptable at fairy tale weddings.

And fairy tale lives bore me.

Sure, you should strive for a peaceful, happy life.  My wife and I have had a relatively easy, peaceful marriage so far.  We can give a couple of little pointers here and there about how we make it work.  But we can’t tell your from experience how to fix a marriage that’s in the trash can.  I just don’t think the ease with which we’ve been married is all that inspiring.  I’m quite happy with my life, but our story is a little bit boring.

Know what inspires me?

Tough marriages.  Couples that have had some real fights.  I’m inspired by couples whose marriages were broken but not destroyed.  I respect couples that have irreconcilable differences, and choose to make it work anyway, even though their differences may never be reconciled.  I look up to couples that have put in the hard work to remove the emnity from between them, and prove that a marriage in trouble can be revived.  Those are marriages you can learn from, be inspired by.  If you aspire to have a fairy tale marriage, you will be disappointed and feel like a failure when your marriage doesn’t stack up.  If you respect couples that have really duked it out and came out okay, you’ll probably be inspired.

Just to be clear, I’m not inspired by couples that stay together in some sort of bitter scheme to make the other miserable, or old couples that fight about everything.  I’m inspired by couples whose biggest fights are past tense.

So as we send off Love Month and return to regular programming, tell us about the “fairy tale” marriages and the tough, gritty marriages you’ve observed, experienced, or been inspired by.

23 responses to Love Month Finale: Happily Ever After

  1. I’ve been married for 25 years now, and you don’t get that far without having some rough patches. And by that I mean getting beat up plenty along the way. But the one thing I’ve found is that the conflict, the two strong, stubborn, independent souls coming together is a microcosm of working out God’s kingdom: sin, grace, redemption, sacrifice, they are all played out in the little world of a marriage. It’s the best therapy ever. Ideally, the individuals grow to become stronger/better people on their own, which makes them stronger/better as a couple.

    So three cheers for the fights and the knock downs and the getting back up and forgiving and growing!

  2. I bet you could consult the formerly mentioned John Calvin and find a tough marriage! Of course it was predestined to be! We have been married for 33 years (hard to believe) and I can say that when you stop trying to fix your wife and start accepting and loving her that things get exponentially better. And a few good weekends a year at a cabin with a hot tub and no kids around helps too!
    Brian recently posted..Light Up- Don’t Complain

  3. We’ve been married 37 years, and (I think) I can say our biggest fights are behind us. Even now, though, marriage takes a lot of work – different work than when we first started out, but work nonetheless. I don’t think it ever fades into “happily ever after” perfection.

    This has been a good series, Matt.
    Glynn recently posted..Tears of Sacrifice

  4. I guess after 9 years, I don’t know what’s ahead of us. I do know that the stresses on our lives have been lay offs, and kids. One has moved out, and we are both working again. :)

    I was hanging out with my pastor, and I admire his marriage. Their kids are involved in various ministry, both at our church and others. We got down to talking about the real stuff, and he told me about how they had lost a child and all that went on with that. I can’t imagine.

    A few weeks ago my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip on a frozen sidewalk. My father-in-law was unable to help her, and had to call out for help from a passerby. Nobody gets married to face those sort of problems.

    All I know is that Jesus was right, divorce always contains the element of hardness of heart. (Matt 19:8) I am banking on the fact that if I guard my heart, (Proverbs 4:23) I will make it with my wife.

    Thanks for a good series Matt.
    David recently posted..Gods GPS! From Darkness to Light

  5. We just passed 9 years, and it certainly has had some rough patches – epic fights, serious considerations of whether or not we should have gotten married, etc – but I think we are entering a time of greater peace and satisfaction now, learning finally the ways we have to lay down our pride. We aren’t “perfect” for each other. If we were both to objectively design our perfect spouse, they wouldn’t be like the other person. But we love each other. We’re committed, and I think we’ve learned and grown more as individuals and as a couple by having to make it work even though we aren’t “perfect for each other” than we would have otherwise.
    David N. recently posted..Top Ten Tuesday- Getting My 29 Year Old Act Together

  6. In the 31 years we’ve been married, we’ve certainly had stressful times, but we have never fought that much. We’ve hurt one another, frustrated one another, been too busy for one another–but while the resulting discussions can be tearful, I wouldn’t call most of them fights.

