As I tell my mom what I said, she responds saying, “You did what?!?”
I’m already feeling bad enough as is, but to make matters worse, on the other end of the line my mom drops the phone from her ear and yells to my dad, “Mark! You’re never gonna believe what Bryan said to Becky!”
I drop my head and rest it on the palm of my hand, “Ugh.”
After hearing what I said, my dad rushes across the room and grabs the phone from my mom. “You said that?!? Oh man! You’re in big trouble!”
It was a beautiful summer Saturday morning, and I was driving home from our neighborhood coffee shop when my mom called for her weekly check-in phone call. Becky and I had been married a matter of months and the night before we were sitting out on our back deck talking about our week that had just passed and the weekend ahead.
Somewhere along the way the conversation turned towards our marriage and I unintentionally said something incredibly hurtful to my wife. To be honest, I don’t exactly remember what I said, but it was something along the lines of how I wished she would change in a certain area. I know, a horrible thing to say.
But what made it even worse was that what she heard was, “I made a mistake in marrying you.” Just for clarity, those were not the words I said, but when I repeated to mom and dad what I did say, they interpreted them the exact same way Becky did.
Needless to say, I was in BIG trouble.
I hadn’t intended to tell my parents about what I said to Becky, but when my mom called I was so torn up by the previous night, it just came out in the conversation with them.
By now I was sitting in the parking lot of our apartment complex finishing up the phone call with my parents before going inside. Truth be told, I was stalling. That morning in our apartment Becky was hosting her weekly coffee get together with two of her friends. I knew that some where in their time together, conversation about my comments would surface. I tried to time it just right so that I would show up after they left. My timing was way off. When I pulled in to the parking lot their cars were still there.
Still on the phone with my dad, before we hung up, he gave me some of the best marital advice that I’ve ever heard, and it’s stuck with me through almost 10 years of being married. He simply said to me, “Bryan, you have to let her be her. Your job is not to change her. Your job is to love her, no matter what.”
Now, let’s be honest. It doesn’t take long into your marriage before the facade of dating and engagement wears off and you start to see different sides of your spouse that you didn’t see while you were dating and engaged. When that happens many of us start strategizing ways to change certain things about our spouse we don’t like. Often we do it without even realizing it. But it doesn’t take long before you realize trying to change your spouse is the death on any marriage. Your job is not to change your spouse but to love them no matter what.
And believe it or not, over time your spouse will change, and so will you. It’s been said, you don’t marry one person, you marry multiple people. Because during the course of your relationship you and your spouse are constantly changing. You become different people 2 years in, 10 years in, and 20 years in. You’re constantly changing. The call of marriage isn’t to change or fix your spouse, but to love them and stand by them through all of the different seasons and changes that you experience individually and together.
Just having hung up the phone with my parents, standing outside our building, I take a deep breath and climb the stairs to our second floor apartment. Before I open the door to our apartment, I brace myself expecting to receive looks that could kill from the ladies in the living room. I knew, by now, they knew what I said. But to my surprise, their looks and greetings were kind and gracious.
I said hello and slipped into our bedroom to let them finish their coffee and conversation. After they left Becky and I sat down to talk. I profusely apologized and she graciously forgave me. I told her about my conversation with my parents and what my dad had said to me. She affirmed those words and said that she would appreciate those were words that we lived by in our marriage.
During our almost 10 years together, we haven’t always gotten it right. But we keep coming back to the foundation of putting each other first and loving each other just the way we are. Work on these two things and you will create a context where your marriage can flourish and thrive.