We started off the year being transparent about the struggles 2013 brought into our lives. Despite the turmoil the past year brought, we determined to make 2014 The Year of Friendship. We did this for a specific reason, we knew 2014 was likely to bring about a fair share of struggles of its own. We were right.
February has brought grief and pain into our lives in the form of loss. I (Megan) lost my mother (age 63) on February 7th. An incredible legacy but a heavy loss for my heart. This past week we also lost Justin’s grandmother. A woman with whom we we were very close and visited regularly. The pain and grief of these losses has left us raw and tired. The most common question asked of us right now is, “How are you doing?” and let me tell ya, that’s a doozie of a question. Truth is, we are comforted and well supported. We are also sad, grieving and exhausted. However, when it comes to our marriage I describe that we are marriage rich despite being energy poor.
Maybe you can relate, your marriage is strong even though you are physically and emotionally spent. Maybe for you that is wishful thinking, you can’t imagine having a strong marriage during your most difficult season. Today I want to share three things that are keeping our marriage strong during this trying and difficult time.
Words of encouragement, comfort, support and reassurance are necessary during times of deep hurt. The words can come in form of cards, notes or be spoken but, whatever the form, using words to build up your spouse is essential to a strong marriage.
Sometimes even words can’t soothe the heartache of the ones we love most. During those times it’s important to show our support of them through actions that speak where words are inadequate. A listening ear, a long hug, a comforting meal, a trip to the store – all of these actions and so many more can strengthen your marriage.
In addition, lowering the “normal” expectations of what your spouse may be able to accomplish with their time is an action of love. Around our house, laundry is getting done but may not always make it to the state of being put away properly. Meals are being eaten together, but may be of the variety of store bought goods and sides as opposed to my normal more healthy and frugal meals. The burden to keep up with all of life while processing difficult circumstances is oppressive but as a spouse, we can speak with loving actions when we let go of expectations and allow our spouse to feel supported regardless of the disruption to “normal”. A new normal will settle in but patience and support until that time makes a marriage thrive during the interim.
Not to be disregarded, even in a one flesh marriage, it is important to allow our spouse space to process. Just as a garden does not bloom within hours of the seeds being planted, a spouse cannot process and heal without some space and time. Healthy amounts of togetherness and separateness during difficult seasons is important. Be observant, patient and sensitive to what your spouse needs most. If your spouse needs you to be there, then be there. If they need some alone time to cry, sleep, write, grant them that space. The garden will grow, not from force, but from the space to receive the nutrients essential to support it’s growth.
Of course our faith in God and our Savior Jesus Christ is giving us the greatest amount of strength and comfort during this time, but on a practical level, words, actions and space are the ways our marriage is being nurtured. These elements can strengthen marriages in all situations and can be applied in many close relationships.
Difficult times will come in every marriage and these are just a few thoughts on how to sustain health and strength. Feel free to share how you strengthen your marriage when difficulties (especially those outside of the marriage relationship) arise.