Our honeymoon had been perfect so far. My husband of four days had blown me away with his romantic surprises. We were giddy about being on the breathtaking Hawaiian island, Kauai, and it seemed like every minute we were relishing in our new love together. But suddenly as we walked along the shore near our cabana, the tides in our relationship changed.
Jeremiah and I started to argue about whether to stay in our cabana or travel to the northern side of the island and enjoy a resort. I was interested in the resort for a change in scenery and Jeremiah preferred to stay at the cabana. That was his original plan all along.
So there we stood as newlyweds in lover’s paradise, interrupted by this uninvited conflict that was seeking to destroy our oneness. We were both frustrated and unsure of how to resolve the conflict. I remember thinking,
who fights with their spouse on their honeymoon? That’s not supposed to happen. Did we make the wrong decision to marry each other?”
Not too long after our squabble, we reconciled. I backed down on wanting to have the control and Jeremiah understood my desires. We decided to head to the resort and it ended up being a wonderful time. And oddly enough by the third day, I wanted to go back to the cabana. Thankfully my gracious husband worked it out for us to be able to return. He did everything he could to make our honeymoon experience the best it could be.
After we came home from Kauai, I reflected back on what happened and my eyes were opened to a great truth.
An Inherited Sinful Nature
Our journey in marriage would not be void of conflict and struggle. We would have to face it simply because we were sinners. We have a sinful nature that was inherited when Adam and Eve fell to temptation in the Garden of Eden. Their decision to disobey God’s command led to serious consequences that impacted the entire human race, including husbands and wives:
To the woman he [God] said, ‘I will greatly increase your labor pains; with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.’
But to Adam he said, ‘Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘you must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground thanks to you; in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, but you will eat the grain of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat food until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return.'” (NET, Genesis 3:16-19)
The fall of man ushered in pain, toil, hard work, opposition, conflict, brokenness, hurt, shame, death, and above all a fractured relationship with God. And from here on out, every woman and man with a pulse would have a sinful nature warring against them.
Sanctification Trumps Sinfulness
As the newlywed phase fizzled out in our marriage, we began to see that no matter how much we loved each other, we would have to work hard in fighting against our sinful nature—two natures that could be very selfish and stubborn. Not to mention two natures that were strong-willed even as children!
Jeremiah and I started to see areas that would have to be smoothed out and sanctified in order for our marriage to stay alive and healthy. We saw pride, anger, control issues, selfishness and manipulation. We saw nasty habits in communication like escalation, criticism, and attacking—behaviors that we didn’t see clearly when we were dating.
In our second year of marriage, we moved from Virginia to Dallas for my husband to attend seminary. We plugged into a solid church that focused on helping Christ-followers live authentically. We met regularly with other couples in our same life stage where we discussed the hard stuff in marriage like finances, sex, communication, past baggage, and family background.
As husband and wife, we were so encouraged to take a hard look at where we needed to change individually and as a couple. Being sharpened by other married couples also helped us as we worked through issues in our relationship. It was encouraging to know that they had issues to work through too. They experienced conflict. And we weren’t weird after all.
Marriage is Hard Work, But Worth It
Now, just having crossed our six year anniversary, we still have areas of growth we are working on. I wish I could tell you we didn’t but that’s not reality. We have a 3 year old, 1 year old and a baby on the way. Life with young children is a wonderful blessing but can also put strain on the marriage relationship. It has become critical for us to set aside time in the evening to connect, work through any conflict without distractions, and enjoy each other’s presence.
The bottom line is that marriage is hard work, as we already know from the fall. We would be fooling ourselves if we stuffed conflict under our sheets and pretended it didn’t exist. Or if we lied to ourselves by thinking:
We shouldn’t be having conflict. Perfect marriages don’t have conflict. Should we even be together?”
We would be wise to face conflict head on and recognize that we’re all sinners in this beautiful, God-ordained union of marriage. We fall short of perfectly loving another person—only God can love perfectly. And because we are broken and tainted by sin, every couple brings some kind of baggage into their home—heavy or light. But with God’s help and His abounding grace, marriages can face whatever is thrown at them.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end with Adam and Eve’s sin. God already had a plan in place because He knew they would sin. He sent his son Jesus to restore what had been lost and one day, so we will see creation fully restored from its current state and we will be completely healed from our sin and brokenness.
The beauty of the gospel is found in the fact that by God’s grace, two imperfect sinners can love each other unconditionally. Husbands and wives can work through conflict in a godly manner. They can grow and learn from their past mistakes and even better, they can even like each other in the process!