Changes in your marriage can throw you for a loop…
It’s quickly approaching fall time as I write this. I look out my front door and see the first signs of yellowing aspens far up on the shoulder of the mountains. When it comes to the seasons, I like change.
I like the crisp feelings of fall time, the cozy feel of winter, and the exciting feeling of new life that accompanies spring. Summer… well, it’s just plain, old fun!
But when it comes to the seasons I face in my marriage, I have a harder time enjoying the changes that come.
Life is constantly changing
Life brings change. I can’t get around it. I think of my 24 years of marriage and can see a few immediate, distinct seasons…
- the honeymoon years
- the joys of being new parents
- those early “get established” years of my early employment
- the challenges of being parents of more than one child
- the toddler years
- the busy-ness of those “primary” years
- for me, there were the “ministry” years as a Pastor
- being a parent of children of multiple ages & stages
- puberty (for my kids)
- young adulthood (teenage years)
- my first adult children
- my first grandchild
- now we’re facing a new stage that I don’t even know how to identify…
Marriage is full of change
The bullet list above is an example of how life forces us to adapt. But there are other examples. One of the most important for the subject of marriage is this: people change.
As individuals, we learn. We grow. We see things in new ways. We change our opinions. We change our preferences.
But it’s more than simply changing our opinions, we also change because the events and circumstances of life have a lasting impact on us. Others wound us. Disappointments upset our expectations. Our youthful dreams are tempered by the harsh realities of living in a fallen world. These types of things shape us too… they change us on the inside.
Not only does life change, WE change.
Change can upset your marriage
Part of our dysfunction as human beings is that we resist change… I think, because it brings insecurity. As I’ve looked at my own response to life I see a pattern that makes change especially hard…
- I learn ways of coping/living with the way life is.
- I settle into those patterns.
- I begin to depend on them.
- When something threatens them, I resist change.
That’s pretty natural (I think)… but what happens when the changes life is bringing are changes to the PERSON you married?
Practically, here’s how it could look if I’m not careful…
- I’ll try to deal with my wife as I always have, but…
- My habitual responses to her present-day problems will become increasingly out-of-touch and unhelpful.
- I’ll expect things of her that she’s incapable of doing anymore.
- My expectations could become a limiting, unfair boundary.
- She might feel more and more misunderstood.
- As a result, I could unintentionally communicate a dislike of her.
But there’s another side to this complex equation… I have changed too.
I don’t deal with things as I used to. I don’t see them the same way as before. My opinions, attitudes, outlook, and approach to life have all been tempered and twisted into the new “me” that exists today.[pullquote position=”right”]My new “me,” and her new “me,” can easily come into conflict because neither of us are used to the other.[/pullquote]
The answer is not divorce… the answer is to learn how to love each other, all over again.
Dealing with changes in your marriage
Here’s how I’m learning to deal with changes in my marriage:
- I’m learning to accept that changes in my marriage are good… like the seasons. New things are on the horizon, and God is working them for our good (Romans 8:28).
- I’m trying to see my “new wife” through the lens of where we’ve been together thus far. The joys and sorrows of our mutual experience help me better understand who she’s become and who she’s becoming.
- I’m trying to listen with new ears… to push away my assumptions about how she thinks and feels. I want to hear from her in brand new ways so that I can understand the new things the LORD is doing in her through the seasons of life He’s taking her through.
- I’m attempting to be honest with myself and with my wife about the changes God has been working in me.
- I’m trying to let go of my “tried and true” tactics of relating so that I can learn to be what she needs from me now, in THIS season of life.
- I’m asking the LORD to give me understanding of her, day by day (1 Peter 3:7).
- I’ve decided to hold her – a lot. I don’t want the awkwardness of change to make her feel like we are being pushed away from each other.