In less than a month my wife and I will start an 18-week marriage class at our church. After 9 years of marriage, several marriage conferences/retreats/studies, some professional counseling, and multiple books she asks me, “What do you think we’ll get out of it?”
Relationships, psychology, the way people tick, how we all interact with each other has fascinated me as long as I can remember. I read books about dating in my teens and young twenties, then shifted to books about marriage a couple months after I met Lisa. Since we’ve been married there has been probably 2–4 books, video teachings, conferences, or evening seminars that we’ve gained wisdom from each year.
You could say I’m a student of marriage and relationships.
But one could be an expert (which I am most certainly not even close) and still have a crappy marriage (which I also don’t have, but it’s certainly not perfect). Just because you know things in your head doesn’t mean you’re living them out, putting them into practice, and bearing the fruit of your wisdom. Action on the knowledge is a whole separate thing.
About 3 or 4 years ago Lisa and I were in a fight about something. I don’t know what, but it was probably petty and insignificant and started with me making a rude and/or sarcastic comment. Somewhere in the middle of the back and forth and arguing about new arguments that were started by new sarcastic comments I just yelled, “Why don’t we do anything we know to do? We could fix our marriage if we just did everything we learned!”
I had come to this place in our relationship where I felt like I had probably every tool, acronym, and lesson I needed to have an amazing marriage. I knew exactly what I should’ve be doing. The map to a great marriage was in my brain, but we hadn’t done anything to walk the path to get there. Our marriage was messy and I knew how to make it better, but wasn’t doing anything about it. Why?
The conclusion I came to was that I am much better at being sarcastic and fighting and winning arguments than I am at being a husband. Though I’m more miserable, it’s just a lot easier than putting in work to be the guy my wife deserves. An angry husband is much more natural than a vulnerable husband. When I bared my soul it usually punched Lisa in the face.
After my outburst we calmed down a bit and did one of the things we knew to do. We prayed. Nothing fancy or long and drawn out. Just a simple, “God, we suck right now. Please bring your peace and help.” The act of taking a breath in the middle of yelling removed our focus from killing each other and diffused the room. We were able to talk things out.
This didn’t magically fix things for us, but I look back at it as a turning point in my own life as one of the equal parts of this couple. It’s when I realized I needed to put into practice what I had learned in all the books, video teachings, conferences, or evening seminars. I needed to work a lot harder than I was, stop being angry, and start being vulnerable.
Going into this new study I know I’m going to learn something new; probably lots of somethings. I’m not perfect and I’m no expert on marriage regardless of experience and how much I’ve downloaded to my brain. But the real question I’m asking to myself isn’t “What am I going to get out of this?” but more so, “How much of what I get out of this am I going to put into practice?”