It's been said that when you marry someone, you marry their whole family. I've always appreciated this insight and although my husband's family have their issues, I can honestly say that I married a wonderful man...and family.
But shortly after my husband and I were married I soon realized we had very different expectations regarding the roles our extended family should play in our lives. One expectation I had in marriage - and thought everyone else did too - is that once a couple is married, they attend social and family events together, as one unit. I had seen this modeled by my parents and grandparents, friends, and even my husband's family.
But when I discovered that my husband - Eric - had no desire to hang out with my family, I was devastated. "You don't even know them!" and "Do you think you're better than them or something??" were my immediate reactions. And when I tried to fill him in on the fact that married couples go to events together, not alone, he didn't seem to care about the "rules". I soon realized that trying to get him to go to ANY social events - family or nonfamily - would be like trying to climb Mt. Everest.
I tried to get to the bottom of the issue and after a couple of years and many painful, tearful yelling matches, I realized it came down to this: my husband's desire to small talk with big groups of people - especially with a family as large as mine - is about equal to my desire to swim in the Arctic Ocean.
So although I could drag him to about one quarter of my family's events, I went alone to everything else. Of course, whenever I went solo, I felt like I was the only married person without her spouse and I also couldn't help but think that my relatives had written my marriage off as "failed" since they rarely saw my husband and I together.
Despite my frustration and disappointment, I decided to "bloom" where I was planted and play the cards I was dealt. Clearly, calling him a selfish jerk and trying to change him was not working. Had this issue come up when we were dating, I probably would have broken up with him. But now that I was married, I was forced to deal with the pain of unmet expectations and the messiness of relationships.
Then, after about five years into this situation that was as frustrating to my husband as it was to me, God, who is the author of creativity, came to our aid and brought help to us from the most unexpected place. He is never late. One day, when I was alone at a Fourth of July potluck, my uncle asked me if Eric liked his job. He went on to tell me that his employer was looking for some maintenance electricians, and he asked me what specific skills Eric had. After he realized that Eric's skills seemed to match their needs, he encouraged me to have Eric apply.
When I told Eric about this opportunity and the name of the company, his ears perked up. It's a huge company with a top-notch reputation in the Northwest.
He went online and did research to see if he was qualified for the job. He was. Eric already had a good job but in every detail, including pay rate, this job would be a step up for us. So he decided to apply. He went through a process of several interviews. Then he was hired. His new boss was my uncle.
Eric informed me that since my uncle was now his boss, he'd be coming to more family get-togethers. Wow. A little kick in the be-hind from God to get Eric moving towards my family - I couldn't believe it and I couldn't have thought it up on my own, even if I had tried.
I was nervous that he and my uncle wouldn't get along, but they did. They actually got along well and have been working together now for five years. And while I'd be lying to say Eric now comes to every family get-together, he does come to most. This job with my uncle was the help he needed from God in making that "leap" into my big family.
This lesson I learned about trusting God reminded me of the Israelites when they were in the desert with a tough situation. They believed only what they could see and thought their only relief from hunger would be to leave desert life and return to Egypt. But God can make something out of nothing and He did when He sent the Israelites Manna from Heaven.
In marriage, when our only options seem to be walking away from our marriage, or living an unhappy life with our spouse, we need to remember that God can help in ways we can't think up on our own. I'm so glad I didn't run away from my husband or this situation. I would have missed an opportunity to see Manna falling from Heaven in the form of a job offer. God really does work in mysterious ways.