One of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had was telling my girlfriend Kara (now wife) about all of my previous relationships. Kara wrote about this conversation recently, how I was her first boyfriend and kiss, and how it was hard for her because I had been in many dating relationships previously.
What made it hard for me was the knowledge that I hadn’t always acted with the integrity that I should have, and I knew it was going to hurt Kara to hear about my previous mistakes. My heart ached as I shared the ugliest parts of myself and saw how deeply it wounded Kara, and yet, there was also the gift of knowing that Kara knew me a little more than she had before, and she still loved me, and still wanted to be with me.
The conversation was brought on by the fact that I had said “I love you” to girls before. There was a temptation to see the words as cheap in our relationship now, but both Kara and I knew that we had something different. Kara and I fit together in a way that was always lacking in my previous relationships. Using similar language in the past may have distorted things, but it also provided an opportunity to reflect on what made Kara and I work.
Feeling like I fit with someone wasn’t new, but, in my previous relationships, that often just translated into passion for each other, the romance was there, but sometimes that was about it. Once my former girlfriends and I started talking about life goals, personal interests, and priorities things would come apart at the seams. Looking back I can see that this tension caused a lot of turmoil in my life, like trying to fit the wrong key into a lock, one aspect in the relationship worked while I tried to mask all the disunity.
But with Kara things were different. The passion was there, but we also had similar goals and desires and so things worked so much more smoothly. Kara has gifts that I lack and this helps us fit together. She balances my imperfections and helps me grow into the man I want to be. All of this brought an ease to our relationship unlike I had experienced before. Kara and I didn’t have to force things together, our unity just grew naturally.
That’s not to say that things were, or have been perfect. Kara and I have plenty of rough edges that we’ve needed to work though, but these challenges have felt like trying to perfect something that’s already good. When an issue does arise, we’re able to fall back not just on passion, but on a whole host of things that unite us, and that makes challenges a lot easier to overcome.
One of the harder issues we’ve faced is my previous relationships. Kara and I knew that marriage was about becoming a gift to the other person, and the gift we give is exactly who we are. For me that included a lot of baggage from previous relationships, and the emotional pain that comes from it all. Luckily Kara and I have been able to grow through our wounds, not as something to bury but as something to heal, and as something that can actually enhance our love as we do heal.
The strength of my marriage comes from the unity that I’ve found, not just in passion but in all the personal qualities that make my wife who she is. Kara is a unique and unrepeatable woman fitted for me, and that has provided a richness in our unity that I couldn’t have found anywhere else.