The husband and I were talking recently about our first year of marriage—how we experienced delayed bonding. We’ve had this conversation several times before but this time there was a purpose — to discover the good memories. There were a few. Sneaking away from conference to be alone. Watching him chase a little bunny named Pippen around our living room. Taking him back East to meet my siblings. Those are simple memories that remind us that it wasn’t all bad.
We were married less than 24 hours before we were home, unpacking boxes and shopping for groceries. Less than 48 hours we were at the local park, where I sat while he played ball with a few friends. A few hours later we were having dinner with his parents. His father put his foot down when we told him we’d be at service the next day. Take a break, he told us. Monday morning, we woke up and went to work. We returned to church the next Wednesday night service. I laugh when I remember how terrified I was to walk into the building holding my husband’s hand. We were overwhelmed with congratulations and hugs. I really just wanted to go home and be alone with my husband.
There was no honeymoon, no taking a break from a demanding life at church, no pulling away from family and friends and bonding to one another. It was as if we agreed to keep our two lives separate and make it work.
The husband interrupted the conversation with a funny comment. “I should have taken a year off to focus on you. Like the Bible says to do.” SAY WHAT? It says that?
Deuteronomy 24:5 – When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.
This verse was always explained that it kept a newly married man from going to war or being in the ministry. But, to take a break? From life? For a year? As we talked about our first year together, in the context of this scripture, we began to realize that we should have indeed listened to his father and took a break.
We couldn’t have taken a year off from work, but we could have done these things differently:
We didn’t have to attend 4 services a week, each 2-3 hours long. Our focus was so much on being apart of the church, keeping an appearance of a faithful walk with Christ, that we didn’t take the time to focus on us.
We didn’t have to sign up for weekly work crews. Every Sunday morning we were on a crew. I was often on the table servers crew and he was on kitchen….we rarely worked together.
We didn’t have to attend work-worship days, bible studies and other church functions. Saturdays, which should have been a day for us to enjoy together, were often spent doing things with other people.
The husband could have taken a break from basketball. Sure, he enjoyed the exercise, but we spent a lot of our limited hours together at a gym, a park or a school where I watched him play ball. I loved to watch him play, but our time together was not “together”.
We could have put boundaries around our relationship. We allowed our circumstances and the people around us to define the parameters of our relationship. We allowed others to tear us apart.
What should have been a honeymoon year of bonding and getting to know one another was spent fighting influences within and outside our relationship. The husband and I were told that we could not/should not make our relationship be just between the two of us. Looking back, that’s EXACTLY what we should have done.
When I was pregnant with my son I was introduced to Dr. Sears and the concept of bonding. Bonding is the term for the close emotional tie that develops between parents and baby after birth. I made plans that would foster a bonding between the husband, I and our son. But things never go as planned and I found myself with a birth plan that meant nothing. When we went home, instead of being alone with my husband and son, I was left alone in our room recovering, while he and our son spent evenings with his family. My parents and sister lived with us. Even if my momma made plans so we could be alone as a family, his family was there. If I complained, we would fight. Luckily an older sister found out what was happening and let my husband know he needed to give us time together, just the three of us. We tried, but the relationship between our families was complicated and I eventually quit fighting.
I realize now, thinking about my son’s birth, that we never bonded as a couple. The more pressure we came under, the more we were torn apart. There was nothing to hold us together except for a vow and our individual faith. It’s painful to look back and see just how much of a mess we made of our lives.
However, Abba is merciful. He’s given us another year to make things right. We’ve gone on several long trips, alone, together. We’ve spent hours talking about what we did and how to make it different in the future. We’ve talked about our dreams for the future, after we are done parenting. We’ve repented to one another for the lost years and thanked Abba for the years we get together. And one day, this last year, the husband asked me to tell him what happened to me as a little girl. And I told him all of it. And it broke his heart, and he held me and let me know that I was loved. Finally, the husband and I have developed a bond. One that is not going to be easily broken.
In the future when I’m asked to give advice to a young bride-to-be, I’m going to write this verse. Leave your family, your friends, your life and cleave to the one that Abba has given you. Give yourself time to create the bond that will last a lifetime. It is worth it.