"It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages." (Friedrich Nietzsche) If you look at what others may consider to be "successful" marriages, it usually becomes quite apparent they are more than lovers - they are friends. They are more than parents - they are comrades in arms - ready to do battle to keep them safe, out of harm's way, and steadily moving along toward adulthood. Marriage is kind of romanticized these days - with TV movies making it look so easy for two people to "fall in love" and "live happily ever after". The truth of the matter - the "happily ever after" is riddled with all kinds of potholes, some the size of mortar craters, and lots of opportunities for losing your way!
You see, the Eternal sees our ways before Him. He watches every move we make and knows where those paths lead. (Proverbs 5:21 VOICE)
One thing remains true in all "really good" marriages I have observed - there is an ability to weather the bad times, navigate the storms, and come out stronger together when Christ is at the center of the relationship. I think he is the one who helps the "individuals" who become a "couple" to actually learn about each other, what each other needs, and where each one finds their place of purpose and fulfillment. Now, this may seem like an odd observation from a divorced, single woman in her late fifties, but hear me out on this one. I have had the better part of a quarter century since my divorce to observe those who have "made it work" and have consistently observed some pretty important things. Here are just a few:
- The stuff we might think matters so much in the end probably doesn't matter all that much - be willing to compromise. To hold onto one's own opinion of the way things should be, or what one envisions as the "perfect" answer to whatever is being considered is probably not exactly the way the other sees it - be willing to come to a place of mutual consent or consensus. There is definitely something to be said about finding the "middle-ground" - not one, nor the other may get "all" they want, but each comes closer when the middle-ground can be reached.
- Words hurt almost as much as actions - be careful with what you allow out of your mouth for those very things may be the things which trip you up over and over again as a couple. Feelings get bruised very easily, especially when one is tired, at the end of one's whits with problems at work or with the children, or even too distracted to really notice what is happening around them. The things which escape our lips are seldom able to be undone - once spoken, they hang out there in the air for a long, long time.
- There is much wisdom in not allowing one or the other to go to bed angry. A small amount of time spent ironing out the matter prior to going to bed is time well-spent. Anger grows as one mulls things over and over again - time spent now getting to the end of the matter is going to keep a root of bitterness from ever getting a stronghold in the relationship.
- A couple may be more alike than they know, but until they actually begin to talk through whatever it is they are walking through, they don't realize just how close they are in finding the same solution to the problem. When both are unwilling to give up, there is always a way to find a solution - Christ is more than enough. This is why I go back to the thought about having him in the center of the relationship - for he is the glue that binds, the neutral ground that facilitates agreement, and the bonding strength that will guide the couple through many a "hairy" period.
- When things get toughest, it is usually that season that will produce the best and strongest bonds within the relationship, especially when Christ is at the center. Just sayin!