I sat on the concrete steps outside of our tiny apartment — halfway down, halfway up — not quite sure if I was going or coming. Two kids were circling the building, one on a bike, one on foot, so every few minutes I would hear the pitter-patter of small feet, and the screech of their voices as they rounded the corner and disappeared again.
I leaned my head against the iron hand rail, and closed my eyes.
Had I ruined everything?
Would there ever be a way to fix this?
I had been married six months so far and, honestly, things weren’t going well. I wanted them to go well. We both wanted them to go well, but they weren’t. And neither of us knew what to do, or who to ask, or who to tell.
The worst part was, I felt like it was all my fault.
I had heard all of the warnings about getting married for the wrong reasons, so I had checked myself so many times during the process. I had given myself permission to change my mind while we were dating, once we were engaged, and even after all the invitations were sent to all of our friends.
But I didn’t ever want to change my mind at these moments. I wanted to marry him. As far as I could tell, I wanted to marry him for all the “right” reasons.
I wanted to serve and love him.
I wanted to share my life with him.
I wanted to be a part of what he was doing.
But now, sitting here on this concrete step, watching the “movie” of our relationship play behind my closed eyelids, I realized I had been wrong all along. I did have bad motives. The worst, most toxic and selfish kind of motives a person could have when walking into something as delicate as marriage — I needed him to fix me and complete me and give me something I didn’t have on my own.
Now my motives were ruining everything.
I was worried that this thing called marriage was beyond repair.
To be honest, I had lived most of my life pausing, stalling, holding back, and sitting on the outside in fear of something like this happening — my bad motives were leaking out all over other people and myself without even knowing it. I held back in relationships, my career, and in every area of life. I just simply, and instinctually, held back.
It was far better this way. Fewer people would get hurt.
But then I met my husband, and he was so different. He was different from me, and different from anyone I had ever met. He was different from the guys I had dated before, who had always held back with me, because of me, or because of themselves. He didn’t hold back anything, ever. He charged forward. And I charged with him.
He could fix anything, I figured. He would take care of everything.
And with that, bad motives crept in.
He would be everything I needed him to be, I assumed — the guy who would heal the wounds I had garnered before I met him. He would reverse all of the stereotypes in my mind, and all of the assumptions I had made about men and myself. He would be the one to pick up my broken pieces when I fell apart. He was scared of nothing, phased by nothing, and held back by nothing.
But of course, now I could see how unrealistic and unfair it was to ask one person to bear that much weight.
Unfortunately, now that I could see my bad motives, I was too far in to back out.
Should I have waited to get married? I wondered as I sat on the steps that day. Maybe if I had held back like I usually did I could have avoided this mess.
Now, looking back, I wonder why I was so obsessed with avoiding my messes and bad motives. After all, the first step to changing bad motives is realizing you have them. And sometimes I wonder if the only way to realize we have them is to move forward without really knowing what we’ll encounter ahead. I wonder if the only way to discover our true motives is to quit holding back in fear of them — to just get going.
It’s messy. The whole thing is really messy.
But I realized something that day I had never known before, as I stood up, wiped the dirt off my pants and climbed the stairs back into the tiny apartment that didn’t yet feel like home: It is possible to do a good thing with bad motives. It is possible to change your motives, even once you’re already in the mess of them.
The answer is to push-in rather than hold back, to get into the thick mess of it, and to put you’re whole weight into it.
It is messy. And people do get hurt (you included). But it’s possible.
And, for me, this realization has changed more than just my marriage. It’s awakened me to more than just a deeper, more satisfying, more intimate relationship with the man I now can’t picture my life without. It has given me the freedom to fully engage all aspects of my life, to stop being a spectator, and to throw my whole weight into it.
Because, no, my motives aren’t perfect. They do make a mess of things.
But they are also the driving force behind the clean-up process; as long as I keep my heart and spirit open, as long as I admit that I don’t have it all figured out, they are constantly being shaped and formed and made into something new.