Radios were still playing the Beatles singing some of their famous lyrics, "Love Is All You Need," at the time of our dreamy, hot-air-balloon wedding nearly 22 years ago. There we were, with big hopes and dreams of a future together. I looked forward to a lifetime of adventure and discovering life with my mate. Never did either of us imagine that adventure and discovery would include special needs.
The fact is that when you take 2 sinful, selfish people and put them into a long-term commitment, human love, is simply not enough.
- Honesty with yourself -- You are not perfect. You are downright annoying sometimes. Sometimes your appearance is less-than-appealing, your breath stinky, and your public behavior embarrassing. Own that. The more you are willing to admit your flaws, the more you will be able to soften to the flaws of your spouse.
- Extending the same mercy to your spouse as you would like to receive yourself -- You know "The Golden Rule". Your marriage should be one of the FIRST places you "do unto others...". How would you feel if your spouse jumped all over your shortcomings the way you would like to jump all over theirs? 'Nuf said.
- Daily apologies -- Sadly, the ones we are closest to also get to see the ugliest, most deficient parts of us. We all mess up in marriage. And we can't undo what has already been done. But being willing to apologize is a BIG deal. Saying you are sorry requires a certain level of humility, and unless you have that, the marriage will never work as God intended. This is what God means in all of those verses on submission that make post-modern women break out in hives.
- Choosing your battles -- Every human does some little thing that annoys or irritates others. If we we continually carry on about the little annoyances, our spouse becomes tuned-out to the big issues of life. My mother never got good at getting it under control herself, but she did once share with me that nitpicking is like driving a nail into a post, pulling it out, and driving it back in again repeatedly. You weaken the post. The same is true in the relationship with your spouse when you don't choose your battles wisely.
- Getting some alone time for perspective -- Nothing will clear your head and help you value your spouse like some time away from them. The time away from one another helps to bring to mind what value the other partner brings to the relationship. It also helps quiet the immediate noise of life's demands to recall the cherished experiences that you have uniquely built together.
- Creating memories that are yours alone -- This is quite a bit trickier when you are raising children, especially if one (or more) has a special need. However, it is worth investing the energy. Going for a walk alone as a couple, grabbing a cheap ice cream cone together, even watching a TV program that both of you are interested in creates common bonds. This is like money in your emotional bank for withdrawal when the journey has the 2 of you depleted. It also ensures that there is actually something left for you as a couple once the tough job of parenting reaches the post-school phase.
- Persevering -- This is the "secret sauce" in a long-lasting marriage. It may sound crazy when things are going poorly, but committing to stay in your marriage through thick and through thin is your ultimate choice. This means staying when everything in you screams that you would like to leave. It also means believing in the truth that you can fall back in love despite having reached the depths of falling out of love. Commitment takes character. Marriage that lasts requires the willingness to be stretched to that seemingly impossible level of character sometimes.
PRAY: Lord, there are so many times I wonder why I married this person. Thank You for reminding me that I also fall short as a spouse. Holy Spirit, I can only extend mercy by Your power. Work through me to bless my spouse. Make ours a marriage that succeeds.
~ Barb Dittrich