My wife and I teach a class at church together called “Strengthening Marriage.” We’ve been doing it for almost three years now and in that time we’ve heard a lot of revealing stories and shared more than a few of our own. We’ve had couples in there that were newly married, couples with young kids, couples on their second or third marriage, and couples with more years of marriage behind them than I have years of life. It’s run the gamut. When you benefit from that much experience, you learn A LOT. Erin and I are way better spouses to each other then we used to be (not that we were ever horrible at it, but you tend to learn things and get better at stuff when you want to), but one of things that is so obvious that I’ve come to understand on a deeper level is that every marriage is built on trust, to one degree or another. How that trust is respected determines in large part how successful that marriage will be.

There’s no way to build a marriage without a great deal of intimacy. And when I say “build,” I mean that specifically. A wedding happens in a day, a marriage is built over time. The intimacy I’m referring to is not the physical kind (though that’s certainly part of it), but the kind of intimacy that comes from shared hopes, challenges, dreams, joys, struggles, sins, successes, and so many other things. A marriage is a commitment to know–to really know–someone and not turn away from them. To know every part of them and every detail and to make the decision that no matter what you find it will not be wanting. That’s the vow and many different kinds of struggles come from maintaining that vow. There’s nothing sadder than when it isn’t. Because:

The intimacy that is so intrinsic to marriage is also the power your spouse has to utterly destroy you.

Trust comes when your vulnerabilities are exposed and you turn to someone and say, “Here, have them.” In that moment (and there are hundreds such moments over the lifetime of even the shortest of marriages), your vulnerability is their power. Anyone with that kind of power can turn the screws so completely that you’d be left a crying, shameful mess if they so chose.

Conversely, anyone with that kind of power can be the vehicle through which you receive your greatest happiness. Knowing someone’s vulnerabilities is to also know how to buffer and lift and please that person. To know how to make happy.

And that’s why, despite the potential pitfalls, we do marry.

On Wednesday… Jerry has one last secret to share.