I have an engaged friend who will be married in the next few months. I posed this question to her:
"If you could have one question about marriage, what would it be"?
Her reply was this:
"How to make it last."
It's a loaded question. Every relationship is different, every person is different, and every marriage dynamic is different. Some parts resemble somebody else's marriage, but yours is unique.
As I reflected on my marriage. After all the bumps and bruises and the fighting in the first years, we were married.
Natalie and I barely made it out of the first two years. We fought about everything. We slept in the same bed, but that was it. I worked long hours at an appliance delivery company. 12-16 hours a day was the norm. Six days a week, sometimes 7. Gone by 7:00 am. Being gone didn't have a good effect on our marriage.
My attitude was, "I won her; now I can sit back and relax." I shut off my heart and did as little as possible for our relationship.
To Natalie's credit, I was the problem. There were no two ways about it. I had to own that. That was on me. I did not engage at all. I shut down. I quit trying to win her. I used to sweep her off her feet. Bring her chocolate, go for long walks, talk until 3:00 am in Perkins, drink coffee and eat French fries. Then drove her home and got up for work at 7:00 am. If I was to do that now. It would take me a week to recover.
"Being Married Means finding out how to fall in love again and again."
Then we got married……duh duh duh. Let me be clear. There was no intention to turn into what I turned into. It wasn't a deliberate decision I made. I didn't anticipate this being a thing that would happen to us. We were twitterpated wholly and completely.
Truthfully, I have no idea. Nat and I have spoken about it numerous times. And when I look back at the whole situation, I don't know what the issue was. We can speculate. But there is no rhyme or reason to it.
What I can tell you is Natalie gave me an ultimatum.
"Something has to give. Or I am done"!!!
She even gave me a timeline. She said that this has to change, or we are done. It killed her to have to say that. We spoke about marriage for life and the fact that we don't want a divorce. Or using the "D" word to be something that we use as a grenade against each other in disagreements.
So her yelling this at me should have been a wake-up call…. Not so much. I didn't believe her. She would never leave me. Come on. I was me; my awesomeness was not to be denied.
"Sigh," The me who I now wants to look back at the "me" I was then and wants to wring his neck.
In a moment of utter weakness and brokenness. I had this split-second flash of what my life would be like without her. What I would be missing. Fun, children, church, life, family.
I believe that God showed me this in that instant. I never envisioned our marriage was going to be like this.
So…I had a choice. DO I begin the process of forgiveness and go to Natalie and reconcile all that was lost?
Or…Do I walk away and lose this woman I loved with all my heart??
I had a decision to make. And love is a decision. It's not just a feeling. A small part of being in love is about emotion.
A big part of being in love is action. I had to move forward and conquer that part of me that was dragging us down the relationship toilet.
A small part of being in love is about feeling. A Big part of love is action.
Here are a couple of things that have stuck with me:
- Never give up.
If you want to have a successful marriage. Never give up. Never look for an out, don't plan for divorce, and never let it be part of your thoughts. Capture the divorce word and kick its ass. If you believe there is an out, you will behave like there is an out.
- Don't go into the relationship with trust issues.
Undoubtedly, you will have some issues when you get married. This is a natural occurrence when you put a boy and a girl together. But the bond of trust and the belief that you can trust your partner with your heart, your life, and the pleasurable bits. You know what I am talking about. If you can't trust them, every move they make will add anxiety and stress to the relationship, eventually reaching the surface and exploding.
- Be willing to work
Nothing is more frustrating than being in a relationship with someone and expecting the other to do everything. This isn't just about being the superhero and doing the dishes occasionally. This is about putting in the effort for the relationship. To work on communication. To learn each other's love language. To work on serving the other. If only one person in the relationship is doing that. The connection you had begins to wane, and over time, it will disappear.
Something that I have observed in other relationships and have done myself is. I know something is wrong, and instead of doing an inventory in my heart.
I will buy flowers and have them delivered with a cute little teddy bear, or I will take her on a trip. I will do everything but put any effort into our marriage. I put a band-aid on the issue we are facing, sweep it under the rug, and hope it goes away. And as much as we try and convince ourselves that it will go away.
It never does.
A relationship is challenging. Marriage is tough. Arguments are tough. Conflicts are tough. But continued tension in the marriage is draining, exhausting, and ultimately destructive. And it is up to you.
Here is a quote that I just heard for the first time but is relevant.
"You get what you tolerate."
What are you willing to live with?? And what kind of person do you want to be??