Marriage is tough, are you in it for the long haul?
I sat with a group of women for dinner last Friday and we talked about balancing the tension of married life and raising kids. These two things seem to fit together like peanut butter and jelly, yet in reality, it’s much messier and requires more than anyone at the table ever imagined.
A common theme we all shared, was being desperately lonely and feeling separated from our spouses. This was a group of mostly SAHM’s, many reported that although they were constantly surrounded by children, the loneliness coupled with a sense of being unappreciated or misunderstood was a weight they seemed never able to put down. The role of mom and wife required being a maid, nanny, accountant, cook, and master scheduler. This role however, was not the problem. The problem was that the role of “friend and lover” was either anemic or nowhere to be found. Two people who had at one time dressed in their finest and promised to “love, honor and cherish” each other had settled on being room mates or house parents or worse, strangers.
The passion that was once shared between the two had been replaced with whiny kids, demanding bosses, work schedules that created exhaustion and a tenseness that never seemed to go away. The common questions seemed to be, “Is this all there is? Can I ever expect anything more? And even, why is this so hard?”
One thing I can say to young moms is that the pressure cooker you are living in now with small children is not a life sentence… it is a phase. You will not always be as physically exhausted, sleep deprived or mentally unstimulated( Yo Gabba Gabba, Team Umizoomi for example) as you are now. These little people that seem to demand all of you and your husband’s attention all of the time until you are completely spent will not always be this way. That’s fairly obvious but I know that when you are in the storm, the end is not always in sight. As your kids get older, the demands of the job and on the marriage change. It does get easier in a way but the danger is that by the time the phase is done your marriage is too.
It amazes me how many marriages fall apart around the 15-20 year mark. I used to think that if you made it that long what followed was easy, coasting. However, years of neglect and relational abuse will eventually take it’s toll on a marriage. After the kids are “old enough” and don’t require so much attention I think people start to look around and decide if the marriage is worth staying for. If you are lonely, unappreciated, unconnected and uninvolved in the other person, why would you stay?
A solid marriage is not a fairy tale but I also don’t think it’s a still-life picture either. A solid marriage ebbs and flows with good times and bad. It’s a living thing that requires constant care and upkeep, health check-ups and sometimes critical care. Please don’t ever believe that taking a break from your relationship with your spouse to raise the kids will work. In fact, taking a break from growing together as a couple at any stage in your marriage is a mistake. Your relationship health is important always. You may never be in danger of divorce but I think we are constantly in danger of complacency. Who wants to live like that?
This isn’t rocket science but it is demanding and difficult. It requires self sacrifice and humility, two elements that don’t come easily to any of us. Many times we, as parents, believe that the most selfless thing to do is to put the kid’s needs above our own, but that is relational suicide for marriages. There are so many people in your world that are counting on your marriage to succeed. Prioritizing your relationship with your spouse is the selfless thing to do. You have to stay in the fight, keep pursuing each other, work at staying in love…your relationship touches too many lives for you to get lazy, stop caring or give up.
Don’t be locked in shame if you need help, go get it. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for how we think and talk about our spouses to ourselves and to others. Let’s get creative and dream of ways to fall in love all over again. Let’s put relational intimacy back to the top of the “to do” list.
Let me simply encourage you. Let me give you the challenge to take notice of the man you married, to stop being a martyr, the passive spouse waiting for him to notice you. Give him something to notice, invest in yourself and in what you are interested in. Then turn around and also start to notice what he is interested in. Spend precious time and resources to reconnect. Hold hands.
Marriage is tough. It’s hard work. It sucks sometimes. It can also be great. Don’t let go of the longing for a great marriage.
The end game is a lifelong relationship, growing old together and finding a forever best friend.
Don’t lose sight of the goal when things get tough.
Put the goal right in front of you and work like crazy to get closer each day.