Our dreams of marriage don’t include the hard marriage.
We rather like – and expect – smooth sailing. Sometimes we wake up to realize that our dreams haven’t come true like we thought they would (or should).
Starry eyes and happily ever after is sure to come to the couple so madly in love. Pre-marital counseling is completed and all that needs to be done is to say I Do – and then a lifetime of happiness and smooth sailing awaits.
After the disagreements and adjustments are complete. Which happens to be never.
Oh sure, marriage is fun and glorious when the sun is shining and the ship’s smooth sailing continues. Until that is, we hit choppy waters. You know, the choppy waters that other couples face, but not us. For we are so in love and so ready to get married. The seasickness that other couples endure, but not us. For we have it all together. We’ve waited and prayed for years for the right person. So when we find him, we know that our good ship marriage will face unchartered waters with calmness and serenity. For, after all, love is in the air!
Then it happens.
Sailing these waters is a little harder than we thought. We disagree on which course to take, on which way to turn the rudder, on what to do about the rent or the budget (or even if we need a budget) or the broken-down vehicle. We disagree about food and restaurants and what relaxing means.
Sometimes, because of our own childhood experiences, we want to remain totally in control – for as kids we had to be in charge. Sometimes, because of our childhoods, we expect others to pick up the slack – for as kids we had siblings or parents who allowed us to be selfish and irresponsible. Or we don’t want to talk about the small leak in the boat because we don’t do conflict. Or we haven’t learned how to communicate frustration and insist on talk, talk, talking when our spouse needs time to process first. So the night sets and the water becomes more choppy instead of calmer and our boat begins to take in water, one trickle at a time.
There’s no easy cure-all for turbulence, but these three areas can become a pitfall. If we can work on these three and come out ahead, the sailing of our ship is bound to be smoother. Otherwise, we have a good chance of suffering shipwreck.
- Gender Differences. Let’s face it. Men and women do not think alike. There’s no reason to try to make our spouse think like we do. They can’t because they are a different gender. Rather than try to force the other to be like ourselves, we need to accentuate the differences and be blessed by them instead of biased. Gender differences are why it’s so much easier for women to talk to other women about their problems (including their spouse) than it is to talk to the spouse. He doesn’t think like we do; he can’t empathize like our friends can, and his thought processes in solving the problem are not like ours. If we were so much alike, it would become boring. We can learn to appreciate and allow our differences to remain instead of trying to change our spouse. Celebrate the differences!
- Selfishness. We’re born with it. Some of us are more used to getting our way than others. Some of us got away with things when we were dating and now suddenly our spouse doesn’t think we’re cute or funny anymore. Woops. That’s a new wrinkle, isn’t it? Some of us have never had to share a room with a sibling, much less share an entire apartment or a house. Some of us always had to give in to other siblings, and we’re not about to be the one giving in now. My way or the highway. So do it my way or you’re a loser. We think, If he really loves me, he will . . . . ‘Only problem is that sometimes he thinks if I really love him, then I would be willing to . . . . .All of us have inherited that sinful nature of self. There’s only one cure for this: “let each esteem the other better than themselves. For certain, we need to nix that selfishness. At the same time, we must never hide our feelings and concerns about matters that aren’t related to being selfish.
- Our past. This includes how we’ve handled conflict in the past or how we have been used to doing things. Simple things like where and how to celebrate Christmas can be divisive if we allow it. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in the same community, went to the same school and the same church. The way things were done in our homes is different from each other. That means there will be disagreements and/or conflicts. Simple things like how quickly you take a child to the doctor can be a source of conflict. When I was a child, our family doctor charged little for our family’s visits because our father had been his patient. So when my father’s widow brought her children to the doctor, she was charged 10% of what everyone else had to pay. Little wonder then that my mother didn’t hesitate if we had a sore throat or were running a fever to take us to the doctor. Dave’s parents, on the other hand, used a doctor for emergencies only. There were times when they treated their kids at home when they should probably have seen a doctor. Money was tight and their background gave them the inclination to do everything else possible and if all else failed, see the doctor. A few years after we had children, someone asked me if we took our kids to the doctor frequently if they were sick. I responded, “Not nearly as often as my mother would have, and a whole lot more often than Dave’s parents would have.” We had to find a balance. You will, too, because you also have ingrained patterns of handling life’s challenges. Whether we commandeer or hide from conflict, it is something we learned as kids and/or saw modeled by adults in our lives. When we bring those patterns from our past into our present, it will affect the way we do marriage. Don’t fight the turbulence in those waves! Ride with those waves and learn how to maneuver so that you can effectively blend your pasts into your marriage, together.
No matter the struggles or the storms that come our way, if our anchor is Jesus Christ, we can be unafraid during the storms while we do the hard part of marriage.
Jesus can come into the winds of our conflict and speak to the turmoil. In the Bible account of when Jesus woke up during the storm, He spoke. When He said, “Peace, be still,” the waves stopped crashing the boat and the wind became still.
He can do the same for us if we allow Him into our marriage boat. Trouble is, so often we try to out-row the storm instead of allowing Him to enter our strongholds and bring peace out of chaos. When we try to ride out the storm alone, we’re bound to take in water and sink. If we experience His presence in our marriage and ask Him to steer the rudder of our boat, we can be certain He can be the calm in the storms of our lives.
When the disciples were afraid for their lives, they called on Jesus. They cried, “Save us or we will die!”
That’s what we need to do when marriage is hard. We need to cry out, “Save us for our marriage is on the rocks!” He will come. He will speak. He will bring peace, and we can be still.