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You repeat the words as they’re given to you:
“I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse for as long as we both shall live.” (Or something like that.)
Fast-forward 5 years, 15 years, 25 years… and you may find yourself thinking back to those words wondering, “Is this what those words meant?”
In the past few weeks we have had a chance to reflect on this as we have faced a health challenge involving Jen having surgery. Of all the words in that sentence, the word ‘challenge’ is the most significant. No marriage can escape challenge. No relationship is free of it, whether it’s a financial challenge, a health challenge, an extended family challenge or all of the above. The word challenge means that you have to work to get through something, and you or your marriage may change because of it.
Nick: One thing I didn’t appreciate well enough is the way that challenges are like little emotional amplifiers. Misunderstandings are easier to come by when there is the stress of a challenge to contend with. When it comes to Jen’s recent surgery and recovery, I too easily see myself as a helpless bystander. My emotions are all over the place – from worry to sympathy to frustration – depending on the moment. For better or worse means I get to ride the roller coaster, doing what I can to support Jen. She doesn’t need me to distance myself from her in my insecurities. She needs me to stay connected, in sickness and in health, no matter what.
Jen: My fuse is shorter when challenges arise for us, especially when things are out of my control. Being the one in need this time and not being able to do things for others has been a particularly humbling challenge for me. I feel helpless in a hollow, paralyzing way. Learning to let others do things for me when I am usually the one taking care of everyone else can frustrate me. I feel impatient to get back to my normal routine and abilities.
Each challenge we face will pass, but our marriage will continue on. Knowing this can help us let go of the little grievances we are holding onto. We forgive each other or ask for forgiveness faster. We appreciate each other more.
Indeed, this IS what we signed up for - working at loving each other fully each day, regardless of the challenges that come our way.