Every marriage has baggage. We determined that in Jeff’s post, Have You Checked Your Bags?
Unfortunately, the contents of those bags fall out onto the floor at the most inopportune times. It might be your “stuff” or your spouse’s “stuff.” It really doesn’t matter. It ends up smelling like dirty laundry shoved in a closed container for a bit too long.
Did the zipper suddenly burst open when you were stressed? Was is when one of you didn’t get your way? Did you notice the smell when you were so tired you couldn’t think straight? Were others privy to that odor? Were you embarrassed?
What’s the solution?
Stuffing, cramming and thrusting something tightly into a confined place will not work when dealing with marriage differences, past experiences, or personality issues.
Jeff and I have never spoken with a couple that did not bring baggage into their marriage. We also have hardly ever spoken to anyone who knows what to do with their baggage...including us years ago.
For the two of us, it took numerous books and cassette tapes to understand how to deal with what we brought into our marriage. Raised in different homes, we had unique experiences and personality traits. We brought into our marriage many expectations...some of them unrealistic. The world had told us we should look for the “right one.” We never realized the work required to “become” the right one. Why in heaven’s name did someone not tell us the truth about marriage?
Why do couples not understand marriage involves sacrifice and serving one another? We don’t have time to get into the servant nature of marriage right now, because we’ve got to look deeper into our baggage. But we will tackle that later.
How do we safely unpack our bags without having to fumigate our marriage?
➢ Look within. Several years ago, while completing my graduate program in marriage and
family counseling, I was required to research and record a genogram of my family members.
This consisted of information about relationships and personalities for three previous
generations. In other words, I summarized past family patterns that explained my present
behavior, personality, and actions.
Graduate school isn’t necessary in order to see the importance of looking back to explain
forward. You will be amazed at the similarities as you explore the lives of your ancestors.
The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree!
Once you discover why you are the way you are, it’s easier to “own” your baggage. Some of
what you carried into the marriage might be incredibly beneficial. But look within and be
willing to unpack and discard items in the suitcase not valuable or worth keeping.
➢ Switch shoes. Now that you understand what a generational process it is in becoming who
you are, please try wearing your spouse’s shoes to understand his or her experiences and
family patterns. It took many years to fill those bags with useful as well as useless items.
We all tend to revert back to the behavior we witnessed in the past, especially when tension
is in the air.
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,
until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
➢ Face your mate. It’s time to work together as a team. Sit down and unpack your past
together. Accept what you discovered as you looked within. Share the positive qualities
inherited from your family that you are grateful for. Slowly unpack the areas that need to be
refreshed and changed. No finger pointing allowed! This is a teamwork assignment meant
to build a strong and thriving family.
➢ Apology accepted. Some of the items in those bags might bring real hurt. I will not
downplay that. But Jeff and I know the power of forgiveness and grace given in a marriage
relationship. It’s powerful. It’s refreshing. It’s healing.
You might have to apologize quite often for a while, until you get a handle on that empty
suitcase. You might have to extend grace to your spouse quite often as well. Do it. You’ll
never regret emptying those bags. We promise.
Seeking the Word,