    And most of the time, I would say we DO have a fairy tale marriage. My husband has modeled Christ to me on so many occasions.

    Our wedding, on the other hand, was no fairy tale. A groomsman passed out in the middle of my vows, and a bridesmaid ran down the aisle and puked in the bushes outside the door (it was the middle of a July heat wave with no A/C).

  7. My best friend is in a marriage like you describe. Her husband had walked away from their family to pursue a relationship with another woman. Rather than divorce him like I probably would’ve done, she was in constant prayer for him. She CHOSE to love him, and she chose to fight for their marriage. He has since repented, and they are in the long, hard process of mending their marriage. My friend has been such an inspiration to me – reminding me that a marriage based solely on feelings is shallow. But a marriage based on true love, like described in 1 Corinthians 13, and forgiveness will stand the test of time.

  8. My cousin, who like me has been through rough patches in his marriage, passed along some insight he’d received from a mentor.

    The mentor at the time was a widower and had recently remarried a woman whose husband had also died. He told my cousin (I’m paraphrasing):

    “I am grateful for my relationship with my new wife and that we have each other this late in our lives. But one thing that is missing from our marriage is the shared history of being faced with the kind of challenges that you and your wife are facing right now and somehow making it through.

    These challenges are working to bring you and your wife closer together, to build an amazing foundation and strength in your life. And your relationship, when you and your wife are my age, will have this amazingly rich vein in it, deposits being formed through these experiences and your triumph over them. My new marriage doesn’t have that.”

    That has helped put the challenges in my marriage into better perspective.

  9. One of the best marriages that I have observed is a couple that was married, got divorced in a VERY public way, and then thay chose to forgive and love again. It is an amazing example of the redemption that God can provide.
    seekingpastor recently posted..Mercy and a Nissan Quest

  10. In the book “Same Kind of Different As Me,” there is an example of a couple like what you describe. Things sucked, he cheated, she found out, then she made a decision to make the marraige work. She did not blame him or get angry, she apologized. Very moving.
    Jeremy Statton recently posted..I do not say cuss words

  11. My wife and I have been married coming up on two years, and our entire relationship has been fraught with difficulties (mostly from external forces) including being hundreds of miles apart for months, our parents each struggling through near financial ruin/bankruptcy, deaths in the family (on both sides), and our own financial issues. It has been fun so far!

    One of the most inspiring marriages to me is my parents. They are coming up on 28 years together. They got married because they were in love but changed the date once to ensure I had married parents! They dealth with drugs and alcohol … before and after I and my siblings were born (apparently, I helped save them from drugs. Long story). Our family lived at the poverty line for years after having been highly successful for years (how else could they afford some of those drugs and alcohol). They considered suicide twice (they were worried about leaving the kids with relatives or strangers who would raise them differently than they wanted, and they could not kill us because that would be too hard). The considered divorce three times (Twice I made comments about wanting to love someone like those two did, the third time I invited them to my new church).

    Throughout it all we can now see God working. Throughout it all they never stopped loving each other, even when they did not feel very loving. These two have grown into some of the most godly people I know who treat each other like newlyweds. It is quite amazing. And God is the only one who deserves all of the credit.
    Daniel M. Klem recently posted..Singles Awareness

  12. I’ve begun to think of “fairy tale relationships” in the spirit of actual fairy tales, which contain an incredible amount of hardship, lessons to be learned, risk, and confusion, not to mention ogres, pits of despair and evil conspirators. They also contain perseverance, a source of wisdom, victory and true love. Sounds kind of like my 31-year marriage!
    Gina Calvert recently posted..Chill Pill

  13. I think you can learn something from anyone. It’s the ones who think they have it all figured out and are going to tell you how to do it ‘right’ that bug me. Good stuff (today and this month). Thanks Matt.
    jasonS recently posted..Together We’re a Revolution

  14. Good morning, Matt,
    Sorry I’m so late in commenting; computer problems.

    What makes a happy marriage? Looking back over the past 43 years, Ginny and I would have to say adversity.

