Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

Relationship Maintenance

February 18, 2013 1 comment

It has been almost 10 years since my wife Jennifer and I began building our house in 2003. In the years since, the HVAC has been repaired a couple of times, a toilet had to be replaced, holes patched, repainting done and the carpet in the living room has been stretched twice because it was not installed properly. Outside, the natural areas have been re-needled and re-planted several times, plants and trees moved and fence posts concreted. All of this has been in addition to the normal maintenance that any house requires both indoors and out. The cleaning, mowing, washing, scrubbing and vacuuming. The filter changing, light-bulb changing, organizing, de-cluttering and purging that goes on all of the time.

This got me to thinking about how marriage and other relationships are like the care you put into a house.

Many people see marriage as a relationship that you form, flip a switch, and everything goes smoothly. However, this would be similar to buying a house and never expecting to clean or maintain it. It will degrade faster than you think, and before you know it, it will not be worth living in. Marriage requires work. It requires that you do the everyday maintenance, such as saying kind things to your loved one, helping with chores, and generally doing things that show that you recognize their needs and desires and will strive to help them meet them. I think most married couples get this but this is not the hard part.

It gets hard is when the AC goes out in the middle of the summer.

What I mean by this is that couples that love each other often struggle when it comes to large obstacles. They may be great at helping each other out when things are going well, but when one loses their job and it’s hard to make the bills, or when a spouse makes a bad choice that leads to injured feelings or worse,  the relationship frequently starts to suffer. This is where relationships can fail, or they can be made stronger.

When your AC goes out, or a water pipe breaks, you know it’s going to cost you,  but you also know that what is put in is likely better than what it replaced. How many people think of just getting rid of the house when these things happen? Some I am sure, but not many. Our investment in the house is much greater than the cost of overcoming a temporary issue. It is the same way with our relationships. When we have invested in each other, caring for one another, we should not be ready to let it all go when rocky times are encountered. It is through hard work and love that these temporary struggles can forge trust and strength that just cannot be found on smooth waters.

When things get difficult, it can be very tempting to remove ourselves and follow the path of least resistance to an easier place. But to do that is to give up on what can and should be one of the most rewarding things a human can do. Marriage is work, but it takes work to accomplish truly great things. Don’t give up on it.

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Newsflash – I Love My Wife

July 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I am constantly surprised when people don’t see things the same way I do. That sounds a bit egotistical, and maybe it is, but frequently I hear my friends and coworkers say things that seem perfectly reasonable to them and blow me away with what it says about them. One friend holds a months-long grudge against his in-laws and takes it out on his wife with verbal abuse. Another has started ignoring his wife’s concerns because he says it never changes no matter what he does. A third wants to “get-back” at her spouse because he did something she didn’t want him to do, but never actually told him. The more I hear these types of things, the more I begin to wonder if my way of going about my marriage is actually in a minority.

When my wife Jennifer and I began dating in 2001, we both had some baggage from previous marriages. As it began getting serious, we decided to set a few ground rules. The first of which was complete honesty. A few years into Jennifer’s first marriage, her husband had given her a line which included “I didn’t tell you that before we got married because I was afraid you wouldn’t marry me”. In my own first round, I had been known to lie or hide things in order to prevent conflict or because I was not comfortable sharing bad news. So we decided that there would be none of that is this relationship. I made it my goal to tell Jennifer about every skeleton in my closet. I wasn’t trying to frighten her away, but I didn’t want her to get surprised by something later. Needless to say, (why is it that we use the phrase “Needless to say” and then always say it anyway?) I didn’t scare her off.  Even today, when something unpleasant happens, my brain’s initial reaction is to start forming a “story” but then I remember our agreement and immediately try to find the best way to break the truth instead.

The second rule we live our relationship by is that we allow no “game-playing”. When I say game-playing, I mean those little score keeping games that so many couples do, even subconsciously. It goes from the minor issue (I’m not cooking supper tonight because he didn’t mow the yard) to the extreme (She cheated so I will too and get back at her). So often I hear these sorts of things going on in others lives and the people involved don’t usually understand how destructive those behaviors are. When you enter marriage, it is not the whistle starting the game or green flag for a race. Marriage should not leave you feeling like you are ahead or behind. It is a zero-sum cooperative relationship, or at least it should be, not a competition. If you are feeling behind, you should be able to ask for help, or forgiveness or whatever it takes because you trust and love your spouse and want to make the relationship stronger. And what if you are feeling ahead? Well, then instead of feeling superior, you need to slow down and help the one behind catch up, for the same reason, because you love and respect them and want to make the marriage better.  The goal in marriage is not to score the most points, but instead to throw to scorecard out the window and treat yourselves as two parts of a single whole. Then it makes no sense to complete.

The final one of our ground rules, and one which may be the most important to Jennifer and I, is that we do not expect each other to read minds. It is not fair to a spouse when the excuse “You should have known” is used, especially if you have an opportunity to make sure they do know. If Jennifer wants me to wash the dishes, she asks me to. If I want her to stop by the store on the way home, I bring it up. Sounds easy huh? Obviously, there are certain things you don’t need a reminder for. Don’t cheat on your wife; don’t leave the house naked; those sorts of things. The crazy thing is that fights start all of the time over the mundane things like the dishes. I have heard ladies tell their girlfriends about how they didn’t want their husband to play golf on a certain day, and then not speak to him afterwards and leave him completely dumbfounded as to why. I know a fellow who will not give his wife compliments, because he is too “manly” for that sort of thing, but assumes she knows he thinks it. C’mon folks, it is really not that hard. Just assume your spouse doesn’t know unless you tell them. It solves so many issues that you wouldn’t believe!

The reason that these ground rules work for Jennifer and I is that we see our relationship as a 50/50 partnership. We love and respect each other and we realize than anything that tears one of us down tears us both down, and anything that builds one of us up, does the same for the other. So, newsflash! I love my wife. I’m not too macho to say it honestly. I don’t play games or love conditionally, and I don’t expect her to read my mind and use that as a measuring stick to see how much she loves me. What a concept!