I’m an eager yet amateur gardener. Moving to South Africa was a challenge because all the plants I grew up with aren’t here. I suddenly had to learn a whole new way of gardening that was specific to a coastal South African town. Needless to say, I’ve killed a few plants along the way. All of this death because of simple things like sun and water… how hard can it be!?
The same is true in marriage. The little things are the big things. The silent things are the deadly things. Here are three areas I have seen which bring damage instead of life to a marriage.
It is so easy to forget that our experience and our expectations are only one side of the story. We can only be ourselves and don’t often step into someone else’s body (ok, never).
When we get frustrated or go through a difficult time it is our default to forget that the way we saw that situation or the way we experienced something is only 1 slice of the pie. We need to constantly be “crucifying our flesh”… that temptation to only consider your own wants and desires. Remind yourself that there is another important perspective in the marriage: the perspective of your spouse.
Even when we rationally and calmly think thru a situation, we most often still end with a list of how we want the other person to change, do more of this, less of that.
Keeping score is great for soccer, not so much for marriage. It is a dangerous and silent game since it happens in our minds and usually our spouse is losing badly. In fact, they aren’t even aware the game is happening let alone what the score is!
There are normally two modes of score keeping:
- Keeping score of what you do vs. your spouse. For example, “I’ve washed the dishes 47 nights vs. his 1.5 times in the past two months”.
- Seeing every action you do as an investment into getting a return payment back. For example, every time I put my kids to bed and do the night time routine, I assume that this act wins me back a sleep in the next morning. It’s only fair right?
Both of these forms of keeping score are toxic. They can come out of the modern concept of marriage being a 50/50 endeavor. Men and women are equal and marriage is a partnership. Right?
The reality is never 50/50. In fact, if you want a happy marriage you should probably just remove the word “fair” from your vocabulary. Marriage is going to require a lot more than 50% from you!
A 50/50 view of marriage sets us up to keep score. If it is 50/50 then how are we going to know we are accomplishing this? The only way is to keep score and constantly see who’s on the loosing end of that equation. In each persons mind it’s normally the other one.
The reality of marriage is that one of us is always lagging behind and needs the other to pick up the slack. Marriage needs to be 100/100 with a dump truck full of grace.
Loves means serving and helping the other person without having to be asked.
Wait. Is that right?
Well, yes, if you are a mind reader.
So often we diminish our relationship from being mature adults to trying to be clairvoyant prophets. This is the Hollywood ideal: a person who truly loves you will just know what you need and want. They will anticipate your every thought and want.
The reality is that being married takes the Garden of Gethsemane approach. No matter how obvious it was that Jesus needed a friend (he was loudly weeping right next to them, obvious clue #1) he still did the mature thing and said, “will you pray with me, I’m really having a hard night”.
Somehow, we assume we should be better than Jesus. The truth is we need to be committed to sharing what we need and want just like he did. Over and over again until we die. We do this no matter how obvious we think it should be to our spouse.
It took me a while to learn this simple act. I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to simply walk upstairs to my husband and say, “I need you to come to the kitchen while I cook dinner so you can listen to me talk about my day.” That sentence saved us a night of sighing and brooding. (Sometimes we are just toddlers at heart aren’t we?!)
Next time, instead of keeping score, being caught in selfish thinking or assuming that the your spouse is a mind reader, just say, “Hey babe, I’m really tired, would you mind letting me sleep in tomorrow morning and you get the kids breakfast.” It really is that easy and that hard.
Are any of these 3 present in your marriage? What adjustments could you make?