I recently came across a tricky little phrase about it: 'two Halves do not equal one Whole.'
Tricky, isn't it?
I appreciate that sentiment.
Getting married cannot answer all your problems; so many people think that marriage is the ultimate goal in life before they get married. But they quickly find out within a few years that it sure doesn't solve all their problems. Then more problems are ushered in: frustration, looking for a better 'soul mate,' bitterness, and on and on. So two halves surely do not magically make one whole.
But there's something that I don't particulary like about that little phrase, though. It's like it assumes that people have to be healed and whole to have a healthy marriage. And yes, marriage cannot make you whole. Life is a broken, messy, painful thing. And we all as humans feel the need to have someone or something save us out of that pain. Another human being, a spouse, cannot do that...
...I do firmly believe that marriage has the potential to be an extremely healing and sanctifying experience.
Let me tell you a story from my own experience.
When I was growing up, my family didn't handle conflict particularly well. It wasn't a common occurrence to get upset about something, sit down with that person, and talk it out. It's like we couldn't really realize that our love for each was a safety net that forever held us together in a connection that could never be broken, no matter what obstacle we encountered: I will love you forever, no matter what. We will work this out, together. Even the scary monster of conflict and anger cannot separate us from each other, because we are committed to this relationship.
It was more like, in our confusion and brokenness, we thought that the safety net that would keep us safe and secure and hold us together forever was no conflict. If something made us upset and angry, we didn't talk about it. We held it inside. It usually would eek out a little bit, though. Maybe in a general coldness towards that person, maybe in a passive aggressive comment, maybe in some kind of avoidance for a little while. But our unspoken family agreement was that in order to stay family together forever, we just had to avoid conflict. And the byproducts of that agreement (passive aggressive comments, lingering bitterness, time periods of coldness), they were all worth it to stay in the safety net.
But when I met Caleb and we started taking steps towards committing to be together for the long haul, especially when we got engaged, I realized that he had a whole different way of operating. His motto was less like 'avoid conflict' and more like 'embrace conflict.'
Talk about a game-changer.
Caleb wanted to talk when we got upset (it probably would be more accurate to say when I got angry, because I am typically the more stormy of the two of us). He wanted to take the risk and say what we felt- get our angry thoughts and feelings out on the table and stick it out to talk it through until we understood each other and came to a resolution. He wasn't afraid of the byproducts of engaging in conflict (anger, raised voices, space apart to calm down, hurt feelings, misunderstandings). He knew that those byproducts pale in comparison to the end result of greater understanding, greater love for each other, greater intimacy.
I could tell so many stories of how messy it was for an internalizing-suppressing-avoiding-conflict-kind-of-girl to start to embrace conflict. It was like I was at one end of the pendulum and I had to swing to the complete other end when I started expressing my emotions because I had no idea how to do it. So when I started having conflicts with Caleb, there was yelling. There was screaming in frustration. There was peeling out of the driveway in my car. There was even...a few instances of smacking him. And even one of pushing him into a river. Yes. That happened.
It sound sterile and even 'anti-Christian.' But I'm telling you, it was so healing for me. So healing. I was getting my emotions that I had always hid outside of myself. And I was finding that it was safe. He didn't leave me. He stayed. And he committed to me and our love in even deeper ways. It was like our conflicts deepened our intimacy.
We were secure in the safety net of our commitment to each other and our love for each other. It wasn't a flimsy thing that could break with a little bit of anger. It was strong and tenacious and determined. And it held when we took the risk to delve into the wild waves of conflict.
I know you're wondering if I still smack Caleb when I get angry with him. So just so everything's straight, I want you to know that I do not abuse my husband. We sit on the couch and talk things through now. I still get heated and say irrational things at times, but there haven't been any more instances of river-pushing in the Howard household. I can't promise that there won't ever be again...but so far, there haven't.
Do you know why I can sit down with my husband and be hurt, be angry, be confused and yet so sure that I'm right, and still talk it out? It's because our marriage has healed me. More accurately, God has healed me with His love, manifested to me through the means of our marriage.
And how I deal with conflict is just one area of who I am. I was a half. And now I am moving more towards a whole. Definitely not whole yet. But I am being healed, I am being sanctified, I am being changed into a better version of myself through the safety net of our covenant to each other.
Marriage didn't take away the pain of this life. It didn't save me. We still argue. I still get hurt. Caleb doesn't satisfy the deep craving inside of me for affirmation, for safety, for significance, for comfort. But God really is healing me, actually making me more whole, in the setting of my marriage. And that is part of God's vision for marriage, that in a way, two halves don't necessarily MAKE a whole, but yeah of the two halves are making the other half MORE WHOLE.