"I want my marriage to be like a Hallmark movie" some of us say.......do you take notes during your chick flicks wishing your husband or future spouse would be like that guy in the movie? Yesterday we celebrated eleven years of marriage. It was one of the most stressful days I have experienced in a while, yet one of the sweetest...yes, better than a chick flick!
Marriage is NOT like the Hallmark movies. It is hard work to stay close through the good and bad times. It is not romance every night and candle lit dinners. Real love is a choice, not a feeling. Love is purposefully choosing to stay close even during the times you want to run away. My husband often describes marriage as two row boats out to sea. The only way you stay close is if both of you row steadily to stay together. If one stops, you drift apart.
A good marriage is learning ways to allow your spouse to feel safe so they can share their deepest thoughts. That does not happen usually over candle light. That happens when your spouse has really blown it and you wrap your arms around them and say, "We are a team!, I got your back!" We celebrated team work yesterday, working on a deadline together rather than being against each other. And yes, we felt safe at the end of the day.
Those of you who know me are fully aware of how shy I used to be...quiet..reserved. Living in New York and having a very dysfunctional first marriage changed me. I learned to stand up for myself to survive. Now I am learning to tone that part of me down in a 'normal' marriage. Normal? Yes, a normal marriage is not perfect. The goal is not to find someone that never disagrees with you. Letting someone else have their way all the time is not being a good spouse.
Always being in defense mode is not healthy either! Learning to handle conflict has been a struggle for me because I grew up thinking the goal was no conflict. If you don't argue, you have a perfect marriage. No one...I repeat.... no one has a perfect marriage. If you don't have a disagreement, James Dobson says, "One of you is not necessary!" Disagreements are a part of a normal marriage. Learning how to navigate them while not crushing your spouse is what is tricky.
Having good communication includes learning to navigate the land mines of your relationship. Avoiding conflict is not the goal, because the only way to true intimacy is learning to navigate the tough times....while you keep rowing...to stay together. I have watched families do this well, navigating physical and mental illness, and tragedy. I also know families that never talk....really talk with each other. They may exchange pleasantries, what is for dinner and when football practice is, but they do not navigate healthy conflict as a family. As parents, do we apologize to our children when we blow it? Do our children see us apologize to our spouse?
Marriages would start on a stronger foundation if Christian young couples could have someone in place to go to when struggles begin. Your first fight can be devastating. And yes, you WILL have your first fight....because two sinners are living under the same roof and they are expected to produce more sinners to live in that same house. Doesn't God have a sense of humor??
I have often thought that newlyweds should be assigned a mentoring couple to follow them their first couple years of adjustment. If you did not see your parents do conflict in a healthy way, how would you know that your marriage is not over? Look for couples who have faced struggles and not only remain married, but enjoy the view as they keep rowing!