Jeff Bridges after winning the Oscar and Golden Globe Award for best actor last year thanked his wife of nearly 30 years for her support. When asked what has enabled him to stay married all these years Bridges responded simply:
“That’s easy. You just don’t get divorced. I think one of the things about staying married is just not getting a divorce. To go through some of those difficult times and stay together, you’ve got to expand your concept of love. If you’ve been married a long time, you’re going to get tested.”
Indeed. And that leads us to this week’s How to Stay Married tidbits.
1) Take Divorce Off the Table: If you get into marriage thinking that you’ve got an out then you’ll take it the first chance you get. When the going gets rough you’ve got to stay and work it out. Now that being said, abusive behavior by either party is not something that anyone should put up with. Keep yourself safe and find help if you find yourself in that situation. This tip is really for those of us who are in relationships that are not subject to the throes of addiction or other unhealthy and abusive factors. That being said…
2) Heal Oneself: If you’ve got a problem, you need to address it. Marriage sometime brings past memories and hurts to the surface and those can bring psychological trauma with it and thus one can push the other partner away for opening a door accidentally. Notice your feelings when you get angry or depressed at something your partner says or does to you. Ask yourself what is that REALLY about? An example: My wife once suggested that I was blathering on often about things in my ministry and I couldn’t listen to her problem for more than five minutes. (She was right by the way!) I had been hurt by a friend who had suggested that I was a blabber mouth one time (and I can be). His hurtful words had caused me not to talk to him at all (That’ll solve the problem!) for some time. Marion would have none of it. She calmly told me that she likes hearing my stories but that she also needs me to listen to her and that she didn’t feel like I was (she was right!). So I afforded her the same courtesy. But I also had to talk with someone else about how I was feeling and who I was really mad at (my friend, not Marion) and why that made me mad (I felt diminished). Working at that issue has allowed me to grow more and really hear what my wife is saying.
3) LISTEN UP: Active listening is important. One can’t be thinking about 12 other things when the other is talking. One has to listen actively. I know I hate to repeat myself and I imagine Marion isn’t fond of it either. So I try to really listen to her when I know she needs me too. I’m not always good at it, but when I intentionally do that, I’m able to listen to hear what she’s really saying to me and we can work together to solve any issues that might be latent.
4) Hear the Cry of the Poor: And discover what you have to offer those in need. My wife and I have taken trips to Nicaragua together to serve poor children and have been a support couple for the Catholic volunteers in Buffalo who in turn serve the community’s poorest population. They challenge us to do more and be more for others. We now buy organic and farm fresh foods to support the local economy and environment more. We support local charities with our excess and have taken steps to live a bit more simply than we usually do.
5) Take Time: Several options here. Take time off from work just to be together and get away. There’s nothing like a vacation. Take time away from each other for individual renewal and retreat from time to time as well. We all can use a break and absence sometimes does make the heart grow fonder. I know when I head to a conference to be with colleagues, I enjoy that time to be with people I haven’t seen in some time, but I also look forward to coming home and reconnecting with my wife when that time is over. Take time to simply sit together and be without talking or doing much of anything. Curling up with a good book or just thinking while watching the sunset are two of my favorites to do.
And lastly, take time to talk and listen each day intentionally to each other. Listen with the wonder of a first date. What’s on her mind? What makes her tick? Where does she want to go? What adventures lie ahead?
Next week we talk about prayer and religion (even for those of you of different faith traditions). So stay tuned and subscribe.