Over the years I’ve been a member of a number of Internet forums, more than one on marriage. During that time a recurring theme that shows up on the marriage forums is the idea of being happy for what you have without expecting anything more as if marital intimacy is a continuum with an end goal.
We should be happy and thankful for what we have but marital intimacy isn’t and end goal it is an endless and dynamic spectrum that goes from zero to infinity. Once you think you’ve arrived you realize that your spouse has changed, you have changed, your marriage has changed and there are still new things to learn, new trials to overcome, and new ways to grow. Marriage isn’t just hard work it’s complicated. About the time you think you’ve got marriage all figured out life will throw you a curve. New job. Kids go off to college. The loss off a loved one. New circumstances to work through that can grow yourself, your spouse and your marriage.
Some growth opportunities won’t be the curves that life throws you but will instead be initiated by you or your spouse. As Dr. David Schnarch points out, marriages will spin on a contented cycle for awhile before one or the other in the marriage will begin to push for growth (more intimacy). They will have done the peace vs. personal integrity dance until they decide that their personal integrity is at stake and they cannot take it any longer. They will propose a change to the status quo in the marriage thus introducing a new challenge to overcome.
Too often people facing these challenges allow the challenges to come between them when they should in fact bring them closer together. If spouses come through the fire together they will be stronger. If they are not together in the fire the fire has a greater chance of consuming them. We are stronger together. We are stronger when we share our burdens. We are stronger when we support one another. We are stronger when we have someone to pick us up when we have fallen. We have a greater chance of conquering the hard work and complications of marriage together.
Recognize that the challenges that circumstances throw at you and your marriage are the fires that purify it, make it stronger and bring you and your spouse closer together. To borrow once again from Dr. David Schnarch a crucible is a tool used to heat and strengthen metal. A fireplace consumes the wood that is placed in it. Are the trials in your marriage working as a crucible to strengthen your marriage or are the trials a fireplace consuming it?