The Stranger You Married
November 30, 2014 By Kimberly Rae
It was my first experience seeing an arranged marriage. The Asian bride was beautiful: her hands and feet painted with intricate red designs and flowers around her neck.
She sat solemnly, face covered with heavy layers of white makeup. Her groom sat nearby on the stage—thin, lanky, and obviously nervous.
Who wouldn’t be? I could not stop the questions that flooded my mind. What would it feel like to marry a stranger? What would you say to a man you just married but never really met?
“So, what do you like to do on the weekends?”
“Um, what’s your favorite color?”
“Do you think I’m pretty?”
“Who are you?”
The two marrying that day had actually spoken with each other on two or three occasions and, because of this nebulous period of time, their marriage was deemed a “love match.”
The ceremony concluded, not with a kiss, but with his hand grasping hers—a touch that seemed uncomfortable to both parties.
As the new couple walked back down the aisle, I wondered at their future. Would he love her? Would they become friends? How does it work in places where marriage comes before love, and possibly without love altogether?
Getting a wedding-style makeover (just for a picture–I wasn’t getting an arranged marriage!!!)
Yet, most arranged marriages last for life, while American marriages are falling apart at alarming rates. Why? Shouldn’t “love” marriages and “choice” marriages last longer?
It has been explained to me a few times since that curious day. Our marriages, they say, are based on feeling and infatuation, with high expectations of lasting love and romance. If the feelings falter or the romance fades, we feel cheated and are tempted to give up.
Their marriages, on the other hand, are based on cultural expectations and another’s choice, usually the father’s. Often, even in a horrible situation where one might want to escape, separation is not an option. The shame of family, the inability for women to survive independently, and the lifetime ingraining of purpose and duty all keep marriages together regardless of circumstances.
I read once that since they go into marriage with so few, if any, good expectations, they see any small act of kindness a great gift. We tend to go into marriage with so many expectations, we see any lack of them as if our rights to happiness have been infringed.
Where do expectations come from?
Every person comes into marriage with different family-cultural expectations. How did you celebrate Christmas growing up? How did your parents divide household chores?
How do expectations affect our marriages?
If we let them, expectations can drive a wedge that buries itself deeper and deeper, forging rifts between you that affect your child rearing, your time alone, your sex life, your desire to keep trying. My husband and I had 2 totally different ideas on the purpose for the bathroom mat-who would have guessed?
What can we do about our expectations?
1. Figure out what they are.
Every time you feel yourself getting upset about anything your husband is or isn’t doing, there is an expectation involved.
2. Express some of them.
“This is important to me,” might be all he needs. He doesn’t know how important something is to you until you say so. This is not the same as nagging or manipulating. It’s communicating. It’s unfair of me to assume “If he really cared… ”he would instinctively know what I would like.”
3. Realize your husband has expectations too.
Find out what hour husband expects and hopes. Find out what shows love to him and what doesn’t. Then start giving, even if your expectations are not being met yet. Let God change you first, then watch with delight as God changes your husband.
4. Fill in the cracks with commitment.
Before God, you promised to love and honor until death. When you feel unfulfilled, that promise is still a promise. There will be times when your expectations are not met. Whether or not your marriage survives depends on how well you allow the commitment you made fill in all the cracks of your unfulfilled expectations.
Fortunately, unlike so many in arranged marriages, we do not have to do this alone. God is always there to comfort and help. We can take our unfulfilled expectations to Him, and He will carry them. We can feel loved and valued, despite our circumstances, because the One Who loves us most is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)
I did not have to marry a stranger. I had the wonderful freedom of marrying my best friend. That is not something I take for granted.
May God bless my husband with a wife who is loving and giving for Christ’s sake, allowing him to be the same.
That’s what a true “love” marriage is all about.