*I accidentally deleted this post from last night. This is a repost.*
"He's not the person I married."
"Kids changed things."
"I feel like I don't know him anymore."
"There is just a distance."
I have had this heart-wrenching conversation many times in the last couple of years as marital problems changed from something people my parents' age discussed in hushed tones to being a personally relevant topic for my friends. Hours have been spent over coffee or phone lines trying to dissect where things got off track and how to resurrect them.
And here's what I realize at mid life: my husband isn't the man I married any more than I am the woman he married. Of course we aren't. Life is dynamic. People grow, change and are marked by circumstances. It is a fact of life. We can allow this truth to divide or have it unite, encourage and push 'us' in a new and different direction. We pledged for better or for worse--not for 'same.'
I adore my husband and am incredibly grateful for all he is to our family, but life is busy and we are both tired. He spends his days focused on the needs of patients and demands that are constantly being put on him. I often feel like I've spent all day "on call' serving our family and performing mindnumbing household tasks.
What both of us want at the end of the day is to collapse into a little kindness. If we both enter the evening wrapped up in our own pity parties of how tired we are, with an expectation that the other needs to serve us or give us some space--trouble will brew. In many ways home can be the hardest place to show grace. Especially when we retreat there to have our own needs met and collide into the reality of people who need us back.
Increasingly I am realizing that the secret to relationships that last are the little things. It seems like such an oversimplification of the complexities of relationships, but as I read this article from The Atlantic on kindness and generosity in marriage, science reinforced what our faith teaches us about focusing on others. When we strive to believe the best--and respond to the little cues we get from one another--both partners are happier. As Glennon Melton says, "Somebody's got to pour that first glass..."
Frankly, on long Summer days with kids, I have learned this method of choosing love works wonders too. Freely given. Unearned. Breathing deeply and deciding to respond in love when I don't particularly feel like it. It is grace.
"I am on your team."
"I like you."
"Can I help?"
"I am glad we get to be in the same family."
Kindness is highly effective on the toughest adolescent personality in my home. We can lock horns like rams and exhaust ourselves getting nowhere or I can inhale, pray and do the hard thing: love instead of fight. I am amazed at the results. Our kids have hearts like ours--looking for acceptance no matter what.
Crossing battle lines instead of drawing them...it's the way God loves us. When we 'get' that--allowing ourselves to be moved and changed--we will be more willing to pour grace out on those around us.
It's how I want to be treated--better than I deserve. It is what I want my heart, life and home to be marked by--and I am learning that this kind of love reaps its own beautiful reward.