A recently married person asked me the other day what the pressure points were in our 38+ years of married life. Things have been so calm for a number of years ( apart from a moment on an Italian motorway), I had to think. Yes, there had been times when we had to work hard to love each other. Or as an old Dutchman once said, “I never, absolutely never, ever thought of divorce – it never entered my mind, never, … but murder, quite a few times.”
For every couple those pressure points will be different. Their personalities, character traits and circumstances will mean unique pressures on their marriage. Here are some that I struggled with.
1. Having a large family, money and unemployment were issues on occasions. In my early 30s I was studying and working part-time jobs. We had three young children. Money and time were scarce. As a husband and father I had to ensure there was time for my wife and children. In the balancing act that didn’t always happen the way it should. The consequences were tensions and anger. Sadly, while studying Christology I was not always Christ like!
2. Working in people intensive vocations like teaching and the pastoral ministry, this has sometimes led to the family coming second best. Being a “people pleaser” I had the ironic tendency to neglect the people closest to me. On one occasion my wife phoned to tell me that someone needed to speak to me. At the appointed time, she marched in. Before I could protest, my wife reminded me that if it had been anyone else I would have dropped everything and listened. So I listened, and she told me a story of a husband who was never available for his wife and kids and worked all hours. Now if I get too involved in work she says, “Can I make an appointment?” I get the message. Happily, that has occurred less frequently in more recent times. I do learn – slowly.
3. Another area of tension has been immaturity and selfishness- usually mine. This is when we want to get our own way on the issue. Sometimes the issue even slides into the background and it becomes a power struggle between two human beings. Unedifying to all concerned and especially to any children who happen to be watching.
The solutions nearly sound cliched – prayer and devotions. Committing time to each other and communication, communication and communication. Having regular set parts of the day where you find time to talk together is crucial. I know it is easier said than done but it is so important.
Sometimes is it is good to remind yourselves what brought you together in the first place: The faith, shared values, interests and passions. Also the older I get I realise that there is one special person with whom I share so many memories – memories that only the two of us share. That is precious and worth protecting.
Most of all we share a journey with God. He is the third strand (Eccl 4:12). If there were times when we were weak, we had to rely on Him even more. So even when we let each other down He has never let us down.