Marriage is an interesting thing to me. I am captivated by couples who look like they know what they’re doing when it comes to relationships. And not only that, it looks like they are actually enjoying what they have and each other.
“I enjoyed watching the two of them Interact. There was something intriguing about their relationship. Maybe it was something as simple as the fact that they liked each other.”
That’s what I’m talking about. You can always tell when a couple enjoys each other. Not because they have to. Not because they are working hard to make it work. They simply enjoy being together.
“As the evening drew on, I asked Norm, ‘How long have you been married?’
‘Forever’, he said.
‘Judy reached over and slapped his leg. ‘Thirty-five years.’
‘Thirty-five years, I echoed. ‘You seem like you have a good marriage.’
‘I kind of like the guy,’ Judy said. Then she added, ‘Wasn’t always that way.’
He sighed. ‘That’s for sure.’
‘Really?’ I asked.
‘For years the wife and I struggled.’
‘That’s an understatement,’ she said, smiling slightly.
Norm groaned. ‘Seems the longer we were married the more difficult things got. The tension between us got so bad that whenever I’d go away on business it was a relief, for both of us. At least while I was gone. ‘Course, we always paid for it on reentry.’
‘I was on the road, in Toledo, when things came to a head. We had just had another big fight on the phone and Judy had hung up on me. I was alone and frustrated and angry.’
‘That’s when I turned to God. Or turned on God. Maybe shouting at God isn’t prayer, maybe it is–but whatever I was enagged in I’ll never forget it. I was standing in the shower of a Motel 6, yelling at God that I couldn’t do it anymore. As much as I hated the idea of divorce, the pain of being together was just too much.
Finally, I just sat down in the shower and began to cry. That’s when a voice said to me, You can’t change her. You can only change yourself. At that moment I thought, If I can’t change her, God, then change me. I prayed late into the night. I prayed the next day on the drive home. I prayed as I walked in the door to a cold wife who barely even acknowledged me.
That night, as we lay in our bed, inches from each other yet miles apart, I knew what I had to do.
The next morning I rolled over in bed next to Judy and said, ‘How can I make your day better?”
The dialogue goes on for a little longer. In a nutshell, Judy was skeptical, to say the least. Norm continued to ask her the same question every day until she got it. From that point on their relationship grew.
First of all, I get that this is fiction. I also understand how over simplified this is. Real life is way more complicated. But what if it wasn’t? What if it doesn’t have to be?
There are lots of marriages with lots of different issues, in varying degrees of severity. But what if it was as simple as treating others how we want to be treated? Just like the Bible states, only in different words (Mark 12:30-31.)
When my kids where little, I used to ask them what the most important thing was. The answer, which they came to know, was relationships. They came to understand that if they treated others how they wanted to be treated, their lives, and more importantly their relationships, would go more smoothly.
I get that this snippet from a novel is trite, but what if it carries some weight?
It could be a great mantra, a way of life, to put others needs above your own, especially when it comes to close relationships. But we can’t just try it. It has to become a way of life.
“God, then change me.”