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Unity of Spirit in Marriage: essay by Yevgeniya Przhebelskaya

Photo: two gold wedding rings in a small, red velvet box, set on a surface of beige and gray rock, image by Christo Anestev, on Pixabay.

wedding rings, image by Christo Anestev, on Pixabay

Unity of Spirit in Marriage

(With the exception of my husband Jerry and our son Caleb, all names have been

changed to protect the privacy of the individuals in this essay.)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:2-3

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Romans 12:15

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend whose marriage collapsed. The problems

of their marriage did not seem that challenging at first. Later on, a combination of

unmet needs and miscommunications about their expectations of each other led to

a deep mutual resentment and, eventually, to a painful divorce. My newly single

friend was questioning everything about love, and I, too, thought more deeply about

my own marriage.

Jerry and I have been married for over 16 years, and we have had many of our own disagreements. Marriage is a lot of work. It is important that the foundation of our

ongoing communication is wisdom and not jadedness. Here are some tidbits of

wisdom that I have gathered by talking to my friends and reading good books.

First, my mentor pastor Grace told me to discover my husband’s and my “love

languages.” She advised me to read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love

that Lasts, a book by pastoral counselor Gary Chapman. Pastor Chapman describes

five types of love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service,

giving gifts, and physical touch. It is important both to hear the love language that

your spouse is speaking and learn to speak the love language that your spouse likes

to hear.

I think that my husband’s love languages include acts of service and words of

affirmation. My primary love languages are words of affirmation and quality time.

I now ask Jerry to give me one compliment every evening. Making affirmation part

of our routine has encouraged me a lot. Since service is part of Jerry’s love language,

I try to get involved in service projects together with him. For example, we often

facilitate Bible studies together.

Next, my friend Luisa shared that even when life takes a dark turn, “God’s graces are

new every morning.” She and her husband Vincent were struck by a tragedy several

years ago when they lost one of their children to suicide. Luisa told me that in their

family’s journey of grief and healing, they learned how to show grace and to accept

each other in their brokenness.

The trauma that they have endured is much more severe than anything I personally

have experienced. However, all of us live in a broken world and have experienced

traumatic events. I think that accepting Jerry’s and my brokenness has been an

important part of graceful communication in our marriage.

Luisa told me that as Vincent’s and her life and marriage are “reborn,” they feel

God’s peace and presence in their lives. I hope that as Jerry’s and my life together

unfolds, we will continue to seek God’s presence and peace.

I want to add that in cases of domestic violence or other abusive situations, a spouse

may need to separate in order to protect their or their children’s safety. There are

many organizations and internet support groups that help battered spouses to rebuild

their lives. Here are some resources: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

In my search to understand marriage better, I read the book Reconnected: Moving

from Roommates to Soulmates in Marriage. It’s a book written by two Christian

marriage therapists, Erin Smalley and Greg Smalley. One day, these therapists

noticed that they felt discontented and isolated in their own marriage. This started

a journey of reconnection, and it led them to co-write this book. One of my favorite

insights from this book is “to treasure attention bits,” to notice when your spouse says something of interest to them and to use that to spark a conversation.

I am a lot more involved in childhood development milestones than in the stock

market or the U.S. Congress. However, when Jerry shares the latest updates about Congress or stock market moves, I’ve sometimes followed up by reading more

about it, and then sharing my thoughts with him. Similarly, when I point out that Caleb reached another milestone, Jerry then gives me other examples that he sees of our

son accomplishing the same goals. This way, we have interesting and insightful conversations with each other.

Another insight from the Reconnected book is how the time of getting ready for work

or re-entering home from work or school can be a special moment of connection

between spouses. The times of leaving or coming home are often mired in anxiety,

whether it’s getting ready for the morning rush-hour commute or worrying about

events at work or the day-to-day of childcare. A need to decompress and to refocus

exists for both spouses.

Mornings and evenings used to be moments of resentment for me because I would

often either feel shut out when Jerry came home or triggered by his rush-hour anxiety

in the morning. Now I take extra steps to calm myself in the morning. I sit in a quiet

area, and often drink a mug of tea. I check weather, traffic, and transit schedules,

which helps Jerry as he gets ready for his morning commute. I wait with my own

morning social media posting and online shopping until after he leaves or starts his

remote office workday.

On most days, we also have prayer and breakfast together. I’m relaxed, focused, and optimistic about the beginning of both of our days. We exchange wishes to each other

for a good day.

Revamping the coming home routine also helped us. I understand Jerry’s need to decompress after a long day at work and the rush hour commute, and he understands

my need to reconnect. So, we found a balance of connection and decompression.

We greet each other when we come home. If something urgent happens, we share

an “elevator speech” update but then give each other time to decompress. And then

at dinner we reconnect more.

However, simple acknowledgement of each other and maybe trading some jokes

when we enter the house can help to diffuse tensions that have grown in our busy schedules. I think appreciating each other’s communication style and not becoming dismissive or resentful is very important for married couples to stay connected.

Finally, Jerry and I learn to bear each other’s burdens, rejoice and weep with each

other. Aside from parenting, marriage is the best teacher of patience, and a best

garden of love. As we share our life together, I am grateful for our marriage, as well

as for advice of good friends and insights of good books. It is ok not to be ok for a

season of life, but when that happens, God can and will provide help if we ask Him.


Yevgeniya Przhebelskaya is a freelance writer who explores the themes of mental

health, neurodiversity, and Christian faith in her writing. Her essays and poems have

been published or are forthcoming in Agape Review, Amethyst Review, Ancient Paths Online, Ekstasis, Trouvaille Review, and many other publications, and have been

nominated for the Pushcart Prize two times. Yevgeniya lives with her husband and

their son in New Jersey.

Her ebooks:

(December 2023 issue)

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Dec 23, 2023

Practical ideas and compassion in marriage.

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