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Making Marriage Work
By Joyce Meyer
FAITHWORDSCopyright © 2000 Joyce Meyer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneONE FLESH? ARE YOU SURE?!
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall become united and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
Marriage begins with a promise between a man and a woman to honor and cleave to each other for life. Too many couples "depend on love to keep their marriage together, but commitment is the adhesive of marriage, and love is the reward of keeping the promise to stand beside each other through both good and bad times, in both sickness and in health, in both poverty and wealth. The process of keeping that promise is what makes love grow between the two of them.
The story of how Dave and I met is probably much like many other people's first encounter. However, not every couple started out with as many problems as I had, nor has every couple enjoyed the victory and triumphs we have celebrated through our marriage. Our relationship didn't always bear the good fruit that is now overflowing into the lives of others. Without God, we were headed for tragedy, but God showed us life principles that helped us through the struggles and difficulties that most all couples face. Our story proves that withGod, all things are possible, and that commitment to a promise bears the fruit of love.
By the time I was twenty-three years old, I was filled with great disappointment. Injury upon injury had been inflicted upon my heart, and I had never known what it meant to be happy or at peace with life. When I met Dave, I had already suffered an abusive relationship from my father and from a five-year marriage to a young man who had as many problems as I did.
I was born during the Second World War, right in the heat of it, in 1943. My father was inducted into the service the day after I was born, and I only saw him one time during the first three years of my life. When he came home from the war, he was bitter, angry and addicted to alcohol, which left our family with painful memories. I endured nearly fifteen years of sexual abuse from him, which obviously had a devastating effect on my personality.
I didn't understand how to loose myself from the evil root of rejection that developed in my soul, and after being abused sexually I thought nobody would ever want me. So I married the first young man who came along in my life even though he had as many problems as I had. He had been raised improperly too, and was allowed to quit school at a very young age. We had a five-year relationship that was riddled with pain and more rejection. We were separated maybe twenty times during those five years. My brief marriage ended in divorce, and my first husband, who was living with other women, ended up going to prison for writing bad checks.
Although we divorced, I had one child from that relationship, whom I named David after my brother, and when my son was about nine months old, I met Dave Meyer. Dave worked with a young man who lived in the upstairs apartment over my mom and dad's two-family flat.
One night I was washing my mother's car when Dave pulled up in front of my house with the young man who lived upstairs. Trying to flirt with me, Dave said, "When you are finished with that car, would you like to wash mine?" I was really sarcastic and snapped back, "If you want your car washed, wash it yourself."
Dave was twenty-six years old and was going with three girls at the time, ardently looking for a wife. He says he knew none of them were right for him. He was praying for somebody "who needed help." When he gave our tenant, with whom he had worked for years, a ride home, he says I caught his attention. He recently told the following story in his own words to a friend of ours.
"She was in short shorts and I thought she was pretty nice looking, so I said to myself, Well, I'm going to try this. Leaning out of my car window, I said, 'Hey, after you're done with that car, how about washing my car?'
"She snarled back at me and said, 'If you want your car washed, buddy, you wash it yourself.' Immediately, the thought hit me, That's the girl for me. That voice inside me just blurted out, That's the one, the one you've been looking for."
Dave says he has always enjoyed that original "fire" in my personality. There have been many times that fire has caused arguments, but over the years God has changed both of us. I used to think Dave was actually entertained by my temper tantrums. I can remember times when we would be in a heated spat and Dave would change my direction by saying with a smile, "Hey, there's that old fire that I like so much-keep that fire lit!"
Dave obviously likes a challenge. He reminds me of Caleb, from the Old Testament book of Joshua, who said, "Give me a mountain," when he and Joshua were dividing up the property in the promised land. Why would someone want to take on a mountain? But Dave likes a challenge and I am convinced that his wanting me had to be a supernatural act in his heart from God. There was nothing inviting in my personality that would have made somebody want me that much.
I am thankful that Dave continued to pursue his "mountain." On our first date we went to the bowling alley and I almost beat him. Then we went to a basketball game together, played poker one night with his brother, went to see a movie, and then went for a drive on a Sunday. We basically had five dates and he asked me to marry him. It was really a whirlwind courtship.
When Dave asked me to marry him, I was all messed up emotionally. I was living at home and dealing with the challenges of my dad again. I desperately wanted out of that situation, and I was farther away from knowing what love was than ever before. Dave said he loved me so when he asked me to marry him, I basically thought, Well, why not? He is good looking! I couldn't know whether or not I loved him because I didn't know what love was after the way I had been treated before I met Dave.
