This is Part 3 of a series. To start at the beginning, click "Wayne Nall Jr" above
7. Great Marriages Have Partners Who Complement Not Compete-We live in an extremely competitive society here in the U.S. Whether in sports, the marketplace, or politics, people are encourage to compete at a high level. You've always got to outdo the other guy. While that may be fine in some arenas, when this competitive attitude leaches out into marriage relationships, it can be deadly. I've observed this spirit in some relationships, and its really sad to see. One partner always feels like he or she has to put down the other. As a result, the other partner has to come back with a zinger, a cutting remark, a disdainful look.
Our culture feeds into this dichotomy. TV Shows, movies, pop and country music, all revel in the classic put-down. When the wife really takes down the husband, that really brings out the laughs. But its a real marriage killer. Rather than compete, great marriages have spouses who complement each other. The dictionary states that the noun "complement" means to be a "thing that completes or brings to perfection." The verb "to complement" means to "add to something in a way that enhances or improves it." (Don't confuse this with "compliment"-although those are nice too!) I think both of these definitions say it well.
Although every marriage is a little different, in almost all cases there are areas where one partner is strong and the other is weaker. You see, the old adage about your marriage partner being "your other half" is really true! A great marriage is one that enhances the strengths of each partner and diminishes the weaknesses. In our case, there are so many examples, but here's one. My wife Kathy is a quick thinker. I kind of plod along. This is why she can beat me to answers when we watch Jeopardy on TV, but I can usually beat her at Scrabble, since it doesn't have a timer. (OK, so we're a little competitive!) In things that really count, I value her superior processing speed, which is one thing that makes her a great nurse and helps if we have some kind of family emergency. She tells me that my more methodical, slow way of evaluating a situation provides a balance to her (very occasional!) tendency to jump to conclusions.
8. Great Marriages Survive The Changing Seasons Of Life- When I hear someone say that my wife (or my husband) just isn't the same person I married, I think "so what?" In a way, none of us are really the same person we were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago that we are today. Circumstances in life certainly change quite often, and these have a tendency to change us in ways that we don't often realize. So you just have to adjust. This has happened multiple times in our marriage. Just this last year, Kathy completed nursing school. I've been so proud of her for being able to fulfill a latent dream that she had since she was a little girl. During her school years, we had to adapt to the demands of her working two part-time jobs while going to nursing school. Now that she has graduated, she is working as a hospital nurse several evenings a week, while I hold down my day job at the tire shop. We may go several days of barely seeing each other. To compensate, we use phone, email, and text to keep in touch. And I've tried to leave her a few little "tokens of love" when she comes in at night, which has meant a lot to her. Which brings me to my final thought...
9. Great Marriages "Keep The Fire Burning!"- When I was reading in Leviticus this morning (yes, there really are good things in Leviticus!), a verse really stood out to me that seems to fit here. Referring to the priestly duties of tending to the altar, it says "The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out,..." (Lev. 6:12). There are many ways to look at this, but one way that I see this is like a marriage altar. In fact, in most weddings, the couple say their vows at an "altar." In a sense, the "marriage fire" is stoked at that place. But, like any fire, if it's not tended to, it just naturally goes out! In ancient Israel, the priest had to stoke the altar fire every morning and every evening. No matter the weather. No matter how he felt. The fire still had to be stoked. The same goes for the "altar of marriage." No matter the season of life, the "marriage fire" has to be tended to. Oh, and by the way, the wife is the one with the thermometer! I can go along thinking that everything is great (I inherited the "clueless" gene from bygone generations of Nall men!), but somewhere along the line I find out from my wife that the gauge on our marriage is reading "Low Fuel." To change the metaphor slightly, I'm about to run our "marriage car" out of gas, and I had no clue! (Oh, here's something else I've found--the fuel that made the car run great yesterday is no good today. But it could take a whole post to explain this one. Maybe later!) So, when I get the "low fuel" sign (or hopefully before it gets that low), I have to find creative ways to stoke the fire. And this goes both ways. My wife has done a far better job than me to "keep the home fires burning." But I'm working on it!
Bottom line on marriage. Being married and walking through life with another person is one of the most rewarding things God has given us to experience in this life. But marriage does not have an autopilot button. Every day of our thirty-plus years together, Kathy and I have enjoyed being married to each other, but we've had to work at it. And if the Lord grants us another thirty years like our friends from church, we'll have to work just as hard at it. But its been worth every minute!