Death and Love in Marriage
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A FUTURE SPOUSE?
BY RICA PERALEJO
Some young men were in a mentoring session with my husband when I arrived. As I waited for them to finish, one of them took the liberty and asked me, “What should we look for in a future spouse?”
In my head I was answering, “A lot.” But then a quick scan of the last six years I’ve spent as a wife to my husband told me it doesn’t have to be too many different things, and it doesn’t even make for a list of exemplary qualities. It was actually simple. She only needed to be someone who could die to herself.
Now I said it was simple but I never mentioned anything about easy. Marriage is hard work, after all.
I was looking at bed frames the other day when I saw this gorgeous poster bed made out of hard wood. I elbowed Joseph to check it out and said, “Isn’t this lovely?” He answers, “I don’t like poster beds, remember?” I said, “But I do! And because we are one, you now like it, too!” And he replied, “No, because we are one, that means you don’t like it, too.”
I know this sounds hilarious but just think about it. In matters where there are no right and wrong answers (and oh boy, so many marital situations are of this kind), someone just has to die to himself…or herself. We can only choose one thing and it is either we like poster bed frames or we don’t like poster bed frames. Because if we insist on what we individually like, this means we’d have to sleep on different beds, possibly even in different rooms, every night. And if that happens, that would be make us look more like dorm mates than a married couple, right?
But bed frames are too small a matter, perhaps. Let’s try another scenario.
I wanted to pursue a passion back in 2013 but my husband didn’t feel it was safe for me to do it without him. At that time, he was too busy to accompany me so I was left with the choice of doing this without him or not doing it all. To be honest, I wanted to go without him. I waited four years before I could do this and now that the opportunity presents itself to me, my husband expresses he is opposed to me doing it without him. It broke my heart but in the end, I let it go. I died to my desire and I felt the excruciating pain of it.
But you know why I chose to die to my desire? You’d probably find it romantic if I said, “Because I love my husband more than I love myself.” So yeah, I wish that was my reason but it was not. I love Joseph, yes, but the truth is I am a selfish woman who is drawn to her own pleasures, and I would be so doomed in this marriage if I let my imperfect love determine my decisions as a wife.
So here goes the next item on the short list of what one should look for in a future spouse: that he or she be someone who can die to him or herself not for you, but for Jesus.
The truth is I died to my desire because of Jesus and not Joseph. Because Jesus values our marriage more than the way my husband and I value it combined. Because Jesus values Joseph more than I can ever value my own husband. Because Jesus values me more than Joseph can ever value his own wife. And when we take up our cross to follow we Jesus we are led back to where we are supposed to be – in a loving, forgiving marriage, covered by the swelling grace of God.
In a world that is competing for who loves more than who, this is the only secret. To first meet Someone we cannot out-give, we cannot out-love, and trust that the repeated discovery of being a receptor of such mercy will enable us to assume the daily deaths of marriage. To love more than the other on some days and to be loved more by the other on some days, because anyway, Someone loves us more than we can imagine, always.
Both death and love are crucial in marriage, and Jesus did both for us. This is the only way I know how relationships between two imperfect people can still thrive in this world.