Today at Middle Places I'm writing about one of the best pieces of marriage advice I ever received...
Marriage is hard.
This is not news. If you're engaged or even thinking about getting married, everyone from your pastor to your neighbor to strangers you sit next to on airplanes are ready to chime in with their own stories of relationship struggles. And they're all right.
Chris and I have been married five years this week. Our life-partnership is one of God's greatest gifts to me. Besides the obvious advantages like sharing a Netflix queue, going halfsies on rent and chores, and making cute babies, marriage has meant having someone to speak faith to my doubt, to shine light on my dark places, and to hold hands as we walk down rough roads.
But marriage has also been hard. In order to make such an important relationship work, it takes time and effort and an intentional honing of skills...
We first started honing our relationship skills in an intentional way when we were matched with marriage mentors during our engagement. For eight weeks leading up to our wedding, we met weekly with a couple in our church who had been married for forty years. They helped us talk through things like making a budget, dealing with life changes and planning for a family.
At the time, it felt like so much advice and so many ideas, I didn’t know how we’d ever use it all. But over the last five years, over and over again I’ve found myself (and Chris) pulling out nuggets of wisdom we gleaned in those sessions to help us stay on track as we work through disagreements. As I’ve thought about all of that wisdom, there’s one piece of advice that I think has mattered in our marriage more than any other:
Sit together on the couch.
It’s literally good advice, healthy relationships require that we spend quality time in each other’s presence. But it was presented to us as a metaphor, one we’ve come back to again and again.
When you’re having a disagreement, especially about something mundane like the dishes, it’s easy to let it escalate and become about more than that.
“You left your bowl in the sink” can turn into “It’s no wonder you’re a slob, your parents are too!” if we’re not careful. So instead of arguing about who’s turn it is to do the dishes and pointing out who did them last and why I’m clearly in the right this time, we stop. We take a deep breath. We sit side by side, sometimes literally, sometimes with our words.
“Let’s sit together on this one.”
In the change of position we’re reminded that we’re a team. Sitting next to each other, the problem isn’t him and it isn’t me, it’s the dishes. The dishes must be done. It’s a problem to solve together instead a wedge driving us apart. When we take a minute to reconnect and realize that we’re in this thing together, often we find ourselves more willing to take on the tasks that we were so eager to pass off moments before.
Marriage is hard, you guys, but it’s so good too. The hard places are opportunities to become better together. Here’s to making the most of yours, one dirty dish at a time.