While I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be when this article is published, I want you to know its being written the morning after one of my dearest friend’s wedding. And I’m writing it in one of the café areas in La Guardia airport. For those who might be curious—the wedding was beautiful; the bride—exquisite; the groom – breathless for the first moment he saw her walk down the aisle. If weddings were any indication of a couple’s likelihood of obtaining a true happily ever after, these two would be set! Everything seemed perfect.
The Illusion of Perfection.
Of course nothing is ever perfect—especially at weddings. Even at the one I just attended, I’m sure some small behind the scenes detail was amiss (not that guests would’ve ever had any idea—it’s just the way these things go). Heck, at the wedding in Cana something went wrong—they ran out of wine! (John 2:1-11) And if you are one of those rare lucky few who manage to pull of a truly flawless nuptial gala, the marriage to follow is bound to have a few hiccups. But that’s life, right?
Where’s the Focus?
I have to admit, however, that I do find it curious that the effort some couples are willing to put into the actual marriages can sometimes pale in comparison to hoops they willingly jump through to pull off a fabulous one day affair. Don’t get me wrong– I love a great wedding, but shouldn’t a great marriage be the real focus?
Building a Great, but Not Perfect Marriage
Trust and believe that a great marriage is not necessarily a perfect one. There are tons of couples out there who’ve weathered some serious rough patches, and come out better and stronger. Mistakes themselves don’t necessarily break a marriage. Each one is a learning opportunity.
Personally, I think Greg and I navigate life’s curveballs like champs. Sometimes we tackle challenges like first round knockouts, and other times we look like champs that have endured a few rounds in the ring—but champs nonetheless.
So here are 3 things we do right when things are going wrong. And like any ‘tip’ on the internet, one size most definitely does not fit all. Hopefully, however, you’ll find one that does—or maybe one that inspires one of your own.
1) When a crisis occurs it doesn’t matter whose fault it was…
My mother used to tell me growing up that panic is a luxury—if you have time to panic, it’s not all that bad. When it comes to marriage, I think the same can possibly be said for blame.
Greg and I have already navigated our fair share of crises (lucky us!), and that mentality has served us well. A flooded living room, a surprise deployment (well, almost), car troubles, surgery and a lost wedding ring…
In the moment, I think each of us at one point or another could’ve thrown some blame. However, setting that aside and working as a team helped bring us so much closer together that in the end—there was no anger, no tears and no blame to be found.
2) We don’t keep score…anymore.
This is one that my husband taught me, because I used to keep score. It wasn’t an issue as long as I was “pulling my weight”. I used to be obsessed with equality. However, because I’ve always made significantly less money, the great equalizer I relied on was my domestic utility.
This calculus worked until I left my job to complete my graduate internship. I made $0 and had zero time. I wasn’t around to do anything even close to my “fair share”. I felt horrible and came home crying about what a horrible wife I was for having slacked on what I thought were my “wifely duties”. I was tired and overwhelmed.
Instead of agreeing with me, Greg reminded me that we are a team for better or worse. Moreover, there had been and would be plenty of times where the burden largely fell/will fall to me. He showed me it wasn’t about keep score; it was about living the life we wanted together.
3) We take our relationship’s temperature
There’s two important parts to this one. The first part is that we check in with each other. Nothing is ever a sure thing. And if the saying is true that Rome wasn’t built in a day, the same could be said for its epic collapse. That didn’t occur in a day either.
I’ll never forget the time Greg picked me up from the bookstore when I started researching topics on healthy marriages and relationships in grad school. He found me with a stack of books—6 or 7 high—of titles like, Fighting for your Marriage, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage, The Relationship Cure and others.
“Uhh… Are we okay?” he asked with a tone that was equal parts of concern and confusion.
“Yeah,” I remarked casually, “Why?”
He pointed at the books. As soon as I looked up and saw his face, I understood.
“Oh God–” I started, “Oh no, no, no… these are for class, love—not us!”
I’m pretty sure I saw the 1000 lb. weight leave his shoulders.
That is easily a favorite story of mine, but there have been other times when both of us have checked in and the answers have been less jovial:
“I feel really far away from you.”
“I feel as though I need to walk on egg shells because I don’t know how to help—and what I’m trying isn’t working.”
“I miss you, and you’re standing right here… that’s not right.”
These conversations are tough to have. And they are worth it. As I’ve written before, as long as couples are dealing with the truth, it’s my belief that two people can surmount some daunting odds. Regular conversations keep little problems from growing into big ones.
What are your best tips for navigating life’s bumps in the road?
Tell me in the comments below! Every relationship is different– so feel free to get original!