Marriage: The Power of Shared History
The Power of Shared History
I have a unique, one-of-a-kind Shared History with Donalyn. It may be the richest gift we share with someone as human beings. Truly appreciating this mutual journey may be one of the greatest recognitions you’ll make for deepening your most important relationship. Let me attempt to explain.
‘History’, by definition, is “a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people” (Dictionary.com) in this case, you and your spouse. It’s your story—the account of your love and life together. ‘Shared’ refers to mutually enjoyed experiences participated in by two or more individuals (Dictionary.com). It’s the effect of life-long togetherness.
Thus, Shared History is the unbroken connection between two people (husband and wife) through a never-ending variety of mutual life experiences—large and small—enjoyable and tragic—momentous and mundane—private and public—where the one common thread through it all more than any other person is your counterpart in married life. You are witness to each other’s developing story and are irrevocably braided together into a mystical one that we call “US”.
Your Shared History with our spouse—these mutual life events and personal experiences—are what glue you together. The unique bond formed makes your spouse the one and only person who has seen it all, been with you through thick and thin, and was there even before the water even started going under the bridge. They and they alone share the combined love and life narrative with you. They are the exclusive witness of your life—and together through this Shared History you have created your unique version of the “US”.
If you are getting lost in my attempt to clarify what Shared History is, some examples will help. Though I site our story, our “US”—now 4 decades and climbing—you’ll understand how the connection has deepened in us and you’ll instantly be able to review the impact of your own life and love account. Here’s what Shared History includes;
What Creates Your Shared History
- It’s the Fun Adventures you’ve had: Entertaining activities and exciting pursuits help shape your story too. We’ve tackled a high ropes course at a California Couple’s camp (over 40 feet up with Donalyn afraid of heights), zip-lined in Kentucky, rollerbladed around Stanley Park, kayaked ocean caves in Mexico, and snorkelled in Hanauma Bay. We’ve also enjoyed mountain hikes, local jogs, and par 3 golf. There have been walks on beaches, swims in lakes and splashes in oceans. We’ve done the usual Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Universal Studios attractions too. Each event you do together carves an image on your marital tree.
- It’s the Romantic Gestures you’ve exchanged: It starts with your rich and exclusive dating history. Our ice cream fights at Dairy Queen, long walks at Bessborough Park and music concerts of the day. It’s the flirting, endless calls, long letters and cards of thoughtfulness and romance. It’s your love story—the warmth, the affection, the playfulness and the closeness. It’s your engagement, the wedding and the honeymoon. And yes, it includes your sexual passion and the exotic places you’ve made love. It’s all about you two—no one else. Now you share your own set of inside jokes, reminiscing one-liners, knowing ‘looks’ and so much more all because of so many fabulous moments together.
- It’s the Special Places you’ve visited: Where you go and what you see enriches your life. We’ve had the privilege to be far and wide together. We’ve boated the Amazon River in Brazil, road camels to the Giza pyramids in Egypt and kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland. We viewed the famous Colosseum in Rome, enjoyed Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre in London and prayed together at the empty tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem. We’ve also been to many beautiful Canadian getaways from P.E.I. to Vancouver Island. We’ve been stunned by the view of Calgary tower, awed by Niagara Falls, enjoyed walks around Lost Lake in Whistler, toured Anne of Green Gables in PEI, talked long at Hopkins Dining Parlour in Moose Jaw, and claimed ‘our’ water falls off number 1 highway in BC. And we did it all—together. What are your memorable places?
- It’s the Family Developments you’ve created: It includes the moves you mad—11 times in the first 7 years of marriage. It’s the job transitions and the career changes. It’s a ton of decisions made together from type of broom to size of deep freezer. It’s the homes you purchased. Then there are those amazing moments where you share the birth of your children. Life-changing—REALLY! Watching them grow through all life’s passages. Twenty years of active parental engagement. Hours of watching our kids in sports, of helping with homework and taxiing them around. So many fabulous vacations together in our mini-van. Our annual Mount Baker family hike at Thanksgiving for 22 years. Our Kenya mission’s trip touched us all. The kid’s pairing off wisely and their subsequent weddings. Then, it’s the birth celebrations of 13 Grandchildren. Yes, life goes on. Our history deepens. Each unique family or couple traditions or event that might mean very little to anyone else—mean a whole lot to us.. We’ve been through it all together.
- It’s the Crisis Events you’ve endured: Life scares tear at the fabric of your life. We’ve walked through our son, Mitchell, being hit by a car at age 9, Keldy being in a car accident, Donalyn being hit by the cyclist in Hawaii and almost lost Jody at 3½ years old at a water slide park in Medicine Hat. We have faced three complete ACL Knee ligament reconstructions, countless concussion, ear surgeries, and Donalyn having two scares with Cancer. Who was there? Donalyn. She was my wingman in these life’s hardships and I hers. We developed a crisis intimacy.