Anyone who had ever said they loved me, hurt me, and so I didn't trust anyone. My walls were carefully positioned to protect my heart. I was afraid of being hurt again so I kept a certain distance, but Dave seemed to understand the reason for my fears and chose to love me anyway.
From the time Dave asked me to marry him, I thought he was going to jilt me. The night that he proposed, he kept saying, "I need to talk to you about something."
I felt hurried because my dad was away from home on a drinking spree and I wanted to get home before he did. Dad became violent sometimes so I kept saying, "I have to get home."
But he insisted, "I have something important I want to talk to you about." I thought he was going to break up with me. Finally, I conceded to let him say it so the bad news would be over. When he asked me to marry him, I was shocked. I had a negative outlook about everything. It was difficult for me to believe that anything good would happen to me.
My answer to Dave when he said he wanted to marry me was, "Well, you know, I have a son." And he said, "If I love you, then I love anything that's part of you." So we decided to get married in six months. We ended up getting married about three months after meeting each other. I divorced my first husband in September, met Dave in October, and we were married by January 7 of the next year.
Dave says he could have asked me to marry him the first night we went out, but he knew it would just freak me out. He said he knew that I was the girl that he was supposed to marry. But, too many disappointments preceded his offer of love, and I doubted his commitment right up to the moment that I walked into the church and saw him at the altar. During all our preparations for the wedding, I kept thinking we probably wouldn't go through with the ceremony.
In fact, I was late for the service. My mother was literally on the verge of having a nervous breakdown at that time. She was upset because I wouldn't let her take more pictures at the house, and she had me all upset. By the time I reached the church, everyone wondered where in the world I had been.
We both agree that our marriage was a supernatural event. Dave was a Spirit-filled Christian and was obviously hearing from God. God could see the end result, beyond the person that I was the day Dave pulled up in my driveway. We married, and then the fun began.
YOUR FLESH OR MINE?
If two people are to become one flesh, as God frequently repeats in His Word, it was obvious that one of us was going to have to make some changes. It seemed right to me at the time that Dave was the one who needed amendments.
When Dave and I were first married, we already had David, then I became pregnant with Laura a few months later. She was born in April 1968, and we were married in January of 1967. Then eighteen months later, we had Sandy. With three kids, we lived in a three-room apartment. There was just a living room, one bedroom, and the kitchen. The apartment was part of a four-family flat. Everyone else who lived there was quite a bit older than us.
We had one car and hardly any money. Dave went to work every day, and I stayed home with the kids. The first place we lived had mice. I was seven months pregnant with Laura, and mice were all over the house. I think that in one day we caught seventeen mice.
One time I called Dave to tell him that I had a mouse tied up in the bathroom. I had thrown a plunger over the mouse, tied a rope around the bathroom doorknob, strung the rope across the hall to a closet, and from there tied it around the bedpost. It took Dave half an hour to get my barricade unraveled. By the time he reached the plunger, that baby mouse had died and was on its back with all four feet stuck up in the air.
When I was in the hospital with Laura, Dave decided we should move out of our five-room apartment into the three-room flat to save money. The rent for the apartment where we had been living was ninety-five dollars a month, and the rent at the three-room flat, about sixty-five dollars a month. Without telling me anything about it, Dave moved all our things to the three-room apartment. Can you imagine how furious I was when Dave took me home from the hospital to a different, and smaller, apartment? After all, we had finally caught all the mice, or had become used to the ones that remained! He says now that he knew I would be mad, but since I was mad all the time anyway, he didn't think this would make any difference!
The new apartment had roaches. There was one that was so big we decided to name him Harvey When I sat up in the middle of the bed at night to feed Laura, Harvey would come flying around the corner. I was petrified of him, and at the sight of him I would go into a screaming fit! Then after screaming from seeing Harvey I'd start yelling at Dave for moving us to that stupid place. Dave finally caught Harvey, and after failing to successfully set him on fire with lighter fluid, he delivered the lively pest to his sister, who had lived there previously and talked him into moving there in the first place.
The neighborhood where we lived was small. There was a dime store on the corner, a bakery a grocery store, a little confectionery, and a beauty shop across the street. I never went anywhere beyond that neighborhood. Every Friday I'd walk across the street and get my hair done, and the rest of the time I stayed locked up with the kids. I was trying to baby-sit to make extra money, but I was the last person in the world who needed to baby-sit-I was on the edge myself!
