On Thursdays we get together with a handful of other families, locked the kids in a padded room (ha!), and talk about our marriages.
Being in a group where you can be authentic and honest about living in relationship with someone who is quite different from you is… well… really, really healthy.
For me, the key to taking an intentional look at your marriage in a group setting is to acknowledge success and difficulty with humble authenticity. I’ve been in groups where everyone smiles, says the church answer, and goes home in steaming silence. I’ve looked at couples who are cheating on each other but brag to their group they’re more in love now than ever before.
That stuff, it just doesn’t work.
Instead, a successful group is a place where couples can admit their faults, celebrate their successes, and commit to doing better on a daily basis. When you find a group like that… well, hold on to it!
At this point in my life there are times when I want to look at young, shiny, happily engaged, dreaming couples, wrap my hands around their throats, and shake them for being naïve! Right about the time I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge, I tear up at a wedding because I know there are two people promising their lives to one another who really mean it.
Yes, I know, a conundrum. My feelings are just complex like that.
Today I came across this article of advice from a couple that has been married 85 years. Their advice is simple, encouraging, and authentic. Right up my alley!
Favorite bits? “Remember marriage is not a contest – never keep a score. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win… learn to bend – not break!” and “Respect, support & communicate with each other. Be faithful, honest & true. Love each other with ALL of your heart.”
While that advice might not resonate deeply with a young, happy, shiny, newly engages and dreaming couple… once you’ve knocked a few rough edges off your spouse learning to bend instead of break seems like a pretty good idea!
In this very season of life, there are a few things I am (imperfectly) trying to do to intentionally build my marriage. I’ll share them, just in case you might know someone who needs some ideas they can wrap their hands around:
1. Pay Attention. I will stop what I’m doing and greet my husband when he walks through the door. I like him. I want him to know I missed him. Not acknowledging him does not send the message that my best friend just came by to hang out. (Setting the smart phone down during arrivals is also a bonus!)
2. I Love — Despite. I will choose to believe the best in him, even if my opinion is different from his. The word of the day is “despite.” I will love “despite” this or that. I will learn and choose to put my magnifying glass on his strengths instead of obsessing about his weaknesses. I choose to believe in him. I will publicly praise him for his giftedness.
3. Be Responsible. I choose to develop myself and my interests so we will have a co-mingled, not co-dependent relationship. My spouse cannot be the thermostat for my attitude; I have to take responsibility for my own values, emotions, and actions. I choose to be a thinking, interesting individual that’s fun to be around because… well, that’s the type of person I want to be in all of my relationships!
4. Don’t Quit. Remember these words? “When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill, When the funds are low and the debts are high, And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.” Read the whole poem here. What an inspiring and encouraging piece of work! Resting is ok, healing is ok… but quitting… not an option. I’m choosing to persevere.
5. Asking for Help. I’ve been slowly reading Anne Lamott’s book, Plan B. I admit, I feel like we would be the two women making a scene and arguing in a corner if we met in person, but some bits of her writing that plunged into my heart like an arrow. One is this: “Help” is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn’t matter how you pray–with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors. Years ago I wrote an essay that began, “Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.” Sometimes our marriage prayers start in the bathroom. Sometimes at the Parthenon. Regardless… help is a good thing. I’m choosing to ask for help through prayer and through authenticity with the people in my life. That’s good stuff.
What advice would you give about choosing a successful marriage?