When many areas of your life are feeling stress or being challenged, how is a marriage supposed to function well? How can you love the other, when you yourself feel drained, tired, or void of emotional energy?
Currently Gabe and I are experiencing stress in many aspects of our life. Sometimes life feels just heavy. Yet somehow, we are ok. Our marriage is still fueling us and keeping us going. It had me thinking how this is possible when as human beings, our tendency is to shut down, lash out, or turn off when we experience pain or difficulty? Personally, my default when things get difficult is to bottle up and become numb. So today I wanted to write out a few things that have sustained us when grounds around us feel shaky.
- Good habits. Those words I keep circling back to. As I have seen play out, the foundation of habits we set from the beginning of our marriage are the habits that have become stable ground for our feet to land both in times when the sun shines and when we are burdened.
A few examples: no criticism, affirming and encouraging the other, time to connect at night, and frequent apologizing. We have had times when we had to re-set and tweak those habits, but as life has changed for us, these still remain pillars of our relationship.
- Talk it out + Listen it out – I could win an award on how long I bottle something up inside, but early on, Gabe wouldn’t give up on helping me talk it out. He refused to let the sun set without resolving the problem. This was frustrating to an introvert, but as time has proved, it was imperative to ever break through or overcome a problem. As soon as I would talk it out, the well of negative energy and emotion would dissipate. It goes two ways though. In order to talk it out (usually the woman, right?), there has to be a listening ear to receive it. Eye to eye contact, no distractions, just listening.
- One thoughtful effort a day. – I hesitate to use the word thoughtful, because I feel like it doesn’t quite encompass what I am trying to communicate. Why aren’t there more words in the English language?! Anyways, one effort that is based in selfless love of the other can go miles in a marriage. One a day if possible will keep the stars in your eyes.
A few examples: Gabe is really good about beating me to the coffee machine and bringing me a mug while I nurse Azelie. It’s a small way that he shows effort to let me know he cares.
Last night, Gabe knew I was about to relieve stress through push-ups and squats, so he brought in his laptop with my current favorite Netflix show to watch. I was trying to hold onto anger from the difficult day, but how could I? Something so simple, but so thoughtful that it humbled me instantly.
- Add some comedy. Make each other laugh. Be ridiculous and make a fool of yourself if you need to in order to make the other laugh. It can take a load off.
Every marriage has different dynamics based on personalities, upbringing, circumstances, and a list of other factors. Our marriage isn’t without its trials (just call me prideful Polly!), and like all great things, it requires consistency, loyalty, dedication, and a whole lot of humble pie. I write this only as an encouragement to keep fighting for the fruitfulness marriage is meant to provide. It will come. There is nothing quick and easy about a strong relationship. It is actually made of the hundreds of small choices day in and day out to keep loving the other through the rough and tough, the good, the bad, and the beautiful.
Photo by Tim Willoughby (He took our wedding photos and so kindly snapped some pictures of our family last weekend….5 kids later!)