Most of us invest a certain degree of time and money into servicing our car and keeping it in good running condition.
Even if car maintenance is not our thing, none of us wants to break down on the side of the road. All breakdowns are untimely, and many cost us a significantly bigger chunk of our time and money, not to mention the hardship for a few days or weeks without reliable transportation.
Because we know this we do certain basic things like change our car’s oil, replace worn tires, check the fluid levels and fan belts. This need for regular maintenance never seems to arise at a time when it’s convenient, but most of us still find a way to do it because we know what happens if we neglect this for too long.
The same is true in a marriage relationship, or any relationship for that matter. If we neglect taking the effort, time, and sometimes money to invest in and keep our relationship in good health, we may well find our marriage broken down along the side of the road.
This kind of a breakdown, even small breakdowns that are repairable, can cost us greatly in all areas of our life. Logically we know this, but I have always wondered why it is that most of us tend to service our cars preventively, and yet in our marriage relationships we tend to wait until the breakdown to begin re-investing.
Walking With Pebbles in Our Shoes
Somehow we are content to walk for quite a long time with large pebbles in our shoes rather than open ourselves up to self-reflection and work on a few habits or emotions. This makes sense, as it is not easy to take responsibility for our actions, to lower our pride, or change a habit or pattern we have.
Most couples or individuals wait too long, sometimes their whole lives. Yes, wouldn’t it be great if there was a marriage “Jiffy Lube” we could stop at and sip our Starbucks while we wait. No pain, no scraped knuckles or grease stains, just a quick stop that let’s others do the work.
Of course the difference is that cars are mechanical, while marriage is between two people with patterns, systems and emotional baggage. Nevertheless, the analogy stands that we must invest in each other and maintain the relationship. Below are a few thoughts, and I invite you to share your own ideas of what has worked for you.
- Talk. Remember the days you used to talk and really listen to each other, actually wanting to get to know everything about them? Now it’s just kids, schedules, work, house, and whatever other warning light is going off. Find time and get back to it.
- Listen. This should really be first on the list because if we don’t listen well we won’t be able to talk and share very effectively. Two things: ask questions, and don’t interrupt in mid-sentence. Seek to understand before you seek to correct, challenge or one-up the other.
- What warning light is going off lately? Are you operating in excessive anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, or some other emotion? Do you know what it is that has triggered or caused this? Have you considered working with a counselor or someone who can help you move out of this place?
- Take the car out for a drive. Get out and do something together that you enjoy. Find and do things that make you laugh, or give you satisfaction and meaning.
- Appreciate and affirm your spouse regularly. This is one I constantly have to work on. This is akin to changing your cars oil regularly, the most important and basic task of maintaining your vehicle. Write her a letter, or challenge yourself to affirm her at least once a day. Tell him you appreciate this or that about him. The lifeblood of marriage is to feel wanted, needed, respected and appreciated. Too often we just critique, blame or shame each other.
Just like a good road trip, all of these take intention and effort. What we put in is what we get out. Here’s to some great road trips ahead!