When we were graduating college students, preparing to get married over the summer, we engaged in a solid Pre-Marriage course at our university. The leader addressed all the hard questions to which we responded with twitterpated eyes, ” yes, we understand, but we won’t struggle with “that”. When our wedding day arrived Greg looked so handsome and I felt like a beauty queen in the wedding dress my mother had made. Towards the end of the ceremony the pastor asked if I would marry Greg “For Better or For Worse”. I think I probably giggled and said an emphatic “Yes!”
On the front side of a committed relationship we cannot imaging not seeing eye to eye, we can’t envision hurting one another or experiencing extreme challenge; it’s just not a reality we had come to experience at that point in our relationship.
However, the “For Better or For Worse” is the most important sentence in the traditional wedding vows! For Greg and I, we experienced being very poor, getting pregnant 3 months after being married, moving 7 times in 5 years, health issues, and relational strife. The reality of what “For Better or For Worse” began to sink in.
Greg and I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by incredible friends and family who were “for ” us in every way; even if that meant speaking the truth to us directly. After 16 years we knew we had hit a challenge we couldn’t fix on our own. Could we navigate this “For Better or For Worse” or would we crumble under the weight of our relational challenges? We had to decide we were going to work, and work hard to be faithful to those words we had committed to so many years before.
IF we had given up and thrown in the towel during those most challenging times we would have missed the incredibly precious season we are experiencing now. It would have been so very sad!
Greg and I had to learn new skills to appreciate our differences, learn to communicate and know that we were heard, and we needed to check in with each other asking key questions to help us begin to protect and care for our relationship. I want to share a couple with you:
- Take time every week to sit together in a quiet place ( before you are exhausted by the day) and ask one another these three questions: A. This week did you feel loved by me? B. This week did you feel that I truly listened to you? C. This week did you feel respected by me? IF you will answer honestly letting your partner know how you feel and what you need from them you WILL grow closer! It’s a commitment that will rock your relationship!
- Learn Active Listening! So much of our interaction at home is impacted by kids, TV, Phones, Computers, Sports, Etc. It’s so easy to assume we have had a good conversation and yet, no one really paid close attention to what each other said. We assumed we have passed on information well only to find out that you may not have. Ever heard your partner say this,: ” Did you ever tell me that?” 😦 Active Listening is about sitting across from each other and while our partner is sharing we just listen and WRITE! When they are done sharing the listener repeats what they’ve heard and asks of they have “gotten it”. When there is agreement that the one partner has been heard~ SWITCH ~ and start the process over with the one who was listening before! Sounds a bit intimidating and new but it will revolutionize your relationship!
- Make sure you have some shoulder to shoulder activities on the calendar: go to the gym, take in a movie, go to a cooking class, ride bikes or hike together, play cards, or just simply read books side by side while sipping on a favorite beverage. You need time to play, laugh, and have fresh experiences!
Certainly there are many tools to help build your relationship and to make it easier to navigate any of the ” For Better or For Worse” experiences you may have but these are a few we have found to be tried and true!
This Valentines Day- beyond the flowers, dinners, and chocolate- how about making a commitment to having a rock solid marriage to your Best Friend!
“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.” Nicholas Sparks
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!!