When my dear friend Tyler Ward asked me to write about a topic I wish I had known before I got married for his ebook Marriage Hacks: 25 Practical Ways To Make Love Last,
Seven years ago when I headed down the aisle toward my groom, I also headed into the most important relationship of my life with zero preparation—except for the ‘happily ever after' delusion I carried from the ending of movies.
After many squabbles, insecurities, misunderstandings, and tears, here is the most important thing I've learned about being naked and exposed within marriage that I sure wish I knew beforehand:
“As my husband Lucas turned up the volume on our television that particular day in August 2007, his efforts to drown out the lawn mower next door did little to drown out the worried thoughts screaming inside my head.
For years, I’d been a touring musician, traveling the world and playing with all sorts of artists—the most recent being Christian music legend Michael W. Smith. In an attempt to be a newlywed who wasn’t leaving on a tour bus every few days, we made the decision that I’d quit traveling to enjoy this new marriage situation. But with neither of us bringing in steady income, our choice also left us enjoying an old upstairs apartment with low ceilings, a collection of donated furniture, bright pink carpet that reeked of cigarette smoke, stacks of unpaid bills, and a kitchen stocked with packets of Ramen Noodles.
That day in August as I cuddled up to my fabulous—but very broke—new husband on our second-hand couch, the strength of his arms around me wasn’t making the anxiety of our present financial situation go away. Before I was even conscious of the downward spiral, questions about our unknown future had poisoned my heart like a plague. I found myself drowning inside very real, very crippling fear.
What if we can’t pay rent this month? What if our only car goes on the brink?
What if our cell phones get shut off ?
What if I don’t start touring again. Will we be able to eat this month?
“Babe,” I said with an attempted smile, “I’m just going to run to the bathroom for a minute.” I lifted his arm off of my shoulder and acted like I was headed back to the loo, then made a quick detour into our little kitchen. I’ve had years of practice at sneaking food
to medicate the pain inside my heart. So it was with great expertise I quietly opened the fridge and began my usual routine, devouring anything and everything I could find.
We didn’t have much in stock, but whatever we had, I was going to destroy as fast as I could. Then I would return to his unsuspecting arms, acting as if nothing had ever happened.
When Lucas married me, he knew I had struggled with an eating disorder in the past. He knew I’d been admitted to inpatient treatment with years of counseling under my belt. He even knew that, when the pain of life became uncontrollable, sometimes food was the one thing I still attempted to control. Every once in a blue moon, I’d finally let him in and confess a bingeing episode, long after the binge was over with. But most times, I was far too embarrassed about my food addiction to fully disclose all the ugly details.
So there I was, shoving an oversized bite of leftovers into my mouth—noodles still hanging out and dripping down my chin—when I froze suddenly. Someone was behind me. Someone was watching me. Someone was seeing my shame—was seeing the one thing that made me completely unlovable, or so I believed. I turned around slowly, dreading the look of disgust I was sure to see, the judgment, the fury of hatred—the same hatred I had for myself.
But far from condemnation, this new husband of mine had something on his face I never expected to see. He was grinning ear to ear.
Pulling himself up backwards onto the counter and popping open a bag of chips, he looked into my eyes with the same love I’d seen on the day we made our vows to one another. He looked at this bingeing wife with the same affection he had when he looked at his spotless bride dressed in white.
“Baby,” he said quietly. “If you need to binge, I’m going to binge with you. I don’t want you do it alone anymore.”
Something powerful happened to us in that moment: two became one.
Marriage gives two people the difficult but incredible opportunity to be completely naked in front of each other—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The problem is, most of us have parts of our lives we’re terrified of anyone seeing. But if full exposure isn’t allowed, if we’re not able to reveal everything about ourselves (good, bad and ugly) within the covenant of marriage, true intimacy can never happen.
Intimacy means “in-to-me-see”—see everything, and love me anyway.
When I first got married to my husband, I truly believed certain parts of my life made me unlovable. I believed that if he saw everything, he would hate me as much as I hated myself. But marriage isn’t about perfect people finding a perfect mate. It’s about two imperfect souls coming together as one, making a covenant to stick around when the ugly parts get exposed, and then loving each other with grace and understanding while helping each other walk into wholeness.
Just like Lucas did that day when he caught me bingeing.
You see, something healed inside my heart in August 2007 when I was forced to be naked in front of my husband, exposing the shame of my addiction. Instead of being rejected, as I had feared—instead of being yelled at, judged or condemned—he had done the exact opposite. He looked at me inside of my dirty pigpen, sat down, kissed my shameful wounds, and committed to walk beside me—no matter the outcome.
His love that day wasn’t laced with an agenda for me to change—but the amazing thing about love is, it ends up changing everything anyway.
In the days and months that followed, our financial situation didn’t improve much. But when the anxiety began to rise up like a monster, I had a new place to run—I could run into the arms of love. When insecurities and fears would surface and expose even more ugly behaviors, I knew I had a man who had made a covenant to love me—all of me—no matter how messy it got.
Within that covenant, I was finally safe to let my walls down and be seen.
As he saw, he loved.
As he loved, I changed.
As I changed, we were both set free.
For the rest of our lives, Lucas and I have the great privilege of subjecting ourselves to vulnerability—even as all sorts of behaviors, fears, and insecurities are revealed. We’ve put all our secrets on the table, knowing that intimacy can only happen when everything is in the light. We’ve wrapped ourselves in the unending circle of a covenant, committing to love the good along with the bad.
And now, the nakedness I once feared continues to expose my heart to the safe harbor of healing love.”
Inside Marriage Hacks, there are brilliant posts by world-wide authors and teachers like W.P. Young (author of The Shack), Gary Chapman (author of The 5 Love Languages) Tyler Ward (author of Marriage Rebranded), and Danny Silk (author of Keep Your Love On). The wealth of knowledge about love, relationships, and intimacy compiled in this ebook is worth its weight in gold, but you can download Marriage Hacks today for FREE on Noisetrade.
(Or if you're anything like me, you leave a nice ‘tip' to sew into what Tyler is doing for relationships around the globe, or pick up his BRILLIANT book Marriage Rebranded!)