We all know the story. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. He gives her a ring. They say “I do”. And poof! They live happily ever after. (Cue the romantic music.)
If they can have it, so can we – right? Ummm… not so much. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows there’s just one thing wrong with that picture… It’s called life.
So let’s set aside all that fairy-tale talk and just be real for a moment. As much as I am incredibly grateful to spend my life with such an amazing man, and although I know without a shadow of a doubt that he was created by our Maker just for me (yay!), there are times when this whole marriage thing is not at all roses and butterflies. Now before you go closing out of this post for fear that I may squash your dreams for a lifetime of wedded bliss, I assure you – there is a happy ending in store so keep on reading.
I have a tendency to leave cupboard doors open, lights on, dishes soaking in the sink, and laundry in the washer. Although I chalk it up to attempting to do too many things at once and getting distracted/forgetting what I was doing in the first place, over the years I’ve learned that Kelly finds these traits somewhat less than ideal. Don’t feel too sorry for my husband having to deal with such an imperfect wife though. For starters, let’s just say I don’t prefer to walk all the way from the white rock parking at church, in heels mind you, when there is a perfectly good, paved spot right by the door. Yet for some reason he insists on that spot every week. ;)
In all seriousness though – and again, in an effort to be completely real – sometimes marriage is pretty difficult and it takes a lot of effort to maintain a healthy relationship with all of our priorities aligned. That might sound like a shameful confession, or even something to be looked down upon. But it is with a joyful heart that I boldly admit, Kelly and I work at our relationship. Like a lot actually. Not because we’re the worst couple in the world, and certainly not because we’re the greatest. Simply because that’s what it takes.
This particular subject has been on my heart for some time. Ever since the controversial [Oscar] acceptance speech Director Ben Affleck gave thanking his wife for working at their relationship, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not this was a necessary topic to address. (“I want to thank you for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with.” – Ben Affleck) Then last week Kelly and I attended an amazing retreat dedicated to working on our business and marriage (more to come on that later), and I felt now an appropriate time to make a statement regarding the work a marriage takes.
The truth is, we all tend to compare our own lives to everyone else’s. The whole “grass is greener on the other side” nonsense starts here. One point that was driven home while at Connect was that the glimpse we see into most others’ lives (particularly what they are putting out there on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) is only of the highlights. And then we go comparing our “every day” to the very best of what they have. The lesson? By making that comparison, we set unrealistic expectations for what our own lives should look like.
I know that I am definitely guilty of falling into this trap. We’re putting it out there that our relationship takes work because just knowing that you aren’t alone in imperfection is half the battle. So rest assured – you’re not alone!
“Work” might be a daunting term, but it really just means that you are putting in effort. Not just to get through the bad, but to really make the good it’s very best. Without a major problem that needs fixing, it can be easy to coast through. We’ve also caught ourselves thinking We’ve got a great marriage! What could we possibly need to work on? Although there’s always something that could be improved on or built up, even those aspects that you’ve “mastered” will start to slip if you take them for granted. (Ever known an athlete who didn’t have to put forth effort in perfecting/maintaining their skills?) The really cool thing is, the strife makes the reward that much sweeter.
Working at our relationship (especially when we’re focused on Christ being at the center of our relationship) is one of the most rewarding ways to spend time together. Sure, movie date nights are wonderful! But replace even one of those a month with real conversation and time to connect, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Not sure where to begin? Here are a few great books we recommend…
Sacred Marriage (“What if God designed marriage to make us holy instead of happy?”)
Love & Respect (This one gets a little repetitive, but we really appreciated the focus on each of us having different needs.)