Sometimes providence presents you with such an obvious image of some deeper reality, you have to sit up and take notice. This past weekend was one such occasion for Jim and me. We were spending a delightful day at the lake with friends, watching the kids swim and tube. Our friends asked if we, the hubby and I, wanted a turn tubing. I jumped at the chance and committed us both. Recently the kids have reached a level of independence that has allowed me to resume my place in the participants’ category, after years on the sidelines with the other breastfeeding, baby-growing, nap-supervising onlookers. Maybe this explains my disproportionate enthusiasm for clinging to a glorified life raft while being dragged around behind a fast-moving boat. I was giddy with freedom. It quickly became apparent that my husband and I, while being compatible in more ways than I can count, have very different approaches when it comes to tubing. I was all for throwing caution to the wind, jumping the wake and wildly swinging ourselves from one side to the other. He was for digging in, sticking to the middle and just hanging on. Despite our difference in technique, we had a great time but I think each of us was a bit frustrated with the other, feeling as though our partner in life was working against rather than with us. Jim says I am overanalyzing, but isn’t that what he has me around for? So here are some marital truisms I picked up along our bump ride. Maybe you can relate to or learn from our experience.
Number One: Neither one of you is going to be entirely comfortable. Know this from the get go and make the best of it. In marriage, as in tubing, you are two people occupying one space. Someone’s elbow will occasionally be in the other’s face. That’s just the way the tube bounces. Don’t look at the other person and assume that they have more freedoms or privileges than you. Don’t accuse them of unjustly taking advantage of you. This usually results in them pointing out all the ways you unjustly take advantage of them. Unless you are being pushed off the raft altogether, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, hold on and try to keep from knocking the other person’s teeth out.
Number Two: Decide upon a generally agreed upon philosophy or approach before you are in motion. Once the momentum of marriage is going, there is little time for adjustment. Of course, you can shift places and do things on the fly but this generally involves a great deal more effort once you are underway than it does before things get rolling. While Jim and I did not do this on the lake, we did do this early on in our relationship. These guiding principles have evolved through the years but we still refer back to them to make sure we are living up to our commitment to one another.
Number Three: Someone will get tired and fall off the raft. Don’t panic. Just hold on and the boat will come around to pick them up again. In our relationship, and in tubing, this is generally me. I don’t jump ship in the sense of running away or breaking my commitment. I just get tired and emotional, go off the deep end (the nautical metaphors are endless!) and need time to come back to the surface. Jim has learned over the years to just let me go, stay calm and everything will be okay. No need for both of us plunge head first into Crazytown. His serenity highlights my irrationality and brings me back around sooner than if he went in after me.
Number Four: Remember who is really in charge. The fact that I can lean hard and move us toward the wake or that Jim can drag his feet deep into the surf and keep us toward the middle makes it feel like we are co-captains but in reality it is the person driving the boat who is in control. He can whip us around or keep things nice and easy but in the end we are at His mercy and not each other’s. I know I can trust Jim and I hope he feels the same way about me, but in the end I know that I don’t have to cling to him for my ultimate safety. It makes things a lot less scary in marriage and in life. With this thought in mind, in good times or in bad, in the smooth waters or in the rough, I can sit back and enjoy the ride.