Survive the Five

DSC_5425In the film Gone Girl (with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike), the wife arranged a treasure hunt for her husband in celebration of their fourth wedding anniversary. Interestingly, the last clue led the husband outside their house to the dying rosebush in the backyard. For the wife, it was a symbolic scenario that describes the state of their marriage. Many books and marriage counselors have warned about the risk of fading romantic relationship between a husband and a wife as years of being together becomes longer.

I’ve been married for five years and our first five years was a year of basic testing. Our relationship as husband and wife has experienced stages that generally tested – our willingness to adjust and reconcile over small disagreements, how we keep up with economic downturns, our forbearance as new parents, our bond as a couple against all odds and people, how we balance work, ministry and family and our individual relationship with God.

Today, it seems like many couples focus on survival. Television shows and stories that I hear would talk about how to keep your spouse from looking for another man or woman and fall out of love, or about ways and steps to keep the love alive. The focus of marriage seems to have shifted into “preventing break-ups” instead of “moving forward towards growth and intimacy”. “Love” which is the foundation of marriage seems to have become like a relative thing that changes its nature according to different situations.

The five years of being married to my wife, despite trials and difficulties, is still the best years of my life. We are on the road towards growth and intimacy, and it’s only by the grace of God that we are on that way. In those years, I’ve had some difficult troubles. Trouble that might have caused me to snap, turn the opposite way or give up. I don’t know how long these troubles may stay and I I’ve realized I may not be as strong as I think. There is only one thing for sure that might help me get through all these in the coming years – my relationship with God. A real, serious genuine relationship. Without it, these five major inner struggles would be so difficult or impossible to survive.

Mike & Gang

Mike & Gang

Five Struggles:

[1] The Humdrum Routine:
Married life is not a routine. It is not some kind of work process to analyze and maintain the best practice to keep things in good quality. For instance, there are different appropriate ways to react in the same mood. When in little disagreement, a snickers bar doesn’t always turn a mood to normal, and when missing to arrive on an agreed time, a smooth talk or good reason isn’t always needed. Saying sorry is accepted at times, but not all the time. Partnership is not a routine. Routine makes a relationship dull and boring. There has been an expression that says, “Familiarity breeds contempt”, and wherever that started from, most would say that familiarity and lack of variety tends to make someone uninterested. I cannot say that I am consistently doing what I say and there’s indeed a lot that I need to learn yet. I have known what routine does and I make it one of my goals to learn how to not keep one. From time to time, a surprising act is enough to keep the vibes alive and swinging.

[2] The Destructive Thoughts:
Good thoughts bring good things and dangerous thoughts bring dangerous results. Every words and actions are conceived in the mind, it is then important to be positive towards every situation. What you think about your spouse can break or build you. However, choosing what to think is difficult to do and when you drift to a bad one – it’s a real hard experience to go through. For the last five years, these thoughts has gripped me.

> Thoughts that I haven’t done enough as a husband and a father. Being the man of the house is a great responsibility. The responsibility to provide the basic needs of a family is a primary burden of a man. Though many women today also have jobs that are even paid better, a greater weight is placed on the shoulder of a man. He must be the major provider. These thoughts has been tiring me for the past years and have crushed my ego. It is important to not

> Thoughts that I might get stucked to where I am. This one has brought a terrible fear within me. Not being able to improve and perform according to my spouse’s expectation when we got married is a difficult thought to tend in the mind.

> Negative thoughts that I think my spouse thinks about.
– That I am a loser
– That life us better if married to somebody else.
– That it’s better to have not married at all

Anyhow, our thoughts are our response to the changes or activities around us. I believe that we can choose what to think – to either focus on the positive or the negative things. It is a difficult process to go through but if I succeed at changing my thought patterns, I will be saving a lot of my strength that are wasted from worry, frustration and depression.

[3] The Tyranny of Money:
Money is among the top five reasons of a couple’s conflict. It plays a major role in a relationship. The abundance of it, or the lack if it both tests the bond between couples. Many causes of conflicts and separation of married couples has something to do with financial matters. Many needs of a human can now be bought with money, and even the ways how we express love and romance can be heightened with things and/or experience that are paid. I often wonder, because expressing your love in free simple ways is not always enough to sustain the harmony. Many would say that love is better expressed not through words but through action, and sometimes through things that satisfies a person to a higher degree. A small liveable house can please a person, but a bigger and fully furnished house with more amenities will please a person even more. Though a simple house may seem enough, there is a difference between simple and great in the degree of convenience and pride that it brings. And worse, the desire of it, if not met brings disappointment and discontentment. For women whose primary need is security and assurance, affluence sometimes help sustain and fulfill the need of security, besides a spouse’s constant presence, time and daily honest expression of his love. Some spouses feel secure when there’s a sure bank account with considerable amount in it. In the game SIMS, the degree of a person’s satisfaction is dependent upon the kind of things acquired. For instance a kitchen stuff acquired with a higher value gives greater fulfillment rate when used by the person. This is the tyranny of money. To survive the five, let no amount of money govern the relationship.

[4] The Dying Romance:
For some couples, they say that the peak of romance gradually slides down after few months or years of marriage. The degree of fascination to each other, intense physical love and expression of affection lessens as couples grow older. Some couples claim that they are able to keep the romantic relationship up while some confess that they don’t. It appears for some that, the busy schedules, stress at work, presence of a child and other priorities that keep the couples apart contribute to the declining romance. Keeping the balance between work, family and other things is a skill that must be learned and consciously thought about every single day. For some, not having the time and inattention due to other perceived priorities kills the romance.

Some easy activities to do:
– A dinner once a week or twice a month for a private talk.
– Texts with “I love You’s” and flirtatious statements
– Compliments for your spouse’s look, dress or changes made on herself/himself.
– Appreciation for all your spouse’s efforts over anything.
– Quality Jokes in between conversations
– Show support for things that your spouse is passionate about
– Buy your spouse’s favourite chocolate or dessert on your way from work

Sex is one of the factors in a dying romance. I think that there should be proper communication and coordination between spouses.
Oftentimes, a spouse’s sexual drive is at its peak when the other is tired or not in the mood. This often causes the silent struggles of couples which if not settled triggers infidelity.

[5] The Bitter Words
Healthy communication helps build the foundation of a relationship. I think that strong bond develops not by the sweetness or optimism of words spoken but by its consistency with one’s action, honest acceptance of faults and forgiveness. Inconsistency between words and action brings forth bitter words from each spouse’s lips. Regrettably, bitter words between spouses is inevitable unless both are perfect, and bitterness is better to be spoken than kept inside for a long time. If I am right, there can be degree of tolerance to how much one can take until the heart becomes stronger or callous against bitter words. Somehow, the acceptance that there is no perfect person helps other couples get by – This I think defines what love must be. Not that the other person is who he is – an absolute imperfect being, but a person who is undergoing a chiseling of character. In the biblical perspective, a genuine Christian undergoes a process of becoming like Christ which will be fully achieved when Jesus Christ returns.

Bitter words hurt. A lot. But true love, loves. Love will love no matter how bitter, words may be.

Beyond Five Years.
When I married my fiancé five years ago, a line in my vow contains the phrase, “There is nothing you say or do, that I will not forgive… By the grace of God, I will always love you…”
One thing that I believe will help our marriage last beyond five years, is our relationship and devotion to God that is constantly nurtured with His word, our prayer and commitment to serve Him.