When we marry, the Bible says that two become one. That oneness is one of the many beautiful blessings of marriage. Yet it is not always easy to maintain as we contend with our individual wants and needs….
Early spring in Chicago is usually quite chilly, especially when the wind is brisk. My husband and I had been married for less than six months when he asked me, early one morning in March, if I would throw on some sweat pants and drive him from our apartment on the near north side of town into the center of the city for a meeting. He was on a tight schedule. I wasn’t working full-time, and my car was parked nearby.
But I was reading and enjoying coffee in my cozy pajamas, and I hated fighting downtown traffic. “Why don’t you just take the bus?”
Then I looked up from my book and saw something unfamiliar. My husband looked kind of sad and … disappointed. I thought about what I had just said and about how many times he rearranged his schedule to do something sweet for me.
A few minutes later, he walked out the door and downstairs to the street to catch a bus. I stayed home that day feeling absolutely miserable. To be honest, I was appalled at my own selfishness, especially when it was directed toward the man I vowed to love and cherish just a few months earlier.
One Plus One Equals One
When you get married, you embark on this incredible adventure that involves two people becoming one. And I’m talking about much more than just a physical union, although that’s really important.
There is a spiritual union that happens when two souls collide in marriage. It’s mystical and powerful. Husband and wife have the potential to call out the best, and provoke the absolute worst, in each other. And that oneness doesn’t mean each partner loses their individuality or identity. Each has the opportunity to be more than they could ever be alone. It’s a crazy equation, but in marriage, the whole can be greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Here is something I have learned after 30-plus years of marriage. In my marriage, if I consistently put my own needs first and care for my husband only when it’s convenient, I’m not just hurting him, I’m also hurting myself.
We are a team—a unit. We are one. Together we have experienced incredible joy and weathered some wrenchingly tough times. When I put aside my natural selfishness and prioritize my husband, and when he reaches out to help me, it’s good for both of us. Helping each other makes us a better team, a stronger unit. It reinforces our “oneness.”
By contrast, selfishness chips away at our relationship and drives wedges between us. When we act selfishly, we do not experience the closeness, the oneness, the divine purpose, and the deep pleasure that marriage can give.
Internationally celebrated author and theologian John Piper puts it this way: “Husbands and wives, recognize that in marriage you have become one flesh. If you live for your private pleasure at the expense of your spouse, you are living against yourself and destroying your joy. But if you devote yourself with all your heart to the holy joy of your spouse, you will also be living for your joy and making a marriage after the image of Christ and His church.”
What Will You Do?
So I got it wrong that spring morning in Chicago, and I’m sorry to say there have been a lot of other times I have acted selfishly toward my husband. We’ve both messed up and apologized and forgiven each other for a lot of things. That’s life.
But we’ve gotten it right a lot of times, too. We’ve had lots of opportunities to put aside our own comfort and convenience and lay down our own egos to reach out and care for each other. Every unselfish act has made us a stronger unit, a better team. Our love has grown deeper and more resilient. We are two distinct personalities, and we’re far from perfect, but we are better together than apart.
So how about you?
What contributes to a sense of “oneness” in your marriage? Is there something specific that creates distance between you and your spouse? What unselfish act could strengthen your marriage this week?
Have you done the math on your marriage recently? Why not take our free Marriage Quiz?