Saturday, February 6, 2016

Dr. Spouse

by Andrew Cromwell

According to the statistics, most people will marry at some point in their life and the vast majority of people prefer being paired up with someone else versus living single. Of course, what is often ironic about that fact is that one of the more frequent questions we ask ourselves once we do get married is, “what was I thinking?” The old adage, “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them” seems to apply all too frequently.

We are wired for relationships -- God built it into our DNA. We can’t get around it. And there is something deeply satisfying when we find that sweet spot in a marriage relationship where we are able to love and be loved and do life together. Almost all of us look at those marriages that have stood the test of time -- people married for 40, 50, and even 60 years -- and want to know, “How did they do it?”

And while there are exceptions, most of these long term marriages seem to have figured out a secret and all of us who would desire that kind of success, desperately want to know what that secret is. How do we make it through the ups and downs of life and still find the other person fascinating?

The answer, or at least one of the answers, to this question, as is often the case, is incredibly simple to understand but will take a lifetime to master. If you want to make it work with your spouse in a way that is magical, then you have to be willing to be a lifetime learner. You have to become a student of your spouse. You have to be willing to study them so well, that you become a Ph.D. in the subject of that singular person that you are married to.

More often than not, marriages fail, not because two people are incompatible, but because they are unwilling. They are unwilling to do the difficult work of figuring each other out. And what is worse, they assume that once they have “figured out their spouse”, they can rest easy. This is a problem because people keep changing throughout the course of their life -- they are not fixed subjects that can be put under glass and studied with a microscope. Rather, they are living, breathing entities that are constantly changing and adjusting. Becoming an expert in this kind of subject takes a lot of time, energy, and effort.

I enjoy watching nature documentaries about exotic animals that are difficult to find. Creatures that only come out at night or live in the remotest of places. Animals that are so rare that sometimes they are thought to be extinct. To capture footage of such creatures is an incredible feat. The camera crew, often just a single individual, must be willing to put in hours of patient study, frequently in extremely difficult conditions, just to get a few seconds of material. And yet they are pleased to wait because they consider the animal worth it.

If only we would be so patient with our spouses! All too often, we are unwilling to wait, unwilling to put in the time, unwilling to go through the difficult conditions to capture the opportunity to truly “see” them. People don’t reveal their inner secrets easily. Real intimacy comes at a price, but often we are unwilling to pay. But for those that pay the price, they get understanding. And with understanding comes great benefits.

So the next time you are frustrated with your spouse and are contemplating throwing in the towel, maybe first you need to ask yourself, “have I really put in the time and effort?” Do I really have a Ph.D. in this subject or have I settled for something less? Am I still a student and a lifetime learner or have I become bored and complacent?

It might be time to pick up the books again! Your spouse is one of the most fascinating people on the planet -- or have you forgotten?

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