The Choices That Make Or Break Marriages

pathsMisty, frosty, tiny flakes of icy snow prickled on our cold cheeks and glittered in the darkness of last night’s inversion.  With a laugh and a flailing hand, I tucked the other hand more tightly into the crook of his waiting arm and held on for dear life while rubber, textured soles fought a losing battle with mischievous black ice.

Although the roads were treacherous,  the hour was late, and we’ve been together for 20 years, somehow, there was still a delightful anticipation toward spending those few minutes alone, together.

We used to take long walks more often than we’ve been able to lately and I missed our technology free chats about life, the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI – WTSHTF), parenting together, dreams and visions, what bills we need to pay, or the silliness of life.

Yet, last night, under shrouded lights while the black and white faded to a shimmer of grays and silver, we talked about all the friends we have had, in the past few years whose marriages have dissolved.  So many.  Too many.   Some not surprising.  Some gut-wrenchingly, breath-suckingly, heartbreaking.

Like hoar-frost disappears in the morning sun – just gone.  Over.  Done.

What seemed vibrant, living and breathing love has turned into empty promises on shaky foundations.  What had been shaky love, just dissolved.  Leaving empty-eyed children, desperate housewives searching for gainful employment, and heartbroken men eating dinner for one in diners built for families.

It breaks my heart, friends, when your marriages fail.  You tell me, “We are happier than we’ve ever been.” and assure me, endlessly,  “This is better for the kids.”   “It’s for the best.”

But I wonder…  Is it? Are you trying to convince me?  Or you?

Why am I walking down a quiet road, laughing and baring my soul within the deepest friendship I’ve never imagined possible while you, my friend, make dinners for three instead of four, and count yourself among the “lucky ones”?

Sometimes, ok, honestly, a lot of the time, I feel a bit guilty for being so well-loved.

Sure, the things that speak my love language are rarely the things that show up on quizzes from Cosmo or in books from experts. I really dislike roses (seriously), and sometimes the perfect evening my husband can give is the one where he and the boys disappear for a few hours.  But he knows that and I am thankful for the unique gift of a partner who has taken the time to study me.  More importantly? He isn’t afraid to be his own person and pushes me out of the nest when I need it, bars the door when I need that too…

He’s not nervous if I succeed in any arena.  In fact, he is more interested in my becoming the person God has destined me to be than for me to meet some mysterious status quo for women that either the church or society has set out for me.

Yeah, I’ve got it good.  Now.

But, see, here’s the difference between who we used to be and who we are today. Nearly every good choice we make today is thanks to a life lived and loved poorly and it cost us dearly.  Surely, we could do better?

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We don’t go to bed angry.  Ever.  Oh, we go to bed frustrated or with feelings bruised from a long day of miscommunication and fighting over really, really stupid things.  But we resolve to love one another, even just a bit better, before we sleep.

We make little choices, all day long, to remember the gift of our companionship.  I make the coffee and bring it in before I leave on an early morning.  He makes sure there is gas in the car when he knows I have a busy day ahead.

We defend and prefer each other in front of the children.  They know better than to try to pit us against each other and nothing gets my blood boiling faster than cocky arrogance directed at the man who makes their life possible.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard those words, “You will not treat my wife that way!”

We apologize often, for we live all flawed and broken, selfish and foolish.  And we forgive wholeheartedly.  Without looking back and without bringing it up later in a dirty fight.

It’s more than just date night that keeps us sane and moving forward.  It’s not just the couple’s retreat or the finished book on how to be awesome in marriage.

It’s these little choices.  I make them even when he doesn’t.  He makes them when I don’t want to.

That’s how we ended up on a dark, cold, foggy street at 9:45 on a Tuesday night laughing and enjoying the comfortable silences of life lived together instead of dinner for one and a bed with only one side slept in.

Maybe you didn’t have a choice.  Maybe you are making the brave choice of life apart from abuse.  Maybe you simply didn’t make little decisions, all day, every day, to love as you would be loved.

I’m sure, today, my friends would say it’s not really that simple.  Maybe…

But, what if you start becoming, today, the kind of person who lives intentionally toward the slice of humanity in your sphere?  It couldn’t hurt.

These aren’t just ways to a good marriage, they are the lynchpin for parenting, for friendship, for fellowship.