Which should it be? Short distance or long distance?
Marriage can be like a marathon or it can be like a short distance sprint. There’s a difference. The question is: are you a short distance sprinter or a long distance runner?
When a person does a sprint, he must prepare accordingly. The race won’t last long, but he must still be conditioned. When a person is physically well, he can do a sprint without experiencing the difficulty a long-distance race will produce. The crowd cheers, hoots, and hollers; and, before long, the sprint is done.
With the long-distance runner, there is training and conditioning for weeks and sometimes months. The mind set of the long distance runner is different. Even when he is just “training”, he has to set his mind for those increasingly longer runs. A fifteen-mile run today means a twenty-five mile run next week. The following week, he logs in more miles to get ready for the big 5-0 or 100. Not only does he need to be in good physical health, his mind must be set for that conditioning.
When our youngest son trained at home for his longer runs (up to 100 miles), I wanted him to just go ahead and get it done so he’d get back before dark and I could quit worrying about him running along our country roads in.the.dark. Oh no. He had to get his mind “ready” to run. This was not a five-minute event. Sometimes it took him an hour or more. In addition to getting his mind ready, he prepared physically. Food intake hours before was important. So was hydration. When I thought he was ready to go, he had to stretch and do other exercises like squats. Finally, he’d be out the door. We’d see him several hours later, sweaty, smelly (very!), tired, and satisfied.
Marriage is like long distance running. As young, unseasoned runners, we want to sprint toward the goal, moving faster than we should if we plan to finish the course. When we’ve trained and become conditioned (learned to communicate, received counseling, practiced doing instead of just giving lip service), and are physically and nutritionally fit, we can run the course in an even stride, and know we will finish the race. There will be longer climbs and uneven terrain, but conditioning helps us cover those miles with less strain and less pain. Conditioning does not mean there is no stress and that the race won’t be hard at times. It simply means we are more prepared to weather any conditions and come out ahead.
Conditioning sustains marriage – and the long distance runner
If conditioning is the answer, then how does one become conditioned?
- Mindset. Change your focus from short-distance sprinter to long-distance runner. There’s another word for that: Commitment. When the terrain becomes rocky, you stick with the path, and you don’t give up or quit. No matter the unforeseen course, you stay the passage in order to win the race. You pay attention to signs and directions so you won’t get off-course.
- Sustenance. For the physical runner, this involves nutrition and hydration. For the marriage marathon, we need the same. Our source for our mind-set must come from the Word and not from those around us. The Word is the best marriage nutrition there is. In addition, when a person become dehydrated, his body cannot function properly. Our hydration comes from a relationship of communication with God. When we’re struggling, fearful, or frightened, we must stay hydrated. We do that by communicating (prayer) with the One who came up with the idea for marriage in the first place. You know the first place we usually go when we’re struggling in our marriages? We go to other people. Instead, we should be crying out to God for wisdom, patience, and comfort. Certainly, we need friends with whom we can share – but our first point of contact should be with our Father who understands us and our spouse better than anyone. I know this is easier said than done – but it’s still truth. :-;
- Conditioning. For the physical runner, this involves stretching and strengthening. You know one of the hardest parts about marriage? It’s that stretching and strengthening. When a person is sore, he doesn’t feel like stretching. Before a marathon, a person must stretch. That’s to loosen those tendons, ligaments, and muscles. It helps warm up those areas so they can be more fluid when running. Stretching one’s muscles involves moving them beyond where they are now. Also ,before a marathon, a person must strengthen his body: heart, muscles, lungs. He does this by slowly adding time and distance to his runs. For runners, it’s important to perform strengthening exercises aside from running (i.e. squats). The purpose is to prevent injuries by strengthening muscles. When one is fatigued, he is more susceptible to injuries; that is why he must keep those muscles strong. It’s the same with marriage. When we know areas in which we are weak, we must condition and strengthen ourselves in those areas to prevent fall-out later. When marriage is hard, we become fatigued and are more susceptible to failure. Remember that. When marriage is hard, keep flexing those muscles in order to strengthen them. Develop strength by being pro-active before fatigue causes failure. Marriage is like that. If we want to do marriage right, we must be willing to move beyond our comfort level and out of selfishness mode. It doesn’t happen easily or automatically. Sometimes it means doing more than before or adding our emotions to action. This takes determination and deliberate reaction – whether it’s changing our emotional outlook or the physical things we do not want to do [did I hear someone say dirty socks on the floor – or sex?].
- Training. Simply put, this is exercise. It means just getting out there and doing it. A runner begins by running a mile or two. He increases the length and the pace. Daily or sometimes weekly, he amps up the run. After several months, he’s ready for the big marathon. Runners who do not prepare or condition themselves can vouch that lack of preparation has cost them a race. This exercise is a daily routine. It’s doing the next thing when you don’t feel like it. Exercise includes taking the next step when marriage is hard. Sometimes it means getting help, advice, or counsel. Other times it means doing what God asks us to do even when we don’t feel like it. It always means staying on course, even when we fall down, sprain a ligament, or lose a leg.
The finish line
Staying in a marriage and making it work happens when we are committed as a long distance runner. The more we do marriage and work at doing it well, the better our stride becomes. While our run might be viewed by others as a seamless run, we know better. We know the blood and sweat we’ve poured into becoming a long distance runner. It hasn’t come easily, and we of all people know how much work it is and how hard it has been.
Yet the victory at the finish line will be oh so sweet! It will be worth every strain and every pain. The end result – knowing we will cross that finish line because we stayed the course – is the goal. We can only do that by moving from short distance sprinter to long distance runner.
We can cross that finish line by implementing these things: mindset, sustenance, conditioning and training. Do all of these and you’ll make it – together- across the finish line.
1Photo Credit for the sunset picture of Ira and Bets goes to their grandson Kerwin Good, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
All other photo credits: Pixabay.com