The Carryover: 4 Ways to Approach What You Carried Into Marriage

I had a realization about 9 years ago. At the time, my daughter was in fourth grade and I was staring at her homework and it hit me: Cammi’s math had exceeded my abilities. I could no longer help her.

I’d love to say this is some sort of exaggeration, but sadly, no. Once her math started getting into algebra, my separation from learning algebra, and my lack of using it, had weakened my skills in it.

SIDE NOTE: That thought, in and of itself, is a huge marriage lesson. You can’t expect your marriage to be strong in something you are separating from and/or not exercising. Don’t be surprised by weakened areas that have been ignored.

Sorry…back to the original post. #ADDBlogger

Quite often, when I’m dealing with couples young in their marriage (not necessarily young couples), what they see as relationship issues are really “math issues.” You’ve added two people together and there’s some “carry over.” Let me explain.

When I think back to the elementary math lessons of my youth, I learned to add numbers together by starting with the rightmost digits and working to the left. When the numbers on the right added to more than 10, I’d “carry over” or transfer to the next column of digits. That number is called the “carry.” (Enter a math scripture.)

This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Genesis 2:24

This simple marital math equation is a largely ignored. Genesis is giving us an equation. 1 + 1 = *1. Even in the name “Genesis” we get the reasoning for this odd piece of mathematics. When two lives (husband and wife) come together in marriage there is a genesis (beginning, start, origin) happening. But the asterisk tells us something is attached. What is that? The carry over. You can’t add two people, with all of their history, personality, quirks, hurts, and abilities and not have anything carry over into the oneness of marriage. 

When I Anne and I got married in 1998. We married the person and everything that came with them. Family. Friends. Temperament. Idiosyncrasies. It doesn’t mean those can’t or won’t change, but having that on your radar does help you know the type of “hand you’ve been dealt.”

I can’t stress that enough to pre-married couples. One of the many great reasonings for premarital counseling is to create avenues to find out what you both are carrying into your marriage. Ignorance isn’t “bliss” and discovering what you both are “carrying over” isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it will help you navigate through your future together.

Why do I stress good decisions as a single individual? Why do I encourage good preparation before marriage? Why do I tell people to get in a healthy mindset and/or get some healing before marriage? Because of the carry over. You don’t leave yourself behind when you get married, you bring “you” forward. Marriage doesn’t solve issues, it magnifies them. And it’s not all the “bad” that gets magnified. Personalities, habits, expectations, and the like all get amplified. It’s the natural result of two lives becoming and operating as one.

Today’s marriage blog isn’t about rescuing you from this. This article is written to help navigate through it.

Get real with where you are at. 
When I want to get somewhere on my map app, it doesn’t matter if I find where I want to go until I identify where I am currently located. First, you need to personally ask yourself about what carried over with you from your past.  It could be from your single life. It could be from your family. Perhaps, there could be something lingering from a past relationship. What you’ll find may or may not be inherently good or bad. For example, sometimes you carry over a style of living that is drastically different from your spouse. It’s not a matter of wrong or right, but the difference in styles have created a challenge. And ignoring it will do nothing. Recognizing it as a starting place to see the style you both brought and seeing how to shape what you have.

Second, have a talk as a couple about things that you’ve identified as “carry over items.” From habits to hurts, be willing to admit those challenging areas. For example, perhaps your family celebrated holidays or special events differently than your spouse’s family does. That may not seem like a huge deal to you, but it’s the little things that have the tendency to develop resentment and/or bitterness in hearts. And inner resentment over small items grow into relational infection. As I say so often, the only way to deal with unhealthy things that grow in darkness is to bring them into the light. And exercising humility and resolve can be the catalyst for you to propel into marital health.

Third, pick one area to work on. Couples HATE when I tell them to work on just one thing. There’s this idea that if we can create relational busyness and think it’s the same as relational effectiveness. Dealing with five items may make you “feel” like you are being productive, but in reality, nothing is getting better. I want you to work smarter and not harder. Pick one that you can work on together and build some marital momentum.

Lastly, keep up your radar. I find the older I get, the more like my father I am. It’s not a bad thing as I think the world of my dad. But it reminds me of this: It doesn’t matter my age, I still “carry over” from my past. As much as I’ve been with Anne longer (23 years together; 19 married), than I’ve known life without her, there is side of me that still lingers. And daily, I have to make a choice to not take my marriage for granted but do my best to walk in the oneness God has called me into.

Have you carried anything over from your past into your marriage? Congrats, you’re human. And because both you and your spouse are human, you can’t ignore the “carry over,” you need to navigate and grow through it.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.




3 responses to “The Carryover: 4 Ways to Approach What You Carried Into Marriage”

  1. This is so true. I never looked at it in this light before though.

    My ex-wife and I both carried over a lot into our marriage. We just didn’t know how to work it out, much less talk it out back then.

    Sharing, as I feel this article will help many marriages, before they say I Do and after.

    1. Appreciate your thoughts. I feel the subject is severely underestimated in couples.

  2. I agree completely with the underestimated aspect. I feel many “overlook” it, instead of addressing it, thinking things will just get better in time.

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