The Marriage Journey is Long

This coming Friday, my husband and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. My husband and I are both from Ghana in West Africa, although he was born and raised there. Despite being socialized here in the United States, my parents made their best effort to instill traditional Ghanaian values. This foundation helped me, particularly, navigate many of cultural differences, nuances that had resulted from our differing upbringings. There is a saying in our local parlance, Twi, that accurately reflects my thoughts on this occasion: awareɛ kwan wa, meaning the marriage journey is long. This has in fact been a journey, not to talk of the years preceding our wedding. After marrying in August 2018, my husband remained in Ghana and I returned to The States. One of the earliest pieces of unsolicited, useful marital advice we received was to not grow accustomed to the distance; unfortunately, the circumstances that followed left us with no alternative. Although my husband had the appropriate documentation to travel here as he pleased, an American visa, he continued to reside in Ghana full-time. Alternatively, we decided to submit an application for permanent residence while he maintained his employment. This seemed like the most logical course of action, as he was as he was gainfully employed in Ghana, and we could alternate traveling between both locations. We initiated the application process in December 2018. Over the course of the next several months, there were requests made for supplemental information. Finally on February 15, 2020, we received notification that his application had been documentarily qualified and an interview would be scheduled at the United States Embassy located in Ghana. The following month, the world shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic; subsequently, the embassy remained closed until late 2021. During the course of the lockdown, we lived over five thousand miles apart, yet we still continued to grow our family and establish a legacy for future generations.  His interview was finally scheduled for October 2021, after the birth of our second child. He finally relocated to the United States in February 2022. I often feel that we are just entering our second year of marriage, as that is how long we have actually lived in the same location. Finally living in such close proximity brought to light many of the deficiencies that existed in our relationship, many of which had been exacerbated or masked by the distance.

At the altar, I spoke my vows, an assertion, a solemn promise, to my husband but of equal or greater significance was the fact that this commitment was made unto God. Additionally, I made personal commitment to God not to dishonor him with my mouth. These affirmations have impacted that way in which I engage him on a daily basis. In marriage it is very easy to amplify and magnify the imperfections of your spouse. It is easy to be critical rather than encouraging. It is easy to be overwhelmed by offense. It requires deliberate effort to not do the aforementioned with the help of The Holy Spirit.

Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] (Philippians 2: 3-4, AMPC)

Even the ways in which conflict is resolved should not be an indictment on my Christianity. In a recent episode of With the Perrys titled ‘Confrontation, Conflict, and Arguing Well’ (S06, E04), Jackie Hill Perry said “shutting down can be a form of vengeance,… withholding yourself from somebody that you’re called to love… that’s a form of punishment.” This statement deeply resonated with me and convicted me, simultaneously, particularly in the revelation that this is not like Christ. Jackie self-identified as “conflict averse” and I am not entirely sure if the same is true of me. I have always been a very private person, as evidence by the lack of activity on social media. For me intimacy is related to access and information, particularly as it pertains to my thoughts and feelings. Growing up, conflict in my home was often avoided; individuals would often retreat and withdraw to their own corner of the home, often avoiding engaging with others for the foreseeable future. With regard to my husband, I found myself replicating the communication style that had been predominate in my home of origin. I rationalized this withdrawal, justifying my silence. He had been the source of my agitation, as such he did not deserve to have access to my cognitions and emotions. I require time to process my thoughts before engaging in conversation. When living apart, I could actively avoid because we were not in close proximity; doing so now, created tension that had not existed before. These habits had to be unlearned. This has been one of the biggest challenges we have had surmount, communicating effectively where both parties achieve a level of basic understanding.

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9, AMP)

As I reflect, I am confident that although I may find some of my husband’s behavior hurtful, offensive, or selfish, his intention is not to cause me harm. Likewise, I am not without fault and require his compassion and understanding. This foundational truth grounds me and motivates me to extend grace.

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, AMPC)

I forgive before the acknowledgement of wrongdoing is made. It is then that we seek clarity. By no means have I achieved perfection in this regard, but the use of the word “become” in the above Scripture speaks to the journey and the process by which this becomes second nature.

Join me next week Tuesday, same place, same time, as I continue these reflections and discuss the Biblical foundations of my marriage.

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