Trapped in the ruble from the World Trade Center was Police Sargent, John McLoughlin. Under slabs of concrete and metal, fighting the hopelessness of his plight, he determined to stay awake. At one point, he was imagining a conversation with his wife. He asked, “What went wrong with us?” She answered, “I think we stopped seeing each other.”
This scene, from the movie World Trade Center, has played over and over in my mind in the last week or so. How many couples could say the same thing? The huge events did not cause their marriage to be in trouble. It was slow erosion over many years. PWs are not immune. Taking a few minutes to evaluate and making slight adjustments now may keep us from ever having to admit our marriage has failed.
There are plenty of marriage eroders, but I think the most common and insidious is busyness. So many things demand our attention. Our ministry; children’s care and education; housekeeping in a different environment; travel from place to place. The tyranny of the urgent keeps us from paying attention to the important.
If we don’t make time for each other, we can get careless and begin to take each other for granted. We quit doing the little things that make life easier for the other. Every so often my husband melodramatically sighs, “Ah, the magic has gone out of our marriage.” He says it with a twinkle in his eye when I neglect one of the little things he has come to appreciate, like setting out his cereal bowl at the same time I set out my own. The little things do count. Remembered, they can add up to a reservoir of joy. Neglected, a cesspool of resentment.Setting aside some time each day, week, and month for your spouse gives you the opportunity to relax in each other’s presence and talk about what is important. If you don’t schedule the time, you may lose touch without realizing it.
When we take each other for granted, we conveniently forget little helpful chores. We may not forget big things like birthdays, but we may forget simple things like making necessary phone calls or taking mail to the post office. It may be a form of rebellion against unappreciated expectations. Forgetting may also be caused by resentment against our spouse. Have you ever used delay as a kind of passive rebellion or a cry for attention?
Down-time may not be together-time. Watching a good TV show or video may be a wonderful way to relax together. It can give us things to talk about that encourage our friendship and mutual understanding. But it can also become an excuse to withdraw from the family and let our minds freewheel. More men are “remote junkies,” but wives, too, sometimes seize the controls to channel surf at will. Many of our readers are two computer families. If we don’t take care, both may end up playing solitaire games instead of interacting with each other.
Sometimes we get self-centered. It can happen when we are faced with too many changes at one time. If we don’t yet know how to do ordinary things like shopping and cleaning, we may feel anger or fear. We become self-protective and start brooding on how hard life is for us. Physical problems, like an illness or injury, make thinking of others seem too hard. Whether we are the one in pain or we are caring for another, we need to be able to see beyond the pain to the other’s heart.
Less laughing and more tension signal something is wrong. As tension builds, laughter decreases. It is hard to laugh with someone you are angry with. After dealing with the irritations, it’s good to laugh together, and smile when we are apart and think of each other. Do you ever feel lingering pleasure from a goodbye kiss or a wink across a crowded room? Marriage should be enjoyable.
Underlying many of these marriage eroders, is unforgiveness. Without forgiveness, resentment seeps into our relationship. Lurking in the secret corners of our heart it saps strength and health. Like a slow leak, it encroaches on other areas of our lives. Forgiving quickly is the best protection for our marriage. Was it a small irritation, an unintentional slight? Before you make an issue of it, decide to forgive without saying a word. Was it another in a long string of oversights? Don’t let it fester, talk to your spouse, forgive, and the leak will be stopped. Kiss and make-up. It goes a long way to strengthening your marriage.
The house was built on a high hill. It looked so strong, so permanent. One day during a heavy rain, the porch gave way. The house tilted, then crashed down the hillside. It wasn’t that rain storm that caused its destruction. It was wind erosion and water collecting at the foundation. Little bit by little bit the soil eroded laying bare the foundation for sudden destruction. Like that house, we can stand the big storms if we haven’t let neglect lay bare our foundations.
Rekindle your love for your husband. Discover some little ways to let him know how important he is to you. Tuck a note in his pocket, put the kids to bed early and make a cup of coffee for him.
Marriage is under attack, whether overseas or in your home country. The enemy values nothing more than breaking up leaders’ marriages. If he can destroy a leader’s marriage, so many others can lose hope and fail. If he can’t do it with a major failure, he will be happy to take a longer time and erode it with neglect. Don’t give him any opportunity. Never let a day go by without “seeing” your husband.See what you could do to make his life a little easier. Listen when he wants to talk and talk when he wants to listen. Don’t be looking for the spectacular, the expensive, or the difficult things. If you do, you’ll never do anything meaningful. Find simple, thoughtful ways to treat your husband.