As I grew up, and I am sure many others are the same, I had a vision for my life.  A big part of this vision was the perfect, romantic marriage.  Romance and joy.   Joy and romance.  Love all around.  I don’t ever remember envisioning that there might be tough times or that I would have to “work on” my marriage.  Most of us go into it stupidly thinking that there is not going to be any trouble.

Let me ask you this.  Can you think of anyone, anyone that you could live with for 40 years (or however long you are going to be married) that there would not be problems with at some point.  I can’t.  I love my parents and loved growing up in their home, but I guarantee I would be looney cats if I lived with them now.   Why in the world would we think there are going to be no hard times?  This is another example of us convincing ourselves of some pretty dumb things.  That just doesnt make sense.

We even say it in our vows, but we are so googley eyed at that point, we don’t even take in what we are saying.  “For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health till death do us part.”  I don’t know where those vows came from, but perhaps someone was trying to tell us something.  Worse is going to happen.  Poor is also likely to happen, and sickness is going to happen.   It is going to happen.  The bible even says it.  I just found this verse today.

“But those who marry will face many troubles in this life”  1 Corinthians 7:28

Bam!  Seriously?!  How did I miss that?  Because I think it would have been helpful…IF I would have listened.   

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the Love and Respect seminar.  We were really on cloud 9 afterwards.  It was a great experience.  We both loved it.  If you missed that post, it was day 6.   And, if you don’t want to miss future posts, be sure to click the follow button at Amylivesay.com and each post will be sent to your e-mail. 

Anyways, now we are going into the second weekend after that and I find myself feeling like we need to regroup again, already.  Part of me wants to say, “really?”  Because we just worked on our marriage for a day and a half.  That is a day and a half more than we have done in the past 11 years.  I would think that would hold us over for a few months or so.  Apparently not.  If I think about it, we practiced having a cruddy marriage for many years.  Those habits and thought processes are going to take a while to break.

We aren’t fighting or angry.  Nothing bad has happened and we haven’t forgotten all that we learned.  We are just back in life.  Life is busy and the first thing that gets shafted is my husband.  That is an unfortunate truth, but it is so very true. 

Our kids need us.  They are 3 and 3 months.  They cannot function without us most of the time.  We own and manage our business.  We have wonderful people working with us, but there are just a lot of things to be done and right now, and we both have to be pretty involved.  Our business “needs” us right now.  It becomes so easy to be engrossed in those priorities and forget to connect with my husband.   We talk about work and other “things” but nothing very personal.  We go out with friends or our kids, but not just us.  I “listen” while I do a million other things.

So, now, after a couple weeks, I find myself feeling a little disconnected again.  I feel the need to readjust and revisit how we are going to continue to connect on a daily  basis. 

The deterioration of a marriage is an insidious thing.  It sneaks up on us.  We get married and then slowly, very slowly, over time, we realize that we absolutely cannot communicate or relate to our spouses.  How in the world does this happen?  It’s not like we go into marriage with this intention.  It’s not like we planned for it to be that way, or did we? 

Ever hear the phrase; failing to plan is planning to fail? 

Historically, Mark and I have not put much planning into our marriage.  We just assumed our LOVE would carry us.  And, while LOVE is a powerful thing, I’m just going to tell you that the “assumption method” isn’t working for most people and it has not worked well for us in the past.  At the seminar, one of the organizers said “Satan does what he can to get you together before you are married and everything he can to keep you a part once you are married.”  I see that now.  Well, Satan, you are not going to win this time.   We have wasted too much time on you and we are not going back to that cruddy, sub-par marriage.   Been there, done that.  This time, we are going to take care of our marriage one day at a time. 

So today’s challenge is to take some advice from my pastor and his wife, Piet and Carol Van Waarde.  Piet sent this to me shortly after my first post on marriage and I quickly decided that it is something I wanted to share and use in my marriage.  Here is what he wrote:

In one of your posts you talked about how everything seems “perfect” before the wedding day and then something shifts thereafter. I’m convinced that what shifts is the transition of “working on the relationship” – before the wedding everything you do feels totally like “want to” – especially with communication. But post-wedding day it moves to “need to” – and I think everybody is surprised by that seemingly small (but hugely significant) shift.

And I don’t know what it is about human nature, but we resist the “need tos” in our life. It feels like duty-work and work is hard – and given our orientation toward ease and comfort, we have this expectation that things “should” be easier – especially when it is about love…

But, alas…

If, however, we can see the “work” of communication leading us to that place we really want and genuinely enjoy – then it makes it worth pursuing.

But, what is the “work”of communication? What does it involve? This is something that Carol and I have spent our whole lives (together) paying attention to – and it is perhaps the single most powerful factor in whatever “success” we have known in our marriage.

Fundamentally, it is about three basic practices (thank you Rick Warren):

– daily diversion
– weekly withdrawal
– annual abandon

Specifically, we take 20 minutes every day to “catch-up” with each other. Second, we do a weekly date night to go a bit deeper. Third, every year (around our anniversary) we review the status and goals of our relationship.

What do we talk about – you may ask…

Great question!

We believe that communication can be measured in levels…
– level one – facts
– level two – feelings
– level three – values
– level four – hopes and hurts

I know this all sounds kind of overly analytical and maybe even a bit mechanical, but it just gives hocks and places to hang our “word pictures.”

In short, what Carol and I are committed to – is that we engage these practices in order to ensure R participation at each level – and this is how we “do life” together!

Every day in our daily diversion we talk about the facts and feelings of our day. On our date nights we take that a step further and talk about “significant feelings and the values” they touched. And on our annual abandon we review the hopes and hurts and comfort and inspire each other.

That doesn’t mean we don’t go to other levels at other times – it turns out to be rather organic in practice, but the good part is that we are conscious of the fact that we are staying caught up and engaged with each other in meaningful and proactive ways.

That is prob, way more than you needed and wanted. But, after reading your posts on your renewed efforts at marriage investing, I thought maybe this would be a helpful, piece to consider.

Love what you are doing! Keep it up…

Piet

Thank you Piet, or PVW, as my friends and I affectionately call you!

I’ll be real honest, the mere suggestion of adding feelings, values, hopes and hurts to our conversations, is a little uncomfortable.   We do talk about them at times, but not regularly.  It’s kind of sad, but until now, I have allowed myself to operate on a surface level a lot.  And, I think I am missing out on truly knowing a lot of people, including, and most importantly my husband. 

So today we will be more purposeful in our communication.  We will plan to succeed.  We will plan our regular date nights and pick the date for our annual getaway.   And, we will enjoy the gift of truly knowing one another. 

Thank you God for this gift and for great people who share their wisdom!

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