Moving to Africa was like seeing a new version of my husband.
Sure; in some ways it aged us and strained us in ways we could have never experienced. But it was also extremely cool to see my husband as the guy tooling around an African metropolis, learning to navigate the streets to care for his family. I would have never anticipated the overwhelming generosity he possessed; the crazy-cool gifts of cultural understanding and helping Africans through heartbreaking conflicts and difficulties. What if I’d never seen the African version of him? And as I at last realized my dream of moving overseas, we laughed out loud about the “Afro-disiac” it was for our marriage!
Still, as the novelty wears off, giving way to the stress of life overseas, it can be hard to stay one flesh. It’s possible your spouse, who used to pull their 50% of the weight, doesn’t seem to be pulling his or her fair share. You may see a worn version of them like you’ve never witnessed.
But keep in mind marriage is a covenant, a picture of Christ and the Church–and that both give 100%. In Jesus’ last prayer before the cross, he asked God to make his followers “one as we are one”. Kind of a tall order, when you think about it. A friend of mine in Uganda once committed to pray for 30 days that she’d love her mate unconditionally. How cool is that?
Yes, like having kids, moving over there does pile on weird stresses and environments. But with steady nurture, it could take your marriage to mind-boggling places and strengths it’s never experienced.
Spend what’s precious on your mate.
If it’s time, energy, cash, attention, or the chocolate chips you packed in the last few kilos of luggage allowance, make as much space as you can for one of the top-priority relationships in your life. It could be surprising your mate with a night away, or a “date in” after a week of working up till bedtime, or finding friends to watch the kids, or simply taking a walk or sitting down together to do nothing while the kids climb trees in the backyard. If it’s a date, employ plenty of forethought to carve it out and make it special—to communicate, we matter. You matter. We are not just what we do for God. We are loved, and he delights in our rest and our happiness in each other.
So much of love is truly seeing our spouse and their world in all its intricacies and complexities. In this new place, you’ll both be changing a lot. Work diligently to comprehend and respond to your mate’s stresses, longings, griefs, joys in this new environment. It’s a lot like having a new baby: Expect your relationship and your spouse to change, and work to adapt your marriage to its new digs.
Paul himself notes in 1 Corinthians that though his conscience is clear, that doesn’t make him innocent. You’ve heard the 1% rule: Even if you’re only responsible for 1% of a conflict, you’re still 100% responsible for your 1%.
Take time to pray through what you’re contributing to a rift between you. What’s the “log” in your eye? Are you forgiving your spouse, or developing even a hint of bitterness and resentment? Are you oversensitive, critical, or even apathetic? We always underestimate the impact our junk has on other people. Consider the pleading of Psalm 139:23-24: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Get down, get down.
Beg God for oneness, passion, enduring love, and the grace to love your mate like He’s called you to. Ask Him for wisdom so your marriage can show the world just how deep, wide, and long He loves us.
Goose and Mav, baby.
How can we be our spouse’s “intimate ally”? Get this: The word which God used to describe Eve in the Bible (ezer) translated as helper—is most often used in the Bible as either as a term for a military ally…or for God Himself, helping us. Here’s a printable infographic (taken from my personal blog) to act as your mate’s shield, advocate, and protector.