TODAY’S FORECAST: Contemplating
This past weekend, Bob and I had the pleasure of brunching with our kids and both sets of parents. Bob’s parents were staying with us overnight the evening before, and my mom and dad met us all for brunch. I always enjoy seeing all our parents together; sometimes I think I take it a wee bit for granted that we have that luxury. Unfortunately, as they get older, I know it won’t always be so. It occurred to me last evening that Bob and I are considered a rarity now in many families, not only with having both sets of our parents still with us (and we hope they are for MANY, MANY, more years!), but also both sets of parents having been married 40+ years! Not a truer miracle have I witnessed in today’s “love’em and leave’em” world.
If you talk to my Mom and Dad or Bob’s, they will tell you the same story. The hard times were really hard, but both God and love kept them going at times when they didn’t think they could. Oh, and don’t forget the elbow grease! Marriage is really hard work! After year one, it’s so much more than the way she squeezes the toothpaste or the way he forgets to close the toilet lid. You find out very quickly when life’s “real” changes come, as they always do, how much you really can endure as a couple.
For some it’s money. There are hard-working people living all over the world that work every week paycheck to paycheck. When something “big” like an unexpected home repair, the declining health of a loved one or even tax season comes along it can create an all-out war between spouses about how everything’s going to get paid for with money that doesn’t exist. Even for those who are more comfortable in their daily living, I don’t know anyone that hasn’t worried about the cost of something or how something was going to get paid for at some point in their lives. My parents and Bob’s parents have plenty of stories from when they were first married about how they didn’t “have two pennies to rub together.” Especially with the current economy and rising costs of everything, everyone is feeling the “pinch” these days, young or old. This can be a real stress on a marriage; and unfortunately, it’s one that is cyclical for some, happening every payday or every day, as expenses continue to roll in.
I mentioned the declining health of a loved one that can lead to financial discord among couples, but spouses who are also care-givers have a lot of additional stress on their plates in caring for an ailing loved one. Whether it is their own spouse, child, parent, another relative or a friend, care-givers have a lot of stress on their plates with the sacrifices they are making in caring for that loved one. Sometimes that stress is shared between spouses when they don’t agree on the money, time or decisions that are being made related to that care. If you’ve read my other blog posts you know Bob has been in the role of care-giver in our house for quite some time, but all our parents have also dealt with significant health blows themselves, caring for ailing parents or an ailing child or even each other during their years of marriage.
Speaking of ailing children, whether they are little or grown, whether they are plagued with illness, addiction, abuse in their own family, a lack of shared faith, etc., they require a very dedicated support system. Being an ailing “child” myself and raising our son who has some of his own health issues takes extra special time and attention. Let’s face it though, what child does not? Ailing or not, children, take a lot of time, effort and love. Discipline approaches, the amount of money that is spent on them (again, the money…sigh), backgrounds, beliefs and family values can all have an impact on how spouses approach raising their kids and how they support them when they are grown up and on their own. I can tell you with 100% certainty that Bob and I, as well as our parents, have had squabbles about our kids at one point or another. It happens, especially when you love your kids as much as we all do.
So I guess I wanted this post to emphasize a couple of points. First, that I am so glad to have the role models that Bob and I have in our parents. Without their level of love and commitment to each other and their guidance in our faith, I know Bob and I wouldn’t have been able to make it through all we have today. Second, that it takes work to make a marriage, any marriage work. Even if you are deeply in love, committed to God and each other, I can guarantee that your spouse won’t always meet your expectations because they’re not perfect and neither are you. Harsh words, I know. Trust me, being somewhat of a perfectionist myself, they are still difficult to stomach; however, I just outlined three pretty solid reasons for why couples fight and there are still loads more, so you tell me who isn’t subject to a little imperfection from time to time? Things like infidelity, bad habits, difficult in-laws, step-children, choice of friends, work and household responsibilities can all put tremendous strain on a marriage. Typically, it’s selfishness, lack of communication, stubbornness, impatience, lack of respect and short tempers that exacerbate these issues and we all fall privy to them once in a while, don’t we?
Today I ask you to pray. For anything you are struggling with in your marriage, to be good role models for relationships in the parenting of your kids, for everyone else you know that’s married, that they will hold on through the rough times. For those that are separated or divorced, pray that they will either reconcile or find their “love of a lifetime” with someone who will be a faith partner and put the work in. Love each other and pay some special attention to your significant other, not just at this holiday season, but every day! I know that without a doubt, I need to do the same. God bless!