Yes, our marriage is amazing and David and I are extremely happy together. But that doesn’t mean it comes without its challenges. We are challenged constantly and in different ways.
I am challenged personally.
These are the things that have nothing at all to do with David. Instead, they are all about me. Mostly, it’s about how I respond to a given situation and my response can have a huge impact on my day, and on the day of everyone else in the family.
I’m not talking here about the BIG obstacles that unfortunately exist in far too many marriages. I’m mostly talking about the “I-can’t-believe-you-left-the-seat-up-again-itis” that infects every home. In one form or another, the little things (like toilet seats and dirty socks and wet rags in the sink) have the ability to send us over the edge on just the right day. It’s a part of life because nobody is perfect and we all do things that drive our spouse crazy.
The key, folks, is not to nag.
When we nag it puts our spouse on the defensive and that is really not a place where anybody likes to be in a relationship. Sometimes I might very gently (or with some humour) remind David of his blunder (he should at least be aware of it after all), but delivery is everything. Most of the time, I say nothing. Usually, I just let it roll right off my back because for every wet towel left on the bed there are a hundred wonderful things he does. And really, who needs another reason to be in a bad mood?
Research has shown that the main reason for divorce after 5-7 years of marriage is conflict. Based on this, reducing the conflict can help protect your marriage. Talk about picking your battles!
A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.
— Ruth Bell Graham
So the vast majority of the time, I choose not to battle over the wet towel. Instead I’ll just go and hang it up. Whoop-dee-do. No big deal. David reciprocates by not commenting on the kitchen floor that is still filthy.
We are challenged by outside circumstances.
These can be work-related, child-related, financial or otherwise. We have recently begun to care for an aging parent with Alzheimer’s, and that is brand new and difficult territory for us. All of these things can make us emotional, exhausted and put us on edge at times, but it is what it is, and with prayer and petition, we try to deal with it as best we can.
Yes, difficulties exist at every turn, but really, they only develop into stresses if we let them. Marriages fall apart every day for a myriad of reasons, but stress is a massive contributing factor. How we deal with stress makes the difference between a good day and one that is not too soon forgotten. The key to this one, for us, is down-time and communication. We will talk more about that tomorrow, but it’s critical to talk through these things as husband and wife. A full and boiling pot will eventually boil over.
The speed of life is another very real difficulty in our marriage.
Between the Blackberry and the iPhone, the speed of business has increased to Mach VI. With it, the expectations have increased and people expect an immediate response. No more waiting. Everything is instant. And everyone wants a piece of you. So, the age-old issue of time is a big factor.
The issue with time is that nobody seems to have enough of it.
I speak with some authority on the issue of a lack of time. David has a full-time ‘9 to 5’ job and also holds a position as a decision-maker within our municipal government, that takes up between 2 and 3 evenings a week. I have a full-time job as mother and educator of our children, and I’m also self-employed. On top of that, we are involved in committees of the church, David is involved in music ministry as singer in a Christian contemporary/rock band, and we are both active in volunteering for our community. Time is very precious.
When it comes to our marriage, our response is two-fold:
1) We make sure to have scheduled time for each other each week. If a dentist appointment gets scheduled because it’s important, why doesn’t time with a spouse? Isn’t that more important than a regularly scheduled dental cleaning?
2) With this, naturally, comes the need to say ‘no’ to some things. We just can’t do it all. We have to prioritize according to our life priorities. My marriage is second on that list of priorities, after God, and I treat it as such.
As I read this back to myself, I feel sure that it accurately reflects the stumbling blocks in our marriage and the things we try to do to minimize them. Of course, there are times when it doesn’t go as smoothly; times when I’m just in a bad mood and can’t let things roll off my back. But after the mood passes, I look back and realize that it served no purpose other than to put the rest of the family in a bad mood. So most of the time, I work hard to just rise above it. Most of the time.
My marriage is sacred. It is the most special earthly relationship I have. I hold it very high. I treat it with the respect and protection it deserves. I will work tirelessly if I need to, to make sure it stays that way.