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Staying Together

I am tired of his stuff. He is tired of my stuff. We are weary of our patterns. We have known each other for close to five decades (yes, we are that old). And sometimes our aggravations, disappointments, and frustrations boil over into one of those “valleys” of our relationship. We slid down one last weekend.

In the past we have taken our own advice and several times gone to a professional marriage counselor. However, I have noticed that as people get older they sometimes just don’t want to dig up all the relationship history with the anticipated results. So with tension in the air, we can say some things that hurt or we choose to pause everything. Internally we may list our many grievances, shuffle ideas that probably won’t work, and finally in desparation, pray. “Dear Jesus, help us out of this mess.”

Most of us are aware of the appalling divorce statistics in the United States, even for Christian families. It really is a miracle that most likely complete strangers find each other and decide to build a life together. Take a brew of extended family, finances, religion or lack thereof, skills, and personalities, health issues, pets, children, jobs—stir, and then hope the glue holds till death or when Jesus comes. No wonder some folks are a bit shy about making a decision, or they quickly plunge, create a pre-nuptial and hope for the best. Truth: marriage is a major investment with mind-blowing trickle-down implications.

How do we manage to stay together after miscommunications or arguments?

  1. I have to remind myself that we will both cool off after a day or two. This is not the time to make any rash decisions about staying together, finances, or major purchases until the tension has eased! No raiding the family bank account, binge shopping or binge eating.
  2. Someone has to make the effort to do something kind or helpful to get the relationship gears going again. I basically value what we have built together more than our need to de-construct and find a “perfect partner.” Because we have both lived long enough to know that no one is perfect, and no relationship is perfect. We can make changes, if willing.
  3. Forgiveness can go a long way for resetting our marriage program. This doesn’t excuse many behaviors but it helps to be aware of any recent stresses for each person. Did we just prepare or get back from vacation? Did we just experience a move, surgery, or retirement? Are we worried about one of the family members? Is there a problem at a job or home project? All of the above can create a weak spot in the fabric of our lives and fortitude.
  4. This is a different marriage than the one we had 10 or 15 years ago. Marriages have developmental phases and our expectations must adapt. What worked at age 25 doesn’t necessarily meet both needs many years later.
  5. Frankly, considering our loved ones often keeps us on the right track for commitment. We have siblings, nieces, grandchildren, friends, and our pets who are counting on us to be here together. Sometimes just walking the dog or laughing at our grandchildren makes life seem back to normal and ready to move forward.
  6. At our age, we share so many memories that parting company would result in each of us having “half a brain.” I know people who start over with someone else, but do they call their former partner with questions: “Hey, do you remember the name of that guy we hired five years ago?” “What year did we paint the house?” Memorabilia from the decades.
  7. A sense of humor is needed to see how ridiculous our comments to each other can become. Or just how crazy some thoughts can pop into one’s head. We both know that you do not have to believe or act on any thought.
  8. There is an Enemy to our souls and our marriage and he knows when we are most vulnerable. Yes, I need to remember that sometimes Satan nudges us to insist on what is most important to Self and find nothing but fault in the partner. This is when I most need my quiet time with God, and not complaining to a woman friend or family member. Inevitably there must be a shift to gratitude and recognizing that most of our intentions for each other are good.
  9. *Boundaries and human needs are necessary. We must find regular times to shut off all electronics and eat together, walk together, and address what strengthens our own “little church,”—the space we share.

For the Christian marriage, this relationship is about creating a living illustration of God’s intimacy, grace and love. That high standard can only be met with God’s help, and my willingness to start a new marriage chapter each day.

*If you are experiencing physical, sexual or emotional abuse, please make an appointment with a licensed counselor or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233, or National Sexual Assault Hotline (800) 656-4673. Separation is sometimes needed for personal safety.

Questions for personal journaling or for group discussion:

  1. What do you find helpful when you are tempted to end a relationship with a spouse, family member, or friend?
  2. How do you respond to the married person who says they “never argue” with their mate?

Karen Spruill writes from Florida.

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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