By Rachel Baker, Crosswalk.com
In college, before meeting my husband, I fell in with a group of rock climbing free-repellers. This was a crazy group of kids who would throw a rope over a bridge or off the side of a cliff and belay down it—just for the fun-adrenaline-punch of it. One night, under cover of darkness, I joined the group for a free-repel off of a bridge in some nameless canyon. My heart raced, and my adrenaline spiked as I swung over the side of the bridge and felt my weight drop, trusting my harness and the length of the rope to get me safely to the bottom.
Marriage has been kind of like that. Instead of bridges over canyons, my husband and I have crossed over seasons of uncertainty, grief, betrayals, and loss. In our twelve years of marriage we've held and lost jobs, bought and sold homes, birthed our two precious children, and are raising them in a time of complete uncertainty. We've wept together, danced together, and ultimately chosen each other when everything in life screamed to do otherwise.
There have been moments of adrenaline-surging difficulty and other seasons of quiet stable-near boredom. As we wade through each season, we've determined to allow life to be an adventure - to keep ourselves firmly harnessed and held safe in the love of God and to have faith that the rope that God is providing is precisely the correct length for the seasons and situations that we've been called to.
I might not be jumping off actual bridges these days, but marriage—like that first over that bridge—can be the adventure of a lifetime. This adventure requires commitment, hard work, endurance, patience, and, I'd say a, fair amount of humor. If you want to allow your marriage mindset to be one of adventure, take a look at these four tips for reframing your relationship.
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Franciele Cunha
1. Maintain an Open Heart and Open Mind
Two years into our marriage, my husband and I had been building a life for ourselves in a suburb of Boulder, Colorado. My husband was serving as a youth pastor while I was working for a communications company. We had recently bought our first home, 980 square feet of our own space, and had brought our first baby into the world. On paper, everything looked like the picture-perfect marriage.
Behind closed doors, however, we were struggling. While I was experiencing post-partum depression, my husband was getting his first education in the difficulties of ministry. We were often ships passing in the night, only having our exhaustion to share. We felt alone and incapable of thriving in our marriage unless we changed something radically.
In what may have looked like foolishness to outsiders, we decided to rent out our house and return to our home state of California. We went home without a clear idea of what was next, knowing that our biggest need in that season was the support of our families. There was no plan in place, and while it felt a bit scary, we knew that we needed to step into the unknown. As we loaded up our little SUV with our toddler and our rescue dog, Lucy, we promised to keep an open heart, an open mind, and our faith grounded in the Lord.
I can promise you that stepping out in faith is not easy, but if we orient ourselves around our faith and our commitment to each other, then that step isn't quite as terrifying. A decade later, we've had to take so many more steps of faith; sometimes those steps are more like leaps, and other times they are more like throwing yourself over the edge of a bridge, believing that the rope will get you to the bottom. All of it has become an adventure, every step, each leap.
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2. Set Out to Enjoy Life Together
My husband is fun, quirky, and has the most ridiculous-told-pop-jokes-before-he-was-even-a-Dad sense of humor. He reminds me to laugh and dance and find humor in even the most difficult of situations. He reminds me to enjoy life, to find fun, and to shake off my seriousness.
To be fair, I feel like there is a lot in life to be serious about. We are raising children in uncertain times, forging a path in ministry together, and figuring out how to live well despite the pandemic. I could allow these things to swallow me whole, but then there's my guy reminding me that one of the most beautiful parts of our Christian walk and commitment to Christ is to truly love and enjoy this life that we've been given.
This perspective helps us keep our focus on eternity. It helps us to love each other and others better. Additionally, this helps us release things that really weren't ever in our control anyway and focus our energy on appreciation for each other and the path we are on. As couples, when we're able to focus on the big picture and release the small stuff, we can have greater overall satisfaction in our marriages. I believe that this level of satisfaction can become the balm that soothes our souls when our adventure together feels more like forging a path in some unknown and uncharted territory.
3. Release Expectations
Before getting married, I had some serious expectations of what married life would look like. I wanted our relationship to be formulaic and stable. I wanted to know exactly what I was getting into and what our life together would look like.
That expectation was dashed the week before we even said "I do," when my husband was offered a ministry job out of state and in an area I had never even heard of. The suggestion to release expectations is in no way to say, "release expectations of your spouse." Rather, I believe that we need to work tirelessly to uphold our vows, grow and develop in our marriage, and love each other more and more over time. What we can release, however, are our expectations of situations.
We can let go of how we think life will play out and surrender to the adventure of growing together in marriage. The reality is that very little in life is promised. That job may not be there tomorrow; whether we will or will not have children is not promised, where we live and what God is calling us to—these are often unknowns and uncertain. Situationally, life is always changing. Even the amount of time that we are given with each other in marriage is uncertain, and so, if we are able to release our expectations, then we can live a life with hands wide open, full of gratitude and appreciation for our adventure.
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4. Conquer Difficult Situations Together
Throughout our marriage, my husband and I have walked through several difficult situations. If you've been married more than a few minutes, you and your spouse have probably experienced the same. My husband and I both have different ways of processing through difficulty. In the years of our marriage, we sometimes allowed those differences to pull us apart rather than meld us together. What lonely moments those were when I'd retreat and process alone rather than inviting my spouse into the experience with me.
It feels like lately, the difficulties just keep on coming. We resolve a situation in our personal lives or work-lives or parenting, only to be hit head-on with another difficult issue to resolve or tackle. Attempting to carry the world's weight on our shoulders can be all too much for us sometimes. If we can consider our spouse truly as our help-mate, as in the example of Genesis 2:18, "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him," then the burdens that we carry in this life can be lighter, together we can tackle the difficult and likewise enjoy the wonderful.
Keep the End-Goal in Mind
If we allow ourselves to shift our perspectives in and of marriage, then we can find harmony, adventure, and yes even fun, as we face those precipices together. If you're staring down uncertainty today or you're fighting an uphill battle, one of the greatest champions that we can leverage is our spouse. If we invite our spouse into the nooks and crannies of our own lives and allow them to do the same, then when we face difficulty, our spouse can be there to fill in the gap, to cover us with prayer, and to encourage us forward. This is how our marriages—with whatever comes our way—can glorify God and become the adventure of a lifetime.
Throughout the gospels, we are reminded that there will be difficulty in this life, and while there may be treacherous and rocky paths ahead for each of us, there are also beautiful vistas and peaks. Just take it from my rock-climbing and repelling buddies; they may arrive at their destination with knuckles bloodied and every muscle in their body exhausted, but the view from those peaks is worth the fight up.
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