When I first began flying on work-related trips, I refused to check my bags. I had my really important stuff in a shoulder bag, but I insisted on carrying my luggage with me all the time. So there I would be, running from one concourse to another, dragging a suitcase with me. When I had to use the airport bathroom, the suitcase would come with me while I maneuvered it around the door of the bathroom stall. It was constantly with me.
Why? I was afraid to let it go. I didn’t want to let go of my stuff. I was afraid it would get lost or damaged, or maybe it wouldn’t be there when I really needed it. So instead of checking my luggage, I dragged it around with me, all through the airport. Every time I boarded a new plane, there I was, standing in everyone’s way while I try to squash my carry-on into the overhead compartment. After dragging my stuff all through the airport, taking it with me even into the bathroom, and going into contortions on the plane while stalling everyone else, I was too bedraggled to actually enjoy the trip. I was too worn out.
How much baggage do we bring into our marriages? How much stuff are we dragging around that is wearing us down and keeping us from experiencing the exciting journey of marriage?
Here is some baggage I see women dragging along in their marriages:
- Sexual experience. When we bring sexual experience to our marriages, not only have our pathways of sexual interaction become wired according to someone(s) completely different from our husbands, we often associate sexual activity with guilt or shame. Some of us have used our sexuality as a kind of currency in validating our worth with men. When our husbands have a good and Godly interest in being with us sexually, it can bring back some of those same old feelings.
- Unhealthy interactions with adult males–especially the ones we are most supposed to be able to trust. Child abuse, childhood sexual assault, and neglect are the most obvious culprits, but they are not the only ones. How did our fathers and other male relatives treat women? How did they talk about sex? If they treated our mothers as servants, or if they made lewd comments about women who walked by, what did that teach us about what to expect and believe from our husbands?
- Low self-esteem. Far too many women have grown up undervaluing their worth. Our body image issues are widely discussed in popular media and scholarly research alike. We don’t like how we look, and too many of us struggle to see ourselves as valuable or worthy. When we bring this into our marriages, how are we to believe a husband who says, “Oh, honey, you’re so beautiful?” Since we know it isn’t true, the only possible reason he could be saying something is to get something.
- Messages about sex. We may grow up hearing things like “don’t,” it’s all men want,” or “it’s something women just have to put up with.” Or maybe we hear “only loose women enjoy sex” or “any woman who dresses like that is a slut.” So when we feel ourselves respond sexually to our husbands (a right and Godly thing), these messages start to bubble up inside us.
We bring all this baggage into our marriages, and it just weighs us down. So what can we do about it? How do we learn how to check the luggage?
- Understand yourself. At the very least, know what baggage you’re bringing. How on earth can you begin to address it if you don’t even admit what it is?
- Make a list of resources that could help you address what you’ve identified: counseling, a support group, an online forum, websites, study books, pastoral guidance, etc.
- What do you need from your husband in order for you to do the work that is needed? Ask him to help you figure it out, and then ask him to help you. If it means that for a time, he initiates sex in a different way, then ask. Maybe you need to be able to get away for an hour a couple times a week to spend some time reading and learning or getting guidance.
- Ask people to pray. Once you know what your issues are, you can ask people to pray for you in specific ways: for courage to face difficult memories, for a softened heart to be able to hear your husband’s feelings, for wisdom in choosing the right path, etc.
I don’t remember why I did it, but I finally decided to check my luggage. I felt like I was flying through the airport without having to drag that wheeled suitcase behind me everywhere I went. I boarded the plane, found my seat, and sat down while watching so many others still trying to lift their bags over their heads.
I checked my baggage, and I felt free.