While in prayer this morning, the Lord brought to my attention while specifically praying for my husband, the separation of Al and Tipper Gore. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Romantic-At-Heart and a sucker for Marriage, so when I read yesterday that they were separating after 40 years of marriage, my heart was a little sad. The Bible speaks of TWO becoming ONE, so how did these two become two again? To be honest, I don’t know. There could be a number of reasons, but what I do know is what God has put together, let no man put asunder. You see, Marriage is great but it is hard work. It takes work to make a marriage and keep a marriage. I also know that as we transition and change, because we do if you didn’t know, in a marriage, we have to make the concerted effort to transition and change TOGETHER. Which I will make the assumption to say may not have happened with Al and Tipper. I know I am not the same person my husband met over 7 years ago, or married almost 4 years ago come this August. But how is that you might ask? Well I might ask you, are you the same person you were 1, 5 or 10 years ago? I would hope not! You change, evolve and transition. Even human development has developmental stages that we go through, physically, mentally, emotionally and even socially.
So then….after 40 years, how do you grow apart? or Better yet, let’s speak from a pro-active and preventative state….How do you grow together after 40 years and maintain the ONENESS that Genesis chapter 2 speaks of ‘and the TWO shall become ONE‘. Well I will share with you what I have learned over the years of watching my parents of 41 years of marriage, friends and other family members who are still married and some who are not. Here are a few things to keep in mind for those of you married and in transition and those of you who desire to be married…
Communicate: This is pretty self-explanatory, but for the sake of those of you reading this that THINK they are communicating, but you are the only who knows what you are thinking, here goes. Communication is SO IMPORTANT in any relationship. Many times we assume that a person is SUPPOSED TO KNOW what we are thinking. NOT! We are not mind readers. My husband tells me that all the time. Even I sometimes think that just because we have been together for so many years, he is just supposed to know what I like or want. For some things YES, but for everything else NOT! Develop a system of openness early on so that it’s not like chewing rocks when you finally decide to do it years later, difficult and hard to swallow. Communication takes work. Especially if you’ve grown up in an environment where communicating was yelling or holding everything in until you exploded or not saying anything at all and getting mad when the person didn’t know what you were saying or thinking. Talk to your spouse like you would a friend and vice versa. Be open enough to take the constructive criticism or as they say EAT the FROG. The FROG is that hard thing that you have been avoiding but need to say, do or address. Take time throughout the day to engage your honey in conversation. Ask how their day was, let them talk without you interrupting every 5 seconds to get a word in and most importantly, LISTEN. Communication is not always what is said, but how you listen intuitively as well as watching body language. The most important things are sometimes said through body language.
Recognize and acknowledge the change: There is a saying that says…Feel the fear and do it anyway. Well feel the change or transition and EMBRACE IT! Don’t act as if its’ not happening. Don’t ignore the signs. Just like there are signs when the seasons change, there are signs when you are transitioning to your next level in life. Agree to allow your spouse enough room to become who God has purposed for them to be. Don’t box them into statements like…’You’re not the man/woman I married…‘ Well I should hope not and why would you expect them to be. HOW SELFISH! Because aren’t the person they first married. Even the seasons don’t remain the same. The summer we are not experiencing this year is nothing like the summer we had last year. The only thing besides change that remains constant is God. Malachi 3:6 says, ‘I am the Lord, I change not.’ As Paula White says, you can’t conquer what you don’t confront and you can’t confront what you don’t identify. Identify the change, confront the fear of change if need be and then conquer that fear of the unknown and walk in freedom TOGETHER.
Be Flexible, Adaptable and Teachable: Are you flexible enough to twist and turn with the winds and waves of marriage or any relationship? Are you able to adapt when things don’t turn out the way you planned? What are you willing to learn from the everyday experiences throughout your marriage? Please do not be naive, there WILL be some twists and turns, some things will NOT turn out the way you had hoped, wished or planned and it will be at that point that you will have to decide what you can take from that situation to become better not bitter. Some people use these twists, turns, transitions to bail out, but my question to you is not whether you can weather the physical storms (the storms you can see) in your marriage and life, but what about the emotional, spiritual, psychological, financial, mental or quiet storms (the storms you can’t see). What do you do then? You see, AL and Tipper have parted ways amicably. There wasn’t an affair or any abuse (that we know of). They just GREW APART. Don’t get so caught up in the comfort of success that you forget to check to see how things are going and if you two are on the right track. Just because there aren’t any winds and waves, doesn’t mean all is well.
Develop a Family Plan/Vision Board: Plan your lives TOGETHER! Talk through and write your goals out. How does where you desire to go work within your marriage goals together. Include your spouse in your life goals and plans. Communicate when change occurs. You may realize that what you have been doing is no longer working. Communication is essential for this step. You must be comfortable enough with your spouse to work together to set goals together and to review the goals to see what didn’t work and why. This is where you can discuss where you want to be and how you would like to get there. Genesis 2 also mentions that Adam and Eve were ‘naked and not ashamed.’ There must be a transparency and openness in the relationship, so that you both feel comfortable enough to have the hard talks about the changes and transitions you are going through. Research has shown that many couples wait until their children are grown and out of college to separate. They feel they’ve served their purpose as parents ans have now since grown apart to live separate lives. Don’t let raising your children be the only success story of your marriage.
Be INTENTIONAL about Pleasing your Spouse: Many times we get so caught up in focusing on ‘ME’, which there isn’t anything wrong with, that we forget that marriage is about sacrifice and pleasing your wife or husband as demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 7:32-32. Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-way street. Both parties must FULLY participate in pleasing one another, not only sexually, but emotionally, spiritually, mentally, etc. Things get sketchy when only one mate is being pleased, satisfied, and valued. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman discusses five ways that people communicate love. Make sure whatever you do for your spouse, is communicated through their love language and not yours. If they enjoy acts of service, but you enjoy physical touch, do something nice for them even if it’s not what YOU would like. However, they should communicate to you through hugs, kisses, hand holding, etc. Also, if you have children, make sure you take time out for just the two of you to enjoy one another. If you put so much time into your children, they become your only reason and purpose for living or existing. Nip this in the BUD immediately. Take date nights, let your children see the two of you spending time together alone; holding hands, going on dates, being intimate, etc. You want to model for your children the behaviors and attitudes that you display. Set the example for your children and those around you.
Seek HELP: Last but certainly not least, if what was suggested above isn’t working, you may need to seek help on how to get back on track. As a counselor in training, I thoroughly believe in asking for help. Now I have not always been the first to ask for help, but years and experience have shown be that sometimes a different perspective is all you need to open you up to a new way of seeing things. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness and it doesn’t make you less of a person. You may need to seek professional help, talk to a friend or a couple who you may refer to for advice or counsel, or talk to your clergy. Sometimes, your issue is so deeply embedded that you need someone to mediate and possibly help identify what’s really going on. But all in all you must be willing to identify, confront and conquer once you know what the issue it. Don’t act as if it’s not as bad as it seems. Deal with it or it WILL deal with you!
Now keep in mind that I do understand that everything happens for a reason and some people who get married, do separate and divorce. Furthermore, there are others that should have never gotten married in the first place. Moreover, I also understand that somewhere along the way for some, it is easier to walk instead of work. This may not apply to everyone reading this, so if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.
Until Next Time…
SPEAK Life & Be TRUE
©2010 by Detra M. Trueheart. All Rights Reserved. Detra M. Trueheart, Speaker, Coach, and Consultant, is the founder of TrueheartSpeaks Enterprises.