- It’s the Life-Defining Events you’ve experienced: Our significant events will be different than yours. We’d had the privilege for nearly 25 years of speaking together on God’s perspective on marriage and family themes. We’ve lost both of my parents now and have helped with some life transitions for hers. We’ve been on ministry trips to Guam, Ireland, Kenya, Slovakia, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong—each carrying deeply enriching moments and memories. I remember giving a soccer ball to our sponsored child in Haiti and see his eyes light up. I’ll never forget Donalyn sharing her sexual abuse story publically for the first time on Guam. Or in Israel where I had the joy of baptizing Donalyn in the Sea of Galilee. And during these times, it’s the private words spoken that only you two have shared.
This list of influences on your shared history is not exhaustive. You could add sporting events you’ve attended, amazing people you’ve encountered and groups you’ve socialized with. You’ve both been shaped crazy happenings you’ve witnessed,significant moments of support you’ve felt and more. Your lives are a rich tapestry of unique experiences.
Warning: Shared History can also be a shared HELL (at least for a while) if you are not committed to becoming the best decision your spouse ever made. Face it. We all have to work through the tough seasons in our marriage. That’s how life goes sometimes in relationships. But you don’t give up. You wisely push through by humbly owning your mistakes, being gracious in forgiveness and recommit to love again. Even working through rough patches in your marriage is a significant part of Shared History—it’s the strength of overcoming like resolution intimacy.
Remember that God knows the end from the beginning. He alone knows how your story will end. The Psalmist said “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). He’s got a good plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11) and you’d be wise to keep the Lord Jesus in the middle of your Shared History. Submit your lives to Him daily. Since God has brought you together, let Him bring you along.
How to Deepen your Shared History as a Couple
Now I trust you have understood through our story what Shared History is like and can sense why it is significant to any couple. Your story will deepen you as you embrace and examine it more. Here are some practical tips to capitalize on your narrative to build deeper marital connection:
- Review your Shared History regularly. For over 20 years on our Anniversary we reminisce, “where were we and what were we doing” in five year increments. For instance, this year on our 44th, we remember where what was going on in years 39, 34, 29, 24 etc. At first do one-year increments, then two. It’s a great way to continue to celebrate and appreciate all that has gone on.
- Each New Year’s, share highlights together. Exchange your five greatest highlights and 5 greatest challenges of the last 12 months. Enjoy your history regularly.
- Keep photos of your Shared History. Record the fun and adventures, romantic gestures and special dates. These shots record your journey. You can also share them with your kids so they can see what growing love looks like. Sure, use Facebook too. Why not tell your friends and family what you are doing to keep your love strong and alive.
- Carve out time for each other. Even with a boatload of young kids, set a bi-weekly date night for keeping close and connected. Try The Secrets of Happy Camper Dating from our website.
- Try new things together. Get out of your rut. Be flexible. Stretch yourself. Quit being selfish.
- Work through your issues. Settle the score between you sooner and more freely. Don’t let bitterness and pride rob you from enjoying the journey.
- Work to create a warm and caring Shared History. You are building a future together. You are writing your history. Anticipate a great shared future through a positive attitude and consistent effort in the present to extend love and grace day-to-day. Enjoy life together now.
- Be intentional in all you do. If you don’t, other priorities will challenge the success of your joint history. Talk about your relationship. Make plans to deepen your connection. Put the dates and details in your calendar. Keep creating the adventure and the intrigue.
- Celebrate don’t criticize each other. Listen to the tone of your conversations. Drop the edge and be an encouragement. “Words kill or words bring life; they are either poison or fruit—You choose” (Proverbs 18:21). Be the bright spot on your spouse’s life.
- Let God anchor your Shared History. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). It will always be wise to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6).
Your Shared History—those memories of significantly connecting events and experiences—are the sum total of which makes the marital “US”. It is the dynamic mystery of a private life-time of committed love and life together—that sacred connection of two people who do become one. Don’t miss the opportunity to write a good history.
So in closing, Donalyn, nobody knows me like you do. We have shared so many life experiences together. We’ve done so much of life side-by-side. Our Shared History is tremendous though not perfect. I’ve seen all of you and you, me. We are witnesses to each other’s world. And because of this, I believe the best is yet to come.
Pass this on to be an encouragement to others. Share your comments with us.
Also listen to Dr. Dave’s podcast: The Power of Shared History in Marriage
© Dr. Dave Currie – August 2018