These 3 principles have been foundational in our process. Beyond just the first difficult and challenging years of recovery, they have become a staple of our present day relationship too. The more I seek to live by them, the better I see our marriage become.
1) I’d rather lose you than lie to you.
One of the core principles in Worthy of Her Trust, this became bedrock in our marriage. Deciding that I loved and respected Shelley enough to tell her the truth, at all costs, is part of what saved our marriage. Today, I practice this regularly. I don’t want there to be a secret. I don’t want there to be anything hidden.
The gist of the principle is simply that in my sin, I protected myself by lying and manipulating. I assuaged my guilt and shame by hiding the truth of my life, thoughts and behavior. Living by this principle means I’ll protect Shelley’s heart before my own. I’ll feel the shame and guilt living in truth rather than keep her in the dark.
2) I’ll surrender for your sake.
This principle was borne out of two changes in my character. The first: humility. Becoming humble has been so hard and continues to be a daily challenge. I want to be prideful and arrogant. I want to believe myself above others, even and sometimes especially Shelley. God consistently gives me opportunities to practice humility. Within this principle, it means sometimes I can surrender my position for the betterment of us both.
The second change has to do with being a recovering only child. In college Shelley confronted me about my selfishness and said, “you’re the most selfish person I’ve ever met”. It hurt. But it was true. Today I still have those moments where I grab a drink and a snack in front of company and don’t offer anyone else anything. Early in our relationship, I had to have my way most of the time. It was rare for me to give way to Shelley’s requests; she would usually acquiesce to my pressure.
Applying this principle means I don’t always get my way. In fact, it’s a good exercise for me NOT get my way, simply because it untangles the knot of selfishness a little bit each time. I dislike the thought of Jesus’ words “I came not to be served, but to serve”. It seems in some ways like he was making a statement about marriage.
3) I’d rather be in relationship than be right.
I’ve heard that Dr. Phil originally coined this phrase. Regardless of who came up with it, its relational gold. The urge to be right can so often be the wedge between two people. In our relationship, I’ve realized that I want to be right to feel good about myself. I’ll push for that at the expense of our closeness. Then, even though I’m right, I end up feeling sad and lonely because I know I “won” the battle but ultimately am losing the war. I’m getting immediate gratification, while shooting myself in the foot for the long run.
A better way is to surrender being right. Who cares who is right? What’s so bad about being wrong? Usually when I’m hung up on being right it is because I feel misunderstood, blamed, or falsely accused. Fighting to be right is like getting myself off the witness stand and being judged “not guilty”. But I have to ask, what is more important- our relational closeness or my feeling exonerated? Adopting a willingness to be wrong means I’ll work towards dealing with what is happening in our relationship that is prompting her to blame or falsely accuse me. If we can get to the root of what impacted our relationship, we can actually find resolution.
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