I have always pretty much hated the word “sucks” for as long as I can remember. The word was originally a verb, but I think my generation decided to make it a lovely adjective used to describe our less than favorite moments . I know there are certainly worse words that my kids could say, but I have told my boys on more than one occasion that we don’t use “that word” in our house. It just rubs me the wrong way, even though, I admit there have been a few times where “that word” was the only one I could find to describe my disdain something.
With all of that said, I think there are certain things that can suck the life out of our marriage, which in turn makes our marriage kind of, dare I say it, sucky (okay, I might just hate that word even more, but it is perfectly descriptive). So, here are a few marriage life-suckers that we need to be aware of and that honestly, need to hit the road right now:
1. Compiling “The List”
This is something that almost all husbands and wives can relate to. Whether we have a physical list or not, we tend to keep this ongoing tab of all the things our spouse does wrong. Then, we compare it to all the things we feel we are doing right. I was just talking to a sweet group of women the other day, and “the list” seemed to be something that nearly all of us were struggling with. Marriage is not 50/50. For a marriage to work, both the husband and wife have to give 100%. We can’t keep lists. This tit for tat game will get us into trouble every time, and it’s a game that no one can win. There can be no single winner or loser in a healthy marriage; we either both win or we both lose. Instead of allowing resentment to build, we need to go to our spouse right when we feel that something is wrong or a specific need isn’t being met. Many times, our spouse is unaware of our desires or wishes, and we just need to address the problem head on. We have to be honest with each other and be willing to listen when our spouse is trying to tell us what he/she needs. If we each focus on serving and blessing one another rather than compiling “the list, then nine times out of ten, the needs, on both sides, will be fulfilled.
2. Relying on Non-Verbal Communication
We might be frustrated because we feel like we shouldn’t have to tell our spouse what we need, but we must be willing to communicate, even if we half-expect our spouse to be a mind-reader or body language expert. Just to clarify, healthy communication in marriage involves words; we can’t let our non-verbals be our primary source of communication. This can be especially confusing to a less than intuitive spouse and create some crazy and intense arguments.
I will never forget the look on Dave’s face as I stomped around our house, taking moving boxes to their proper place. I. Was. Mad. I even stomped to the top of a ladder to hang a curtain while huffing and puffing out loud. We had just moved, and I was overly frustrated. So, like any respectable wife, I decided to throw a non-verbal tantrum. I hadn’t said a word to Dave about helping me. I thought “he is a big boy, and he should just KNOW what to do”. Meanwhile, Dave was doing other things to help around the house; he just wasn’t doing the things that were on my unspoken list. Finally, after all the commotion, he asked me if I was okay. I snapped my head around, kind of like a scene out of “The Exorcist” and loudly said “I can’t even look at you right now”. He seriously had no idea how angry I was AT HIM. He knew I was angry by my toddler-like fit, but I hadn’t asked him for help so he didn’t think my frustration, or crazy, raging anger, was directed towards him. I quickly realized that I was the one in the wrong. I gathered my emotions, apologized to Dave, and finally, told him how he could help me.
Non-verbals are quite effective in communication, but they are only part of communication. This form of engagement includes our countenance (or look on our face), our eyes, and our body language. Even though we should never rely mainly on our non-verbals to communicate with our spouse, we need to be keenly aware of them. What kind of non-verbals are we giving our spouse when we see them? Do we tend to put off a negative vibe like rolling our eyes or crossing our arms whenever they enter a room? Do we smile when we see them and step closer to them? Our non-verbals set the tone and sometimes the direction of our conversations. We have the power to open hearts or harden them simply with our non-verbals at the beginning of an interaction. Sometimes, we can’t control our body language because we are extremely hurt. We certainly don’t need to hide our feelings, but we do need to try and approach our spouse in an engaging and loving way when we are trying to express them. We can effectively use non-verbals to open the lines of healthy communication and foster a strong marriage.
3. Putting Your Dreams on Hold
When we get married, we often talk about the future and all the dreams we have for our life together. We are so excited to work towards these dreams together, and we look forward to making new ones as we grow older. The longer we’re married, we tend to forget these hopes and dreams, and we get lost in the grind of life. We become so hyper-focused on the task at hand: work, kids, finances, illness, obligations, parents, etc.. We start seeing our pre-marital dreams as childish or out-of-reach, and we find ourselves in years of “survival mode”. It’s so easy to fall into this cycle. Before we know it, we either have a broken marriage or we look up into each other’s aged eyes and we honestly don’t even know each other any more. After so many years of neglecting our relationship and taking care of everything and everyone else, we can lose touch.
I recently spoke with a kind, elderly woman who was describing this scenario to me with tears in her eyes. She told me how much she dearly loved her husband. They had built a beautiful life together, but they had lost touch along the way. She didn’t know what their dreams were anymore. She said the silence in her home was sometimes deafening, and she so longed to have something to look forward to with her husband.
There is still hope for this woman’s marriage and any marriage that is in a rut. We need to take the time and make the effort to remember the dreams we once had as a younger married couple. We need to work towards fulfilling them in big and small ways, during each phase of our marriage. Maybe you and your spouse have a cause that you believe in that you can work towards as a family; find a walk/run or event you can participate in together. Maybe there is a ministry in your church that you collectively have a passion for; go volunteer together. Maybe there is a vacation that you have always wanted to take together; start saving for it and make it happen. Maybe you wish you had a regular date night; start with taking a date night once a month and then make it more often. Don’t put it on hold. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. We can’t forget to dream together.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my marriage to…well, you know, uh, “that word”. So, join me, let’s burn “the list”, start using words to communicate with our spouse, and work on making our dreams come true. We just might find that we can have a much more life-giving marriage after all.
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