A Million Little Things

14 Aug

A friend was pondering today over why some marriages work and others don’t. It turned into an interesting conversation.

What causes divorce? Is there a singular cause or event? Is it the self centered nature of humans? Is it immaturity?

Marriages fail for a variety of reasons. Some marriages seem destined to fail before they even get started. In some cases people choose their partners poorly. Certain situations may cause a person to feel stuck and lacking options. One may see the flaws in their partner but think that they can save them, reform them, or change them. In other cases, the partners do not respect each other or even verbally or physically abuse one another. And of course, infidelity is another cause for divorce.

Perhaps it is easier to explain what makes a marriage work instead of what makes one fail. For a marriage to be successful, both individuals need to be able and willing to put the needs of their partner and family above their own needs.

My friend returned from a weekend long religious conference on being a submissive wife. GASP! Submission??? What sort of a conference is this? In this day and age of feminism, who even believes in this sort of thing?

If you know me at all, you know that I need to feel that my voice is heard and my opinions are considered. Being submissive to anyone anywhere is the polar opposite of my personality. I’ve been challenging authority since I was a kid. The word submission makes me cringe.

I attempted to put my gut reaction to the word submission aside and listen to what my friend’s conference was all about. One explanation she made actually struck a cord with with me. She said that if a husband consistently and continually puts the needs of his wife and family above his own needs and wants in both his actions and behaviors, then a wife can comfortably submit to whatever his will may be. Without complete trust in your spouse, submission can not occur.

Aha! This actually makes sense to me. I could never feel completely controlled by someone nor could I let someone make all the decisions for me. I have seen marriages in which this works, it just isn’t something that I could handle. But when I trust that Jeff has our family’s well being in mind and is not making selfish decisions, I can agree to go along with plans that I would not normally consider. This in and of itself is growth for me. I can trust that he is making a decision that will be beneficial to our family.

When a person is self centered, instead of thinking of what is best for their spouse or family, they think about what they enjoy, what is fun, what they need. They spend their time focusing on their career, making or spending money, or hobbies. While it is not inherently wrong to focus on these things, the problem lies on the consequences. If one is going to have fun golfing with some buddies at the expense of spending time with one’s family, that is a problem. If advancing one’s career comes at a cost to one’s spouse due to the extra stresses placed on them, that is a problem. If one shops excessively or makes poor money choices impacting their family’s ability to pay bills, that is a problem.

Just like creating a healthy body, creating a healthy marriage requires everything in moderation. It is healthy to have ambitions, hobbies, and friends. Going out for a drink with friends every now and then is a great stress reliever. When things go to an extreme, it usually causes an imbalance in the marriage and causes turmoil.

What makes a marriage fail? It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow erosion, like rain on a mountain over millions of years, washing the rock down the valley until eventually the mountain crumbles. It’s a million little things. It’s disrespecting your spouse. Rude comments. Negative attitude. Lack of intimacy. Not spending enough time together. Verbal abuse. Lacking communication. Putting your needs above your spouse’s.

What makes a marriage successful? It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow building, like the creation of an anthill, each ant moving one grain of earth at a time. It’s a million little things. It’s a complement. Holding hands. Compromising. Listening well. Asking for opinions. Helping without being asked. Tolerating the quirks. Date nights. Talking over dinner. Taking turns. Sharing. Sex. Doing things you don’t want to because your spouse does.

In short, marriage is hard work. But it is so worthwhile. A million little things sounds like a formidable task, but start small. How about one little thing today and another little thing tomorrow?

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