The Year from Hell, that is how my husband and I refer to our first year of marriage! My first attempt at the birth control pill made me a hot mess! Mark, my hubby, could have dealt with the "hot" part, but the "mess", not so much. The girl he dated and grew to love turned out to be less than perfect. He grew up in a home blessed with emotional stability and when his wife turned into a crying, screaming, raving, lunatic I am sure he wondered what he had gotten himself into. Poor guy! But he has stuck with me all these years and while we have not always made growth in our marriage a priority, sometimes I think God blesses a marriage just because you have the guts to hang in there!
Many marriages, my own included, are guilty of getting locked into a pattern. Usually the pattern looks like two wheel tracks through the mud. In other words, a rut. This week I would like to look at a few areas that need attention in a relationship between two people. Perhaps one of the most widely discussed areas is that of communication. Many young couples have no clue how to actually relate to each other. Sure they find each other attractive, they make a commitment to one another, but all of a sudden when they wake up next to each other they realize, "What do I really know about my spouse?" Their lives become filled with more questions than answers.
"What do I do when she's crying?"
"Why is he giving me the silent treatment?"
"Why does she bang those pots and pans? Is it me?"
"Why does he look at other women? Am I not enough?"
So many questions. The best place to find answers is one another. Take time to talk to each other. Men, your wives do not intentionally bang pots and pans (well, maybe sometimes). They are not pillows, they are pans. Crying is not always your fault, in fact, rarely. Trust me on this! Women, when he's silent he's processing. The way to help him process is tell him in real words how you feel and why you are upset. And yes, they do naturally look at an attractive woman. It takes effort and self control for a man's eyes not to follow a beautiful girl.
Learning to hear (active listening) and understand takes patience, time and practice. Actually becoming "relatable" takes even more patience, time and practice. Does your husband love football? Watch a game with him. Don't ask him to take out the garbage or go to the store for you during a game. Understand that this is important to him and make it important to you as well. Try to "get" him. Walking a mile in someone else's shoes goes a long way to diffusing volatile situations and learning patience with another person.
Another area that needs growth in a marriage is the area of romance and intimacy. This is an area that will blossom when tended with care and gentleness. With time, patience, understanding, clear communication and the soil of mutual trust, intimacy can flourish. Being demanding, critical, impatient and comparative will not breed a healthy romance. Your husband will not suddenly look like Chris Hemsworth (Thor), nor will you start dressing like Wonder Woman to go to the grocery store. Marriage is made up of two real people. Why should we demand more out of the person we are married to than we demand out of ourselves?
In addition to communication and romance, a marriage needs to grow in the area of leisure. Find things to do together. Maybe you don't both love football, or shopping, but you both do love to take walks outdoors or go camping. Perhaps he likes to metal detect and you like to read. Go to a park where he can put on his gear and search for treasure and you can sit under a shady tree and get lost in a great book. It doesn't have to be the same activity that you do, but that you are in the same place, enjoying each other's presence. After you've done your activities, go out for coffee or dinner, for your more intimate twosome.
Mark and I have found in our own marriage that laughter and prayer are two very important components in not getting locked into a pattern of bitterness and selfishness. Laughing with each other and at each other releases tension and gives you a platform from which to talk about hard problems. We love to get on Youtube and watch comedians such as Tim Hawkins. And though we don't pray consistently together, when life is overwhelming we usually pray before we go to bed.
There are so many areas that can be tweaked and improved. Areas such as spirituality, finances, employment and children also take time and effort and need to be visited regularly in order for growth to take place. The key is to keep growing. Don't get locked into the bad habit of neglecting the marriage. Keep learning things about each other and keep taking an interest in one another. Learn to live and love life, together.