Are you sitting down? Of course you are. Good. This will probably come as a huge shock, so brace yourself. On very rare occasions, I am not the sharpest brick on the tree. Gasp! Sit back down. Deep cleansing breaths. Order in the court.
It’s true. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure out basic things that most people already seem to know. And in hopes of saving someone else the embarrassment of not knowing what I know now, I am about to impart my great newfound wisdom here and now. If this is old news to you, you are welcome to respond with a hearty “Well, DUH!” when I am finished.
After 16 years of marriage, I am finally figuring out what it means to become one. (16 years. See? Not the brightest whip in the drawer.)
For a long time, I mentally relegated that “two shall become one flesh” phrase to the physical aspects of marriage, like it was God’s delicate and subtle way of saying, “Go to it!” (Because, you know, God’s all about being delicate and subtle.) I thought it was largely to do with purity and intimacy. And it is. But it’s way more than that.
My understanding of “one” gradually grew to include a mental component. This included layers of respect and honouring each other. For me, that often translated to submission. If we didn’t agree about something pertaining to our finances or our parenting or our schedule, I thought that being one automatically meant that I had to submit to my husband as the head of our family. Sometimes I did that begrudgingly (which may or may not have occasionally led to surges of bitterness/anger/rebellion/frustration/judgement etc.)
Somewhere along the way, as I matured through adulthood and grew in my faith, I began to feel more inclined to submit to my husband’s authority willingly. Joyfully even. I was so very pleased with this monumental accomplishment in my personal growth and development!
You can imagine how shocked I was to discover that this did not please my husband.
It turns out he doesn’t want me to always let him make the final decision. He doesn’t want me to submit unless it’s because I’ve changed my mind about the issue at hand and I’ve come to agree with his point of view. He actually finds it immensely frustrating when I say, “I disagree but I’m willing to go with whatever you decide” even when I say it with heartfelt respect and joy!
I don’t understand that at all. I think he should be honoured by my respect and acquiescence. But I am willing to let him decide how he feels about all that. (Tee hee. See what I did there?) Anyway, I can see now that we needed to go deeper with the “becoming one” idea.
Parenting a traumatized and traumatizing child has helped us immeasurably. I can certainly understand how that kind of stress on a marriage causes people to turtle and lose touch with each other. For us, however, the more we united against the toxicity in our home, the more we became one in other areas of our life. The more we reiterated to each other, “We’re in this together” regarding our parenting, the more we felt like we were also in this together, and this, and this.
Being one has turned into a much more spiritual thing. With the physical and mental components, it often feels like in order to achieve unity, we both have to compromise part of who we are and how we feel and what we believe. We have to sacrifice something of ourselves to meet on some vague middle ground. And there’s certainly a lot to be said for that kind of healthy give and take in a marriage. But that doesn’t make us one. That makes us two halves. And we all know that half a pie and half a cheesecake don’t make one dessert. Wait, that actually sounds like the perfect dessert. Bad example. Okay, half an orange and half an apple don’t make one fruit.
When we acknowledge constantly that “we’re in this together”, we don’t look at submission as an act of giving up of self. We see the mutual benefit of receiving that submission from ourselves. Coming into agreement on something that we initially disagreed about is seen in the light of how it will benefit us as a couple, us as a family, and us as contributing members of society. The difference is subtle, but it’s there. And it’s beautiful.
I’m excited to see how much deeper this idea of “one” can go. I’ll update you in 16 years.