In my house, commitment is a hit-or-miss kind of thing.
Are we committed to each other? Yes, absolutely. Am I willing to commit to starting a family? Not just yet. Are we committed to our faith in God and His plan for our lives? Definitely. Am I going to commit to buying a house since we might be where we are for another 5-6 years? Not sure yet. Are we committed to taking care of our wayward cat? Yes. Are we committed to Friday Night Ice Cream? Yes. (Therein lies the problem for our Vegan Journey, which you can read about here).
The first and last of those commitments tie together: Friday Night Ice Cream and each other. The ice cream tradition was (blessedly) brought in from Greg’s family, who has done Friday Night Ice Cream for as long as Greg can remember. We’ve carried it on through our many adventures, including the first Friday after Greg returned from Iraq in 2008:
Thus, it is part of our Perfect Marriage Plan. Doesn’t that sound enticing? The Perfect Marriage. What would that look like? Friday Night Ice Cream, of course. Clothes always make it to the hamper. Socks are never found under the sheets. Feelings are never hurt because our hearts are faster than our vocal chords, instead of the other way around. Disagreements are settled over a Lady and the Tramp-style spaghetti dinner with a chocolate cake for dessert, which the couple worked completely 50/50 on together earlier that day. Can’t even take that paragraph seriously.
You want a perfect marriage? First of all, it doesn’t exist. Second of all, fight for it: Make time for Friday Night Ice Cream. Show some grace when clothes don’t make it to the hamper. (Here comes the educator in me): Make accommodations for your Spouse Who Doesn’t Remember. In my marriage, I must confess, that person is me. I am forever forgetting to take the stickers off the veggies before I throw the waste into the compost pile. I leave shirts inside-out or inside other shirts when I throw them into the laundry. Same goes for socks. I leave the tops of packages on the counter instead of walking less than 2 feet to throw them out. The Perfect Husband is always (and I do mean always) reminding me of these things. So he started making accommodations for me. Taking the stickers off the veggies as soon as we get home from grocery store. Checking the laundry before starting a load. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I could sit here and give you the biggest do’s and don’t’s for a healthy marriage (communicate, forgive, find common interests), but I believe you’ve already seen and heard those, whether through your church, a mentor, or a featured Yahoo “news” article. Marriage is one of those things that everybody talks about but few people actually get, as evidenced by a non-declining divorce rate. No, what I think the world needs to hear is what I just said: Fight for it. Not in a combative way, but in a Fight to Survive kind of way. Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the hearts that want to stand up and say, “I will be different.” It’s for the ones who don’t lie down and cower under their spouse’s failings. They say the things that need to be said even if life is made uncomfortable for a little while. It’s for the ones who don’t resign to thinking, “This is as good as it’s going to get.”
We need to be actively aware that our marriage is a fragile entity that can be disrupted and unraveled in the blink of an eye if we’re not careful. No matter how solid of a foundation you may have built, your marriage is and always will be vulnerable to outside forces. That is a fact. But it’s worth fighting for. I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believe we as a collective married people are not fighting hard enough. We “don’t want to argue”, so we don’t. But what if you argued, aired some stuff out, and healed from past hurts? We “don’t want to step on toes”, so we don’t see past those hurty feelings and realize that our spouse is one of the people who should be able to say what we need to hear even when it makes us uncomfortable. We think “it’s complicated” (my LEAST favorite movie line), so we don’t work past through the muck.
The Friday Night Ice Cream in my home is not just a way to avoid going completely Vegan. It’s not just a way to discipline ourselves to sweets only on the weekends (Ha, yeah right). It’s a small ritual intended to give us one dedicated night each week that we come together, whether we’re going through a happy time or a down time. (And being married for 7 years guarantees some down time). But when we come together on a common ground that we are committed to, no matter how miniscule, we are given the chance to reconnect. To bond. A way to say, “I’m here. I love you. I’m committed. I’ll fight for you and for our relationship.”
You can think this is mundane and minimizing the importance of true, honest communication and other things of the like that help build a lasting marriage. But I genuinely enjoy my marriage, so don’t be so quick to judge. And mark my words: I will be one of the marriages that breaks the chain of divorce in our culture. Check me in about 50 years, and you’ll see.
So go ahead, put on your survival heart and fight, fight fight. I dare you.
You tell me:
What do you think? Should we fight more for our marriages? And if you could give one piece of marriage advice, what would it be?
Retreats and resources: http://love-wise.com/
Couple’s Retreat (sans speedo-wearing Fabio): http://smalley.cc/the-smalley-center/what-is-a-smalley-intensive
For Marine families: http://www.mccslejeune.com/credo/
For Army families: http://www.strongbonds.org/skins/strongbonds/home.aspx