Three Tips to Tying a Square Knot in your Marriage
“Tie a square knot around your marriage now so it doesn’t unravel.”
By Philip K. Hardin, M.A., M. Div., LMFT, LPC
By Philip K. Hardin, M.A., M. Div., LMFT, LPC
One of the joys of my life is officiating a wedding. Standing before two people in love with great expectations for their future together is to stand on holy ground. I believe in the sanctity of marriage and the power of love. As I walk the couple through the ceremony, my desire is to use language that will anchor them to a lifetime together …to tie a square knot that binds them “as long as they both shall live.”
I believe that is best done by offering them three words:
INTIMACY, COMMITMENT, JESUS
Marriage is a beautiful picture of what really matters in life. We were made for relationship. We are hardwired for emotional connection to other people. We want to be known. We crave being loved. We want to be accepted by someone who is completely aware of our gifts and our flaws, yet wants to be with us anyway. In short, we crave intimacy. We want to know and be known. Intimacy … In-To-See-Me … INTIMACY!
I believe life is relationship. Nothing is more valuable. Nothing more sacred. God uses our relationships with other people to teach us how to love Him and to learn how he loves us. The more we pursue intimacy in our relationships, the more we see and understand God’s incredible, fearless love for us.
Intimacy needs three things to exist in a marriage:
1. Shared Experience. A single encounter may not amount to much, but if we share enough experiences with someone …that’s how we build intimacy –like sharing a lifetime of sunsets, challenges, raising children, illness, and all the adventures of a life together. When we can share the experiences of life with someone we love, we feel ALIVE.
2. Presence. In order to share an experience with someone, you must be present. And presence doesn’t mean simply having my body in the same room with yours. It requires sustained, focused attention. It demands eye contact. It demands that we look up and offer our self physically, emotionally, and spiritually to the relationship.
3. Vulnerability. To experience intimacy, allowing the other to “see me,” requires vulnerability. We must be open and honest with ourselves first, then to our “other.” It is a courageous yet necessary act to own our failures and risk rejection for the beauty of truly being known.
What kills intimacy? Silence, secrets, and judgment.
Marriage invites us to create an environment where we are free to be “naked and unashamed.” Silence, secrets, and judgment all impede intimacy and prevent marriage from functioning as God designed it to.
Relationships offer invitations to connect intimately every day. We can accept these invitations, ignore them, or reject them. Marriage is about learning to grow more skillful in recognizing these invitations to intimacy with one another and with God.
Be quick to own your part in any rupture, confess your part, and ask your partner’s and God’s forgiveness for your failures. Ask God for help in seeing and responding to His invitations.
REMEMBER: Intimacy is the goal, not self-protection or being right.
We all want intimacy, and we know intimacy requires commitment; but here’s the tension: Commitment comes with a price tag! It’s like the breakfast joke: the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. YES! Marriage will cost you your life!
Lewis Smedes identified three things we surrender when we commit ourselves to another person: our freedom, our individuality, and our control.
When we commit ourselves to someone, we’re no longer the only ones in charge. Our time and our heart are no longer our own. Commitment builds an invisible fence around us, and we freely choose to honor its restrictions on our freedom. Once we’ve made a commitment, we’re no longer just me, myself, I; we’ve added a we.
The payoff is great! Commitment makers and keepers experience a kind of freedom that commitment avoiders will never know.
G.K. Chesterton calls escape from commitment “the reign of the cowards.”
Having the courage to commit and trust makes an intimacy (we would otherwise never known) possible. It works like this: A commitment is made, and it’s received by faith. As that promise is honored, faith is confirmed, and intimacy is deepened.
When we get married, we don’t promise simply to avoid divorce. We promise to pursue intimacy—two-become-oneness. We can’t afford exits because our “self” is eternally connected to the other. We must be “in it, to win it!”
Weddings, more than anything else in our culture, give us a glimpse of what commitment means. What makes a wedding a wedding isn’t the cake, the clothes, the flowers, or the music. It’s the promise. This is our scared vow performed as a public witness for accountability to our promise. We’re going on record. We’re asking our community to mark this moment with us and to remind us to live up to our promise.
As a counselor, I am consistently working with “triangulation.”
In relationships, people will often use a child, a pet, work, other relationships or interests to stabilize the dyad of a troubled relationship. In other words, when two people are having difficulty, triangulating another interest can stabilize the relationship.
Usually, this is a negative way to bring order to a relationship.
However, there is one way that triangulating dynamic to a marriage is MOST POSITIVE. His name is Jesus. When we are more committed to Jesus than we are to our mate, we have done a good thing.
To surrender to Jesus is to surrender to grace, kindness, and love to another. Bowing the knee to Jesus will ensure that we are open to owning our failures, receiving and offering forgiveness, and giving love when we are tempted to judge or hold onto grudges.
In John 15, Jesus uses the metaphor of a vine and branches to illustrate how critical our connection to him is. He proclaims: “you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. Separated, you can’ produce a thing.” Marriage is hard. You need Jesus to walk the walk of marriage.
A surrendered heart to Jesus is a safe heart. You can trust your mate more when you know their commitment to Jesus is greater than their stated commitment is to you. You can trust that!
We can anchor into our HOPE –God always makes a way. Jesus is the way!