What does “becoming one flesh” actually mean?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! And today I want to talk about what “oneness” really means.

When we marry, inevitably this beautiful verse is read at the wedding:

And the man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

We all smile and gush, because now we are one flesh. Absolutely.

But here’s the problem: just because something is a spiritual fact doesn’t mean that we actually feel it.

Usually when I’m talking about “becoming one flesh” on this blog I’m talking about sex.

Sex is likely what I’m most known for, after all!

God made sex to be AWESOME!

It’s supposed to be great physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Feel like something’s missing?

But I want to talk about just general oneness for a moment, because I think too often this is something we’re missing. Now I know that many women have big issues with oneness because their husbands just don’t treat them well or value them as partners. I’ll be talking in a few days about domestic violence, too, since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I know many of you are battling emotionally destructive marriages and physically destructive marriages.

That’s why it’s sometimes hard to write general marriage thoughts, because the things that apply to healthy marriages just don’t apply to unhealthy ones. And I don’t want any woman to ever feel like if she just is nice enough, she can change a controlling husband into a kind husband. It doesn’t work.

However, most of us aren’t in relationships like that. And for most of us, the obstacle to oneness isn’t a husband’s cruelty or indifference. It’s simply that we have different expectations and feelings, and we are allowing them to drive a wedge between us.

So let’s take a look at this dynamic that causes “becoming one flesh” to be so elusive.

Becoming One Flesh: What does it really mean when we're married? And why don't we always feel like "one"?

Before we are married, we only have ourselves to worry about. We don’t have to consider another’s feelings; we make decisions with our own happiness in mind. I am the focus of my life.

At marriage, that feeling naturally continues. When we’re first married, we start to wonder, “is he making me happy?”, or “is he treating me well?”, or “is he acting like a good husband should?”. We’re new at this, so it’s only natural that we should question whether he’s doing what he’s supposed to. After all, we have images of what being the proper wife is, and we’re doing our best to live up to our end of the bargain, but is he holding up his end?

We’re focused on what he is doing, not what we are doing, because we’re used to giving ourselves a pass. We can always find reasons why it was okay for us not to be giving in that particular situation. We can always justify ourselves. But we rarely are so generous when it comes to accepting or excusing our husband’s transgressions.

I’m like this a lot! Last week, when we were in Vancouver for my dad’s passing, we had to navigate a city that we didn’t know well in a rental car. Now, Vancouver has really narrow streets. Super narrow. And you’re constantly having to change lanes to figure out one way streets, etc. I’ve written before how Keith and I just don’t drive well together–he wants to know directions long beforehand, and I’m not that great at reading maps or figuring out what the GPS is saying. And then he gets super grumpy. So there I was on Saturday as we were driving to the airport, and Keith asks for directions in a snappy way. So I decide I’m just going to shut up and not say anything and have him deal with my daughters. After all, it’s my dad who just died. He can at least not snap, right?

I mean, I would never do that.

But then I thought back to the night Rebecca and I arrived in Vancouver, and I did the exact same thing to her, snappiness and everything. I was all mad at Keith for doing something I do, too. And I decided that trying to get the moral high ground when we’re trying to catch a plane is likely not the best course of action.

This is a really common scenario, though. We notice when he does something wrong. But we don’t notice the exact same thing in ourselves, because we can justify it to ourselves. 

The other issue, I think, is a gender one. Deep inside we want him to make the first move. So if we feel like he’s not treating us appropriately, we may withdraw and wait for him to make it up.

What we don’t see is what he is feeling. Chances are he’s just as disillusioned as we are, because he had expectations going into the marriage, too, that aren’t being met.

We notice when he does something wrong. But we don’t notice the exact same thing in ourselves, because we can justify it to ourselves.

And while this situation is quite typical for many newly married couples, whether or not it keeps going on is up to us.

Unfortunately, for many couples, this constant disappointment becomes the normal state. For decades this is how couples relate to each other: judgment, justification, resentment, withholding. It’s all about my feelings and my rights.

And so we face a choice. Our husbands will always disappoint us because they are not US. They don’t have the same opinions or values or expectations, so they can never live up to ours.

So are we going to continue this cycle, or are we going to truly become one?

Here is the key to turning on this “oneness” part of marriage: understand that his feelings are now your feelings. His cares are now your cares. His concerns are now your concerns. Spiritually, that is a fact. And when we recognize the spiritual fact, we can start to act on it. And when we act on it, we may eventually start to feel it.

He doesn’t need to justify his feelings; they are his feelings. And now that you are married, they should matter to you just as much as yours do.

It matters when he’s upset. Don’t try to get him to justify it or talk him out it; be concerned about it. Because when he’s upset, part of you is upset. It matters if he feels lonely or frustrated (or even sexually starved!), because that means you are lonely and frustrated, too. You are in this together.

If you can start putting as much weight on his feelings as you do yours, you’ll likely find that your marriage will improve exponentially.

When you start valuing his feelings and his opinion on things, he’s likely to reach out to you more. And as he reaches out to you, you are going to start feeling like one. It doesn’t happen overnight. And I’m not saying you should accept sin, or not confront him on things that are important. You certainly should not allow him to act in a controlling way or in an emotionally destructive way.

I’m only saying that in a healthy relationship, his viewpoint counts, and you need to give it the weight it deserves.

Then, and only then, will you begin to feel like you’re one.

The ball, I think, is in your court. If you want to feel like one, don’t wait for him to change. Take his feelings seriously. And you may just gain a whole new outlook on marriage!

Like this post? You should also check out:

What do you think? Is it hard to “become one” and start feeling like you’re one? Let’s talk in the comments!

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