Your and my ideas of marriage are shaped by what we see or have seen in our lives. We’re influenced by the married people around us.
When I was in the third grade, for example, I remember spending the night at my friend Ashley’s house. Her parents’ marriage was like a fairy tale to me. Her dad worked hard, and her mom kept the house well. I often saw her mom in a long, flowing satin robe at night. It was the most beautiful thing. I remember thinking I one day wanted to be married, too, and wear a satin robe around the house.
As a college student, I watched my parents walk through a difficult season in their marriage. The tough patch they endured created ripple effects that impacted everyone in their circle, things that Satan still tries stirring up in my mind to place a sense of fear over my marriage. Yet I also watched God do a miracle in their relationship—the same kind of miracle I’ve seen Him do over and over in the lives of friends I’ve known throughout the past twenty years. What Satan sets out to destroy, God sets out to redeem and build up.
Both sets of my grandparents were married in the late 1940s, when men were going and coming from war, and women were raising babies and keeping care of the home. As I became an adult, I began to see the struggles that marriages can endure at that age, when someone becomes distant or when someone becomes ill, as happened to both of my grandfathers.
You’ve had these same kinds of formative thoughts. Your own feelings. Your own observations. Your own take on how our culture views marriage today. All of it has rubbed off on you and factored into your thinking, becoming part of either your desire for marriage, your skepticism of marriage or perhaps your decision to not want anything to do with marriage.
As for me, I have always desired marriage. I went to a private Christian college right out of high school, where there was a running joke that a lot of the girls only came to school to get their “MRS” degree. Maybe they were like me and just always saw themselves experiencing the kind of companionship that marriage could bring. Or maybe (also like me) they believed a man would fill some holes in their heart for them.
I’ll admit, I came into marriage thinking that Aaron would complete me, that my life would finally begin once we were married. I assumed my heart would never be hurt again. I thought he would fill the hole in my heart that yearned so badly to be unconditionally loved. I put a lot of pressure on him to never hurt me and never have arguments with me. I wanted a love that would always make me feel good and never make me uncomfortable.
Let’s just say I brought a multi-piece set of baggage to our wedding day—baggage I wanted to keep a secret from him because I was certain he wouldn’t want this kind of baggage in our house. And I’m guessing, so did you. Or, if you haven’t married yet, you’re well on your way to doing it. No matter where you’re located today in your life journey, you too have ideas about what you expect from marriage. You don’t need to be married to think these thoughts.
But though the world tells you a lot about marriage, and the Church tells you a lot about marriage, we believe God’s Word is where we should all be getting our real perspectives on marriage. The Bible holds immense value for those of us yearning to love our husbands well in marriages that bless them, beautify us, and bring maximum glory to God.
Aaron and I think marriage has gotten a bad rap recently. Some people are disregarding the value of it. Others are using it to stifle a person’s gifts and talents. Still others enter into it knowing that when the going gets tough, they’ll run. There are just so many varying ideas around the gift of marriage. And if we’re honest with you (which we always will be), we think even Christians haven’t always done the best job of making marriage look like the true gift from God that it’s meant to be. But for marriage to be what God had in mind, where it can stand up to real life and not back down from its amazing potential, we can’t be buying into beliefs about marriage that clash with what God has always said about it.
I don’t care who you are, something will come along to make your marriage difficult. Maybe this happened for you as early as your honeymoon (I’m serious), or maybe by Year Three. For us, it wasn’t really until around Year Nine when circumstances conspired to make life hard at our house. In those moments, I knew there had to be more to marriage than just fun times and a constant companion. I needed a partner who was willing to walk through the fire with me. I needed a partner who was willing to keep the wind in my sails. I needed a partner who was willing to both lead and follow in different circumstances.
To complement me. Even as I complement him.
After being married for more than two decades now, I’ve learned marriage is so very beautiful. God created something for His children that magnifies Him in all sorts of ways. I’ve learned that great marriages don’t happen overnight but are created through years of hard work and sacrifice on both spouses’ parts.
I’ve also learned something else. Remember that desire of mine about Aaron completing me?
How he would fill all the holes in my heart? That idea was never going to work out, I discovered. But I’ve grown to see that the way we complement each other does some wonderful things in both of our hearts. It’s a beautiful picture of how God designed marriage to be.
Excerpted with permission from Complement by Jamie and Aaron Ivey. Copyright 2021, B&H Publishing.
Jamie Ivey is the host of the popular podcast "The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey" and co-host of the Relevant podcast. She is the author of If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free. Jamie and her husband, Aaron, live in Austin, Texas with their four kids and two dogs.