Much of marriage is about patterns, about routine, about the”normal” way we go about life and relating – most often, without thinking about it. Sometimes our patterns and routines and “normal” isn’t very healthy. Or, what started out healthy may need adjustment as circumstances change…as personalities naturally drift over the course of the years…as stressors limit emotional availability or escalate tension. Over the years, husbands and wives fall into ruts regarding how they talk to each other, how they show affection, how they problem solve, how they move through life together, etc. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes not so much.
We’ve all had the experience of getting lost in thought while driving and all of a sudden “waking up” and realizing you are somewhere you didn’t plan on going with no idea of how you got there. Doing this while driving is one thing, but doing it while married…how would you like to wake up in the middle of a marital crisis? And no idea how you got there…Yikes! (Yet this is how it usually happens…)
Highways and marriages are similar in that both are going somewhere. Both have natural entrance and exit points, those locations where it is appropriate and easy to get on or get off in order to change directions, take a break or begin a new journey. (I am not talking about places where you can leave the marriage – but places where the marriage can change trajectory and direction. I am writing from the perspective that death is the intended end to a marriage.) Also, while navigating both highways and marriages, it is scarily easy to not pay attention to what you are doing.
A new job, babies, a move, school starts, seasonal changes, health concerns, vacations, buying a house, starting or ending a hobby, finding a new church…All of these are a part of life and all of these mean schedules, priorities and structures change. These can be tremendous opportunities, doors to walk through and shake things up, to alter your direction before arriving at an unwanted destination.
Entrance and exit ramps are transition points. Those places and events where you set your life for acceleration or deceleration. Places to talk. To evaluate. To plan. To do something new. To stop something old. They are all over the place in life and marriage. If we are looking for them. And open to the possibility that different might be needed.
What if married couples were aware of where their entrance and exit ramps are? What if they planned margins of time within those places to … talk. To communicate with each other and ask really simple but important questions. And to agree to be really honest. To listen really well. Without getting defensive and making excuses. And to do something with what you learn about the other.
How are you doing right now? Really?
How do you feel our marriage is going? Are you happy with it? Are there things you want to change? Are there things you wish I knew? Are there things you wish I would stop or start doing?
Is there anything I can do to help you more right now, to be more tuned into your world, your needs and the things that are important to you?
Do you feel loved and appreciated? If not, how can I speak my love in your language so you hear it more clearly?
Is there something you are worried about? Afraid of? Enjoying? Use some emotional words and tell me about your heart.
You can come up with even more great discussion starting questions on your own. Google. Books. And, if you are interested in your spouse, your marriage, some questions should just naturally present themselves.
The key is you have to create the space to ask. To listen. To be honest. It can keep you from waking up in an unhealthy marriage with no idea of how it got so sick.