The acknowledgement that work needs to be done in our marriages often comes like that late night collegiate realization that your final project is due in six hours and you don't know what you're going to do it on. Your project partner was assigned half of the to-do list; but you haven't even spoken about how they're holding up their end of the deal.
So, you scramble. You throw up that last second hail mary pass to the end zone, hoping it'll go your way. You rush through the sections that are easy and require little work as well as the sections where you'll get some sort of recognition for your effort. Even though the project has been on your radar for the entire semester, finals week seems like a sufficient time to acknowledge its existence and finally do the work you should've been doing all along.
It is easy to put your relationship in such a position. The flame of early marriage burns out and you’re years down the road. You know more about what chores your spouse hasn’t done in the house than the content of their heart. You go on double dates but you don’t look inward into your own relationship to see what is really going on. There isn’t a finals week in this scenario. Rather, grief creeps in. Disagreement compromises connection. Gridlock blocks joy. It would have been easier to do small pieces of work along the way; but now, you’re in the throws of difficulty and you are forced to do all the real hard work. Don’t put your marriage in the hands of such a last second hail mary.
Professionally speaking, I love doing work with marriages. I love those rare occasions when two willing individuals come in to make themselves transparent to take a magnifying glass to those broken areas of themselves or their marriage. (I chose rare carefully, as it just doesn't happen all that often).
I appreciate the couples that are in a good place, but just come in for a marital oil change every 3,000 miles. Truthfully, I'm usually the last stop on the way to the junk yard for a totalled marriage.
"We just didn't talk about anything."
"Our grief was different."
"If we had talked about it 8 months ago, we wouldn't be here."
"He just never seemed to care." "You never gave me a chance to care."
"Why did you talk to your mom/sister/coworker/friend instead of me?"
Work happens in the trenches, not on the way to the divorce lawyer. Work takes humility, brokenness and the desire to still keep your spouse’s intentions above your own.
I remember when we were doing our pre-marital counseling. The couple who worked with us, told us to not only put each other’s needs above ourselves, but out-serve each other. Translated: when you don't see eye to eye, fight to see their perspective. Don't wait to be asked to help, just help. When you disagree, keep the others best interest in mind. When you're in the trenches, fight together to get out.
There were so many times where my husband and I have been on different pages with our own grief about infertility. That's no disrespect to him. He doesn't have a uterus. He can't understand. He was dealing with his own emotions. His own anger, really. Good marital work happens in the everyday trenches where both individuals chose to acknowledge what is going on for them and share it with their partner. Working through it on a daily basis is profound intimacy.
Take care of the vehicle that is your marriage. We want it to be strong and running on all cylinders to reach death-do-us-part. We want to be mature and united for when we get to bring baby home.
Don’t put it off until things are easier.
Do the work now.