But even in the midst of all that, we had a certain amount of fun. It wasn't all a nightmare and crazy, but it was the right setting for chaos and trials. Dave was always good to me and he tried to make me lighten up. He'd go to the grocery store with me, walk over into the next aisle and throw things over the top of the shelves at me! Then he would chase me around with the grocery cart until I became upset with him. Whatever he did, Dave was determined to have fun.
I had never been allowed to have fun when I was growing up. I was very insecure and felt as though everyone was inspecting me. Because I thought nobody really liked me, I acted as though I didn't need anybody-like I didn't care. Yet down deep inside, I really did care and tried to be what I thought others expected of me. But because I wasn't at peace with myself, the process of becoming one with Dave had a rough start.
I entered our marriage feeling as though each of us was out for ourself. Dave would do what was best for him, and I would do what was best for me. If Dave watched football on Sunday when I wanted to do something else, I felt that he wasn't interested in me. My thoughts nagged me with repeated agonies, You don't care about me; you are not taking care of me.
And I regularly had temper tantrums. When Dave watched football on Sundays, I cleaned the house, slamming and banging things around to make noise so that he could tell I was angry. I dragged the vacuum sweeper around while having a pity party, then went into the back bathroom to cry. With all my carrying on, I was trying to get him to do what I wanted. That kind of behavior is what I now call "emotional manipulation."
I did this so many times that Dave became immune to my noise. He watched the ball game because he knew I was going to throw a fit anyway. Sometimes he played with the kids when he knew I was mad at him. They would be on the floor with the kids putting rollers in Dave's hair, all oblivious to my demand for attention. When you are hopping mad and obviously are not affecting anybody, it just drives you crazy.
I was always looking for worth in what I did. Even where I worked, I tried to climb the corporate ladder. And in church I tried to be in with the right groups and the head of this and the head of that. Of course, I did have a natural leadership personality, but my personality was so messed up that I wanted all this stuff for the wrong reasons. I wasn't trying to serve God; I was searching for ways to look important. My struggles to do good things were just for "appearances" from a works mentality, and my sarcastic mouth was not working to help me get what I really wanted.
About six years into our marriage, I nearly exhausted Dave's patience. He was always the optimist, always trying to help me look beyond my situation. But I couldn't understand why my efforts to manipulate him weren't working, and, of course, our sex life was messed up from all my anger. Finally one day Dave said, "You know, Joyce, you just about have me to the point where I can hardly stand you." And he added, "The only thing I can tell you is if you continue the way you are, I cannot guarantee you a hundred percent what I'll end up doing." His comments put the fear of God in me to seriously look at the value I placed on Dave and our marriage.
All during this time, we were going to church. I really loved God. I was born again and knew that I would go to heaven when I died. But I wasn't Spirit-filled. Dave was an elder in the church, and I was on the church board. We went out every week, knocked on doors for the evangelism program and told people about Jesus. We were seen as leaders in the church. We were living the pretend life, but behind closed doors, it was another whole world and existence.
I needed real answers from a real God. Of course I wanted the answers real fast, too. But one of the first things I learned was that happiness doesn't come from doing the right thing for the wrong reason. You can't do what's right to get something right to happen to you. You have to do what's right just because it's right. Then God will reward you. If your motive is, "OK, I'm going to do this to get you to change, but if you don't change, then eventually I'll quit doing it," we will never enjoy the reward that comes from God. He sees our heart and knows whether we are trying to manipulate others or obey Him purely out of love for Him alone.
Dave wanted me to change, and I wanted him to change. But I had to reach the point of knowing that I had to do what was right whether or not Dave ever changed. Even if he played golf every Saturday and watched football every Sunday for the rest of his life, I had to reach the point of acting right no matter what Dave did.
It's amazing how God changes things. Dave wanted to play golf recently when I had some other things I wanted him to do with me. He countered me with, "Well, you can do those things by yourself."
I said, "I'd really rather that you go with me."
He said, "OK."
Fifteen years ago, he wouldn't have done that. I nagged him and was mad all the time, and he had learned to ignore me. But now, most of the time he can go do what he wants, and it's not a problem. But if once in a while I want him to do something different with me, he has the freedom to choose to be with me. He knew I wouldn't be mad at him if he really wanted to play golf, but he also knew that it must be important to me to want him with me this time or I wouldn't have asked him.
Excerpted from Making Marriage Work by Joyce Meyer Copyright © 2000 by Joyce Meyer. Excerpted by permission.
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