by JAVIER & SHANNAN LABRADOR, The Marriage Flippers
The earth was scorched the first five years of our marriage!
If my wife and I were to choose elements to describe who we are, she would say I was earth; stable, strong, and nourishing. She, on the other hand, would be described as fire! Let’s say the earth got scorched a lot in the early years of our marriage. In Shannan’s words, “I came in that way, with guns blazing and a get out of my way attitude! Being married to me would send most men running. Yet, Javier ran towards me. Is he crazy? Does he think I will let him tell me anything or much less help me? As I look back on how he loved me and “those” early years, I am aware my behavior did not manifest out of thin air. My sassy sharp-edged disposition started early on. I mean the theme song to my life in my teenage years and into marriage was Billy Joel’s, “My Life.”
I don’t need you to worry for me ’cause I’m alright
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home
I don’t care what you say anymore this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.”
To say the first five years of our marriage were hard would be an understatement. And I don’t believe marriage has to be hard; it’s not easy, but hard it shouldn’t be. We make it hard. We make it difficult because we back up a U Haul of baggage and dump it into our marriage, as Shannan and I did. Maybe you brought a carry-on into your marriage, and your spouse had a complete set of luggage, all 5-pieces, they knowingly threw into your marriage. I was well aware of the not-so-designer set that Shannan had, and as she says, I still married her. She was aware of my brokenness and what I rolled in. You may think, “I have baggage from my past because of abuse.” I hear you. We all carry something, and it’s very real. And although you may have done good work, it still follows you. It’s ok. You are aware and getting support.
We all have personal choices and decisions in our past that have never been fully addressed. My wife and I thought we had our past and struggles under control. After all, we were married at the old age of 20 and 19 and had it all figured out! Yet, whether you were married young or later in life, I know you can relate. We all have “stuff”; brokenness, fear, worry, body issues, anxiety, identity issues, comparison, and so on. Unfortunately, we live in a world that encourages us to bury our past, our hurts, and our insecurities in exchange for displaying a false image that is acceptable on social media and in our social circles. You have a past and a present, and your present choices will drive your future reality.
Shannan and I knew our future reality would need to shift, or our story could end. It could be because we came from parents who had strong marriages. It could be because we had nothing left to give after five years of struggles. I often thought to myself, “I don’t have to do this anymore. I don’t know how a change will come.” Yet, in year six, something changed our mindset about marriage.
We didn’t have to do this anymore. We didn’t have to walk alongside one another in our brokenness. We didn’t have to go through the difficulty of this season- we GET to! Did you hear what I said- we GET to! In our marriage during that season and the present day, our mindset changed to, I don’t have to; I get to. I get to walk alongside my spouse in her brokenness and love her through it. She gets to support me in my dreams and often our setbacks. We get to do this together. This mindset shift can change everything in your marriage, as it did for us.
It moves you from seeing the problem to seeing the person. It changes how you connect, communicate, and pursue your spouse. Yes, you don’t have to do this. Yet, you chose your spouse, for better or worse, and we don’t buck and run when worse hits our marriage, we say, “I GET to do this.” Every obstacle you face is a set-up for a successful and thriving marriage if you choose the mindset of I GET to do this with the person I have given my life to. I choose us.
We encourage you to look at where you have allowed the “I have to” mindset to come into your marriage and how you can begin to view your spouse and circumstance with this new mindset. In marriage, I don’t have to; I GET to.
Here we stand, knocking on the door of celebrating thirty years of marriage because we chose to adopt an “I GET to” mindset. And the earth is no longer being scorched!
Javier & Shannan Labrador are the founders of 24/7 Marriage, an organization committed to restoring marriages, and The Marriage Lab, a 38 ft. mobile marriage support 5th wheel that tours the country working with and supporting couples. The Labradors have been married for 29 years and have resourced and helped thousands of marriages; they are the original “marriage flippers!” As sought-after speakers, counselors, coaches, and authors of the upcoming book “Confessions of a Terrible Wife,” they are committed to seeing marriage stories redeemed. “In marriage, we believe you don’t have to… you GET to! And this mindset changes everything.” The Labradors publish a weekly podcast, teach, develop resources, and coach couples worldwide.