What I Brought Into Marriage

by Merritt on October 24, 2013

In ancient times (and even today in some parts of the world), a bride brought a dowry—usually property belonging to her parents—into a marriage. The intent of a dowry was to provide future support for the bride and her children in the case of a husband’s untimely death.

Obviously we live in a very different world today—at least in America. Married at 39, I’d already established a full household of my own belongings. And yes, some were, in fact, provided by my parents, especially once I had a three-bedroom house to furnish in Dallas. {Thanks Mom & Dad!} But in addition to household goods, a car, and my own business, I also brought a lot of debt to our marriage. If you’ve been around here a while, you know we celebrated our big debt-payoff a few years ago. YAY!!

Suitcase with clothes on mat on room background

We are now just few weeks away from our four-year anniversary, and I’m realizing some other things I brought to our marriage. Actually, I’ve known this for quite some time. But I haven’t had to deal with it recently. Remember that three-bedroom house in Dallas? The real estate listing drew my attention when it said: “If you have more stuff than will fit in this house, you have too much stuff!” It was a dream-come-true because I have a LOT of stuff.

I call myself sentimental. I keep things because they have meaning and memories attached to them. Those things, in many cases, would probably look like trash to you. I can admit, some of it is. But they are attached to emotions in my little world; therefore, I have a hard time getting rid of them. I realize there is sin in this. I realize I am being held captive by my possessions.

I realize why my husband gets this crazy face when I say I need to keep something.

But there’s something deep within this dysfunction that I can’t let go. So, instead, I hold onto things of this world because they give me comfort. Or safety. Or security. Even though I KNOW it will ALL be dust one day.

So, when my aunt and uncle came over this past weekend to borrow some furniture that has been taking up space in our garage, it was a painfully vulnerable experience for me. First, I was embarrassed to show them our garage, packed floor-to-ceiling with just enough room to squeeze in one of our cars.

Second, I was ashamed that the things we were offering to let them borrow for their new condo were things that I didn’t feel comfortable saying, “You can just have it!” I’m not even talking about nice things. There’s one end table from the 1960s that shows up in many of my baby pictures {sentimental much?}. And I wasn’t able to just GIVE it to them.

Third, I was embarrassed that I was embarrassed.  My aunt was doing her due diligence asking, “How much of this do you want back?” and I couldn’t answer her honestly. I hemmed and hawed. I shuffled my feet. I avoided the question. I didn’t want to tell her I was not ready to permanently get rid of ANY OF IT even though we CLEARLY don’t have room for it and have no plans in the near future to move to a larger home.

We don’t need this stuff. And yet it has me bound.

We had dinner with them a few nights later, and having felt convicted about my shame and avoidant behavior, I knew I needed to acknowledge my feelings. So, in Brené Brown-fashion I decided to be vulnerable. To tell them how I was feeling. To confess my sin and verbalize what I was and am going through with regard to my stuff. Not to mention admitting to myself and the Husband that this affects our marriage.

The truth is, by next October I will likely not remember what we loaned them. In fact, when they sell their place in Arizona and move their belongings here for good, they may want to give it all back to us. Maybe then I’ll be ready to release it. I don’t know. But I’m praying God would show me. Help me release my grip. Help me let go.

By the way—that conversation with them went well. I felt more courage than I did shame. And that’s a huge victory. It doesn’t mean this mound of stuff or my inclination to hold tight to earthly things is going away. I will one day have to deal it all. In the meantime, my physical belongings serve as a reminder of the emotional baggage I carry and which, on our wedding day, I brought into another person’s life. And while neither will go away in just one day, I’m grateful for the grace I’ve received in the midst of it. And—with some fear and trembling—I pray God uses it to mold and shape me into who He wants me to be.

Can you relate? What did you bring into your marriage that is still wreaking havoc?

Share in the comments below–I’d be honored to hear from you.

Photo credit: © Africa Studio – Fotolia.com

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Betty Miller June 19, 2014 at 2:42 am

I can’t stop nagging my husband even how hard I tried not to 🙁


Elizabeth December 21, 2013 at 9:02 am

I enjoyed reading this and had to smile. I too married late in life, three months ago and almost five years after my previous husband died. In my early life it wasn’t possible to accumulate many personal or household possessions because nearly all our income was needed to raise three children. However, when it became possible to do so, I enjoyed finding and purchasing beautiful dishes at very reasonable prices. Finally our house became quite full of dishes. This was apparent, even though they were thoughtfully chosen to coordinate with each other and beautifully displayed in tasteful arrangements. I asked myself why these dishes gave me such pleasure, and I realized that it was probably because I inherited nothing from either grandmother nor my mother–not even one spoon. Long story, but one grandmother died before my birth and the other was “feuding” with my parents and made no effort to ever see me, even though she lived only three miles away. My mother’s love was also conditional upon my following her religious views, and when I didn’t she disowned me. The collective fallout and emptiness from this lack of family love and acceptance is probably what drove me to purchase things I enjoy myself and plan to pass on to my six grandchildren. I can’t change the past but I can make the present and future better for myself and my own children. It’s true that the “things” we collect are only material items, but in this life we are all made of matter and relate and feel connected to material things in some way. My current husband understands that my dishes are important–and my considerable clothing, too–in ways he can’t identify with but respects, and I love him even more for that. I’ve put limits on myself; for example, if I find a beautiful new dish or clothing item now, I try to give one away. I also respect the timing of things. I believe if we feel the urge to buy or keep something now it’s usually because it’s serving some needed physical or psychological function, and that the time will also come when we will feel more comfortable with letting it go. My current husband and I also both love books and cannot resist purchasing some very reasonably at library and used book store sales. Is this because we both hate it that the internet has changed our lives so much and we’re afraid that e-books with make real ones obsolete? Who knows. The important thing is that we’re enjoying our lives now–dishes, clothes, books, and all–and when it becomes apparent that we need to downsize for some reason, we will. Until then, we’re comfortable with each other and our collections and tell people with a smile, “We have an addiction to books but we DON’T want help.” Best wishes to you and your husband, and thank your for sharing your thoughts and experiences.


Merritt March 5, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Elizabeth, your response to well-meaning people made me laugh out loud! I am learning to do that, too. In some cases I want help, but in most cases these are things I just need to work through on my own with the Lord. He is pruning me as we’re getting ready for a move this month. It’s good pruning, but it doesn’t always feel good.

Thanks for sharing your story about the dishes. It makes sense to me. 🙂


Joyce October 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Congrats on four years! 6 for us this year. I didn’t bring that much physical stuff into the marriage, but boy did I bring a TON of emotional stuff — including mental illness that was undiagnosed until a year into our marriage. I’m also dealing with a ton of guilt and shame and I wish I could put it down; throw it out; let it go… but it just isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Life was actually a little easier when I was oblivious to it. Now that I have recognized the issues they are big and heavy and not easy to ignore anymore!


Merritt | LiveSimplyLove October 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Hi Joyce – yeah, the emotional stuff is totally in your face when someone else is there to hold up the mirror. Ouch! But congrats on six years! And I encourage you to keep pushing through the hard stuff–asking for help where you need to.

If you haven’t heard of Brene Brown (link above in the post) you might take a look at her TED talks. Of course, she’s not God–our Great Physician–however, she is a shame/vulnerability researcher. Listening to her and reading her new book, “Daring Greatly” has done a lot for my ability to start to SPEAK my fears/shame, which in turn has begun to minimize them a bit.

May the Lord continue to teach and refine you through this process. Sorry about the diagnosis (and now the inability to ignore it!) but I pray He uses it for great healing in your life and marriage.


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