We’ve heard cliché’s like “marriage takes work,” “communication is the key” and “love unconditionally.” What do they really mean? How do they play out in married life?
Communication Is Key
Steph: Paul and I learned on our Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend, that we were primarily communicating by sharing information: about our work, our children, our calendar. We learned that in order to grow in intimacy we needed to communicate on a feeling level. I learned that feelings are neither right nor wrong. And, I learned to truly listen to how Paul was feeling about a particular situation instead of interrupting him with a litany of detailed questions. When I share with Paul my feelings of sorrow and regret over my sisters’ death and he listens without trying to “fix it”, he showers me in compassion and tenderness. When we accept one another’s feelings, we get along better and little annoyances seem far less important than my love for him.
Marriage Takes Work
Paul: I’ve learned that every thought that comes into my head does not need to come out of my mouth. Making negative comments about Steph’s driving or correcting facts in a story she’s telling do not need to be said. “Working” at marriage means that I strive to use a tone of voice that is patient, kind and loving at all times, not just when I’m in a good mood. I have a hearing loss and feel frustrated when Stephanie talks to me from another room and I can’t hear her. I can choose to allow my frustration to come out in my tone, or I can choose to be patient and gentle as I let her know I’m coming over to where she’s at so I can hear her better. “Working” at marriage means that I make decisions to love Stephanie even when I don’t feel like it.
We both watched our mothers suffer under very difficult and prolonged circumstances. But there was one beautiful grace present in both situations – the tender love our fathers showed them in those months and years leading up to their deaths. When most of us got married, we proclaimed vows “for better or worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health.” The rubber meets the road precisely when the chips are down. It’s easy to be loving when everything is going well; it’s quite another matter when your spouse is unemployed, suffering from depression, or can no longer care for themselves. We’ve come to view unconditional love as being present, supportive, encouraging, positive, uplifting even when it’s inconvenient, impractical, or not what we’re inclined to do.