By Theresa Boedeker
During difficult periods, are you a team player or a single player in your marriage? Healthy marriages have two people turning toward one another in hard times, and they play on the same team.
Sometimes marriage is good. Everything hums along nicely. Other times marriage is hard and there is very little harmony about it.
I would like to camp out and get permanent reservations at the good spots, but life doesn’t happen that way. Partly because we as humans are too complicated to stay constant for very long, and partly because life is far from consistent.
Peaks and Valleys in Marriage
They happen to the best of us.
My husband and I recently were in that marriage sweet spot. We were connecting and life was good. While there were a few potholes along the roadside, we were not stressed out. We seemed balanced; life seemed balanced. It felt restful and restorative.
Then his sister got sick. He flew out to help her. He stayed a month. Instead of leaving her healthy with things returning to normal, he remained by her side while she peacefully died.
He flew home with her dog. The task of cleaning out, fixing up, and selling her three-bedroom house will need to wait for a few weeks since it is located a four-hour plane ride from us.
That month of us apart with multiple daily phone calls about her health and how to best help her, and now a pile of new work to add to our already scheduled calendar, spun us from our sweet spot that we were cruising at just a short while ago.
We had more than a few potholes to navigate. We had a canyon of a valley to cross.
Paying Attention Is Key
It won’t be the first time life happens and affects our marriage, and it won’t be the last. The key is realizing that it is happening and being proactive so we can be there for each other.
This time we weathered life’s most recent hurdle better than we have some of life’s past twists. Partly because of experience, but mostly because we focused on our relationship this time more than we have in the past. We remained a team and took turns helping, supporting, and encouraging each other.
There were times we both survived the hard times by pulling away from one another. By doing it alone, each of us as a single player. By hurrying ahead of the other and leaving them with no hand to pull them up.
Not deliberately, but because we never learned to turn to one another when hard times materialized. We didn’t learn it from our families, where we were expected to solve our own problems, be thankful, and not complain. Nor did we learn it on our own.
Community Makes Us Stronger and Healthier
God created us to best function, heal, and gain encouragement and support within community. He desires that we turn toward another trusted and safe person and share with them. Receive comfort and healing words from them. In a healthy marriage, this is most often our mate.
Unfortunately, many of us were not raised in families or communities where this was modeled. So instead, we pull away. We soothe and comfort ourselves. We hold tight to our shame, guilt and problems. When we ask for help of any kind, we think we are weak. We run from vulnerability and pretend we are strong enough to do it all by ourselves.
My husband and I did this for years until we went to therapy and learned different tools. We practiced new dance steps that allowed us to be there for each other. First in small ways, and eventually in bigger ways. Most times it was imperfect, and we had many do-overs. But we are getting better at being team players.
Pulling Together for a Common Good
I would like to say that when my husband returned home a month later, our previous life resumed. But of course, it didn’t. That’s like expecting a newborn to not change your life.
But we did ease back into life smoother than I thought we would. We took time to listen to and hear each other’s stress and frustrations, without trying to solve it for them, which were major wins.
We had lots of hugs and walks, and just being there for each other while we processed the month and what had happened.
That is cause for celebration, and you can celebrate too as a team player rather than a single player in your marriage.
Wife Step: What steps can you take to act more like a team player in your marriage?
Theresa Boedeker has been married to her husband, her complete opposite, for over 30 years. They live in the Midwest and have two children, 15 years apart, and a few grandkids. Theresa daily hunts for humor and tries to bring forth laughter from others. She is passionate about helping women smash lies with God’s truth. Overcome shame. Learn to laugh at life and themselves. Notice God’s love and grace. And not be afraid of making mistakes. She unwraps life and faith at TheresaBoedeker.com. When she is not writing, she enjoys doing creative things like cooking, making jewelry, and taking photos of flowers (they never run from the picture).