    External pressures pressed us together in love.

    Poverty played the role of a great Cupid in our deep romance. In the early days we lived in HUD housing and subsisted on food stamps.

    Sometimes we gathered beer cans along the road to sell for scrap to buy breakfast while raising six kids. Bought clothes at thrift stores. Heated our home with wood I collected and toted home on my back. No car. Often without electricity or water; made do. Pulled my own teeth with pliers because I couldn’t afford a dentist. Cast a shrimp net all night to catch food for the next day–like a food gatherer in a hi-tech society. Prayed for daily bread daily by necessity.

    Making it worse, we had to hide our condition from outsiders for fear the welfare would take the children away if they knew how bad off we were.

    Once a preacher remarked that we had a siege mentality and Ginny replied, “That’s because we are under seige”.

    But in all the poverty and adversity, we bonded closer and closer. Us against the world.

    Love between the two of us, the love shared between our children, and the love of the Lord Jesus for us welded us into a happy couple, a happy family. Today we are doing fine. Our six kids are grown with homes of their own. One is a nurse, one a traffic surveyor, one a bank vice president, one a librarian, one a computer repairman, and the youngest is a lab technician. All tax payers. None ever in jail. And to top it all, our own children are our best friends.

    And, oddly enough, to this day, aside from their careers, virtually all our children engage in regular, systematic volunteer work to help out poor people.

    Now, I would not wish poverty on anyone. It sucks big time. I would not want to live through those bad times again! But those terrible, awful, horrible hard times pressed us together and pushed us closer to eachother in love. And closer to the Lord.

    Whom the Lord loves, He kicks.

    Ginny and I are still honeymooners. We really like eachother. I adore her with all my heart and she often finds me quite tolerable.

    Thanks be to God.

    John

  15. My husband and I got married and one month later the military sent us to different countries for a year and a half, then separate states for another six months. But our marriage got stronger because of the letter writing and the decision to have integrity in our vows. I got long letters nearly every day for 18 months and learned things I would still be finding out if it weren’t for that separation. For the next 5 or 6 years, we lived in poverty because we ended up in a place where entry level jobs often require a college degree and we didn’t have them. We were surprised by two children whom God sent despite our best efforts :) But we were too busy and too stubborn to look at those things as reasons to call it quits.

    The only times I have thought about leaving to stop the pain was when the pain was relational – not situational. When we had a lot of people trying to define roles for us, tell us how “biblical marriage” was supposed to work, and changing how we saw each other. That’s why I’m so wary of those conversations now. We got back on track and are more in love now than ever.

    We’ve been married 28 years and since the 20th anniversary have gone through a child needing to be sent away, a brain tumor, a layoff, a couple of college graduations, and a lot of the regular old challenges that just come with living. But when the relationship is strong and you genuinely like each other (which oddly has become a higher standard than loving each other), those aren’t the deal breakers. My best advice to married couples is to truly get to know each other and understand what an awesome privilege it is to be allowed to hold someone else’s heart in your hands and to model the relationship between Christ and His church to people who don’t know Him yet.

  16. God restored the relationship between Him and us, which we broke apart. No human relationship is in too much trouble for God.
    Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..What does it mean to be Human

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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Glynn Young, Matt Appling. Matt Appling said: I'm not inspired by stories of happily ever after "fairy tale" couples. These couples inspire me. http://wp.me/pSZSu-sH […]