This last week as we visited our daughter and her family, I watched my husband playing ball with the grandkids. A simple game, him throwing the ball out in the yard and they’d retrieve it and throw it back. There were wild screeches of delight every time the ball landed in the kiddie pool as the kids announced another “wet ball.” Such a simple game, yet such fun was had.
It reminded me of times Alan would play with our own children. He has a way of making anything fun. I am really thankful for this quality in him and it made me so happy to see it again impacting another generation.
There have been other instances too when I think about how glad I am that we stayed committed in our marriage and worked out the problems so that we could still be together to enjoy moments like that ball game. We had some really hard things to work through, and it took years. There were many times that I thought maybe it would just be easier to split up. I wondered if it would ever get better. I know Alan had those thoughts too. But we got through it with the grace of God.
And now we are living “the rest of our story” together. Moments like the ball game become poignant because they could have been lost to us. If we’d split up I wouldn’t have witnessed that scene. So the hard times we went through seem so worth it to have the rich relationship we have now.
Of course, life isn’t perfect. There are stresses. But this is the part of our story when we experience calm in the storm together. We feel the support of the other even during a disagreement. And we come to understanding more easily.
My hope for you is that you too will persist in love and forgiveness so that you can joyfully live the rest of your story together.
What about it? Have you ever been frustrated with your spouse about a particular issue that just keeps coming up over and over? Have you had prolonged periods of dialogue (arguing) that end with you telling yourself,
“That’s it! I’ve had it. I am so done talking about this. I’ll not say another word. It’s no use. Nothing’s going to change. Just forget about it.”
You vow that’s the last time you’ll bring it up because it’s futile. You resolve to yourself that you just don’t care.
“That’s it! I just don’t care.”
An apathetic spirit becomes your “safe place”. You tell yourself you don’t care and at least for a while, your feelings are dulled. If you don’t care, there is nothing to be anxious about, nothing to work through. Nothing to frustrate you again…..
The “apathy coping mechanism” is a strategy employed by many faced with relational impasses. We use it to shield ourselves from the hurt of dealing with a nagging problem with our spouse. It’s similar to putting medication on an open wound to numb the pain, but ignoring the cause of the wound. We self-medicate with apathy to avoid the underlying issues that are causing the pain.
So how do we deal with a nagging issue that just seems impossible to resolve?
Here are several steps you can take to begin the journey to resolution:
- Pray – Understand that an ongoing problem decreases the closeness you experience as a couple. Separation is a spiritual issue. You need to take the matter to God in prayer. Ask for wisdom and understanding. Ask for His direction.
- Commit – Renew your commitment to your relationship. Confirm in your heart there is no issue so big that it should divide you as a couple. Commit to work on restoring your relationship. Commit daily to not let an issue be divisive and destroy closeness with your spouse.
- Examine – In your time of prayer, ask God to open your heart to introspection. Ask Him to show you if there is something in you that needs to be revealed. Are you the one that needs to change?
- Ask – Ask for uninterrupted time to communicate with your spouse. Confirm your love for your spouse. Share your desire to restore your relationship to wholeness and to work though the issue so that there is nothing between you. Pray together, asking God to bless your efforts. Then work together to find a selfless resolution. Be open to compromise, creative alternatives, and to confessing your own culpability. Allow a generous amount of time to work through to a mutually acceptable solution, which may take weeks, months, or longer. Be patient with each other. It takes time to resolve a complex issue.
Set your mind to not let frustration fatigue divide your relationship. Earnestly work at issues that keep you from closeness…. So that your joy may be complete.
The wonders and joys and trials of marriage have been written about for many centuries. Ever since Adam and Eve first kissed in the garden, it has been an ongoing challenge to turn a marriage into a good marriage and then to turn a good marriage into a GREAT MARRIAGE. I would suggest to you that we all have the ability to have and enjoy a GREAT MARRIAGE. There are many things that are critical to making that a reality. Here are just a few for you to consider:
1. Commit Entirely – After you have said “I do” and you take those first steps towards life together, it is so important to lock into the vision of “life together.” If we have the understanding that our commitment will last only until the problems begin, then our relationship is bound to fail. Our commitment needs to be unconditional. It needs to be “I Love You” and not “I love you if…” A love based on conditions will eventually fail. Columnist Doug Larson wrote this about marriage: “More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.” Have a commitment to get through the early years of marriage so you can enjoy the “better years.” Mark Twain said it this way: “Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”
2. Love Selflessly – All too often the primary reason that marriages end in divorce is that one or both partners feel that their needs aren’t being met. “I’m not getting what I want out of this marriage.” It’s the My and I syndrome.
- My needs
- My wants
- My expectations.
Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner said of marriage: “Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.” Get outside of yourself for a minute. Are you being “the right mate” for your partner? Are your selflessly loving? Professor Jerry McCant said, “You can never be happily married to another until you get a divorce from yourself. Successful marriage demands a certain death to self.” If we invest ourselves in building up our spouse and truly loving our spouse, we begin building a lasting marriage.
3. Forgive Endlessly – Another cornerstone of a GREAT MARRIAGE is becoming a master at forgiveness. Much like commitment, forgiveness needs to be unconditional. If we can have the grace to forgive, we extend love and acceptance to an imperfect spouse. In an environment of unconditional love and forgiveness, we experience both giving and receiving the Godly quality of grace. Billy Graham’s daughter Ruth Bell Graham said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Forgive one another… as I have forgiven you – Colossians 3:13.
Just a few Common Sense basics on how to have a GREAT MARRIAGE.