“Sometimes you can sound so pessimistic! I don’t think you realise how you come across…”
“Not at all! I’m just trying to focus on reality…”
Two opposing perspectives vs. one shared goal. Welcome to marriage!
This was a snippet of a conversation between myself and my husband, and based on me telling you that I am more of a dreamer whereas he is more of a realist, you can easily tell who said what as shared above.
I smiled as I recalled the conversation while writing those words, as it perfectly sums up the journey of navigating married life together as two individual people.
Before marriage, you generally hear of marriage described as two becoming one. Especially from a biblical perspective, joining together as one is something that is described as a natural part of the marital commitment. But what does it actually mean to come together as one? There are so many things that we say so passively, without actually stopping to ask ourselves what a particular thought or ideology means to us personally.
I get it! When something has been drilled into your thinking, especially as a child, it can be hard to question ‘why’ as that is all you have been taught. That and the fact that if you are around the age of thirty like me, our parent’s generation were less likely to ask ‘why’, and instead were more accustomed to do as they were told (at least when there was a chance they could be caught anyway…) Often they didn’t have a space of acceptance to ask ‘why’ as this just wasn’t encouraged, and then we came along – a generation that is finally trying to navigate and own our ‘why’.
It’s important for me to share the generational cycle as a foundation, as this helps to clearly define the development of our own individuality including our communication style. It’s hard enough getting your head around this as an individual, let alone bringing another person into the mix! This makes oneness in marriage sound almost unrealistic – like mixing two flavours of juice in the hope that they will taste even better. When this works it WORKS, but when it doesn’t, well… water anyone?
Oneness shouldn’t feel like a lucky dip, and in fact it is far from this! Let’s look at some common pitfalls in this area, and consider ways that we can work past them to prevent them from becoming/remaining a hurdle in our marriage:
Oneness means joining my identity with yours
I know how this feels, because I fell into this cycle in my own marriage. So much so that I would rely on my husband to regulate my needs. If he was down or distant, I was right there next to him on the emotional rollercoaster.
If I didn’t feel like he was supporting me in the ways that I expected, then my anxiety would spike and I would find myself taking my frustration out on him for the unmet needs that I should have been catering to myself.
Reading that might sound intense, but so many of us have a similar experience without even understanding what’s happening. The more protective, critical, analytical or frustrated that we seem to feel or act towards our spouse, the more this is a sign that we need to look inward to try and understand the root of those feelings.
Even though you may be married, you are still your own person. The same you before marriage is the same you after marriage, you just have someone else to share your life with now. That doesn’t mean that this person should now become your life. This is when the dynamic becomes draining within your marriage, as there is only so far your spouse can carry you while trying to manage their own challenges.
When you can step into who you are and embrace what you and your spouse both bring to the table as individuals, the entire dynamic of your marriage will shift to one of greater satisfaction and appreciation on both sides. But this only works if you are both equally prioritising your own needs, as well as that of your spouse.
Oneness means giving up my needs for yours
When my daughter was born, I was swept into the cycle of making sure her every need was catered to – after all her survival was dependant on her caregivers! If you are also a parent, you will relate to the feeling of being so exhausted during the newborn stage, yet driven by your love for this tiny human that fuelled your desire to keep caring for them. But during this time, whether you realised it or not, your needs were still of equal importance! After all, if you didn’t look after you properly, then you certainly wouldn’t be able to take care of someone else in the best way possible. Yet many of us just about drag ourselves through the newborn stage, feeling broken and unseen.
This time of my life taught me the importance of being able to ask for help unashamedly, as well as carving out guilt-free time for myself so that I could show up in all of the ways that my daughter not only needed, but deserved. I wanted her to experience the fullness of me, rather than the mechanical task-doer that becomes my default setting when I am feeling drained.
I say all of this to show the parallel between our marriages, as we can also end up having a similar experience.
We give up so much of ourselves, that we end up losing and maybe even forgetting who we are aside from our spouse.
To avoid this or work past this, get used to spending more time by yourself. Do the things that give you a sense of purpose and validation aside from your roles as a spouse and parent, and step out into those spaces as much as you can. Time apart is very healthy for any marriage.
It’s not fair to expect your spouse to constantly supply the love that you fail to give to yourself.
They will never be able to do enough if this is your mindset. Instead, learn to meet your own needs and then your spouse’s actions will be a bonus rather than a lifeline.
Oneness means always being in agreement/thinking the same
I remember the words of one couple who I featured for our ‘Real Couples Talk’ section on Instagram, and their words will always resonate with me. When asked to share advice on how to embrace the differences between you and your spouse, part of their response was:
“Teams do not need all members to be identical or have the same gifts. That would be very frustrating.”
Many of us are stuck in this cycle of frustration because we are expecting a certain level of ‘sameness’, and relying on our spouse to think in sync with ourselves. When we can look at our spouse and instead celebrate them for who they are, not who we think they should be, then we will create a far healthier dynamic in our marriage that allows the freedom for two individual perspectives rather than one controlled approach.
Based on my own experience, I would describe oneness in marriage as two people coming together and actively choosing to walk the same road towards a shared goal.
You are both heading in one direction, but that direction is inspired by two beautifully individual perspectives.
Just like when you both come together and experience the oneness of sex – you are still two people joined together through the act of sex. Sometimes the reality of your differences can make you feel like you are heading in two different directions and battling to get back onto the same page, but as long as you are both willing to walk towards one another and to hear and understand the perspective of the other, there will always be the potential to keep walking forward together as one.
What does oneness mean to you? Even if you feel like you and your spouse are polar opposites at this point in your marriage, don’t underestimate how setting out on your journey to better understand self (this applies to both of you) can help you to show up in the fullness of your individuality for the health of your marriage. Some days will be a battle – let’s be honest! But those difficult days can teach you valuable lessons about yourself and your spouse, including ways to step out of destructive patterns. The following questions are helpful to consider on this topic:
- What is my definition of oneness in marriage, and where does this come from/what has influenced this?
- In what ways is my spouse different to me? What do I appreciate about these differences?
- When was the last time I felt a sense of oneness in my marriage?
- What goals do we share within my marriage? What goals can we create to help us move forward together?
- Knowing what I know now about what it means to be ‘one’, what advice would I have given to myself before marriage?