Early in our marriage, my wife, Erin, and I argued a lot about how to spend our money. I wanted freedom to spend money any way I desired; Erin wanted us to jointly agree on what we bought. I started feeling controlled.
I dealt with my frustration by hiding small amounts of money in a tennis-ball can hidden in our basement. I rationalized that withholding a few dollars from Erin would give me some needed freedom and keep us from fighting.
It's humiliating now to admit that, at the time, this plan actually seemed right. I thought my stash was safe because Erin had never played a game of tennis. My deception completely unraveled when our neighbors asked Erin if they could borrow some tennis balls.
Erin found a can marked "tennis balls" and handed it to our neighbors. They returned a short time later with a very surprised look on their faces.
When I came home from work that day, my wife was holding a tennis racket and clutching a can of tennis balls. "Tennis anyone?" was all she said.
God used this situation to deal with some of the baggage that I brought into my marriage. This wasn't a fun season in my life — but refinement never is. With the help of a wonderful Christian counselor, I was able to deal with some personal integrity issues, and at the same time, Erin and I learned how to manage our finances in ways that felt good to both of us.
A successful marriage requires two mature individuals who are committed to personal growth and development.
I know I won't reach perfection in this life and that I'll always be dealing with my faults and sin nature. But I will continue to press forward and pursue Christlikeness.
Erin and I are celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary. As we look back on the past two decades, we've realized how God continues to upgrade us as individuals and then uses this maturing process to strengthen our marriage. I'm grateful that Erin continues to stand by me even as God continues to refine me.
Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author or co-author of several books, including Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.
Did you know couples are 30 percent less likely to get a divorce if they get some sort of premarital training? If you or someone you know is planning to marry, check out Focus on the Family's Ready to Wed curriculum, and then prepare for a marriage you'll love!