Surviving Marriage

Me and Dean at Fort Mackinac, Michigan, June 2018

Two are better than one. – Ecclesiastes 4:9 ESV

It’s been three weeks since Dean retired. After decades of being home alone all day, suddenly I have him around 24/7.

I’m loving every minute of it. We’re settling into a nice routine. The biggest adjustment has been wearing my hearing aids all day instead of just in the evenings ­– a huge change for me. I like my world quiet.

But seeing the exasperated look on his face when I asked “what?” every time he said something made me realize if I want to have a long, healthy marriage in these retirement years, I’d better up my game.

DH is an easy man to get along with. He’s patient, kind, sometimes forgetful, sometimes too practical (“red neck” might be a better term), and almost always puts me first. The closest we ever come to fighting is when I try to pry out of him where he wants to eat out.

His answer is always, “Wherever (or whatever) you want. If you’re happy, I’m happy.”

Okay, I can settle for that.

On his wedding day, my oldest son texted me these words: “I finally have what I saw growing up in you and Dad.”

I never realized we were being an example to our kids. I was just trying to survive.

But we’ve more than survived marriage. We’ve thrived.

Me and Dean, December 22, 1973

In 45 years, I’ve learned a few things that have contributed to the difference between “survive” and “thrive.”

First, I’ve learned the importance of communication. Of listening to what he says and what he doesn’t say. Of listening with not just my four ears, but my heart. I’ve learned the wisdom of Proverbs 18:13 and James 1:19, but it’s still hard not to jump in with my two cents or finish his sentences.

I’ve learned to talk things over with him and include him in the decision-making, especially with finances. I value his input and don’t feel as though I’m carrying the burden all by myself.

It took me a long time, but I’ve learned to control my anger. I used to be a rage monster. But God lovingly worked on and in me.

I’ve learned the importance of forgiveness, both giving it and asking for it. Offenses can be intentional, unintentional, and perceived. I’ve learned to get over it. Dwelling on things, stewing, simmering eventually leads to the pot of bitterness boiling over. Once again, prayer is the key.

Which brings me to probably the most important lesson of all: the value of prayer. Daily, consistent, persistent, spontaneous prayer. I pray for Dean every day. I pray for our relationship, circumstances, situations, and issues we’re dealing with. I pray for myself – that I would be the wife he needs, the helper suitable for him.

I like the way the Amplified version expands on the word “helper” in Genesis 2:18. A helper is one who balances the other, a counterpart who is suitable for and completes the other person, who brings out his good qualities.

January 2016

And finally, I’ve learned what love is all about. It’s keeping the romance alive. It’s not taking him for granted. It’s noticing and showing appreciation for the little things. It’s taking time for and with each other, doing something fun together.

And it’s wearing my hearing aids when he’s around . . . funny, but now I rather like my world a bit noisier. 

Lord, help me to be the person my spouse needs. Help me truly to be the other half of a whole You have ordained. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ecclesiastes 4:9–12; Genesis 2:18–24.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

 

Auto-INcorrect

Listen before you answer. – Proverbs 18:13 GNT

Modern technology is wonderful. I can now keep in touch with my kids, who live in various states, and my brother in Alabama on a daily basis. I can send and receive pictures, memes, messages. I can encourage, remind, inform.

What I can’t do is deal with a frustrating software function on my phone that changes my words while I’m typing. It’s called “autocorrect.”

While its purpose is to correct common spelling and typing errors and save time, it doesn’t always save time and it doesn’t always correct correctly. Hence I’ve dubbed it “autoINcorrect” because a good deal of the time it changes the word to one I didn’t intend.

I admit, my fat fingers fly on the tiny keyboard and often hit the wrong key, but I’m perfectly capable of noticing and correcting my own mistakes. After all, I’m a writer, editor, and former English teacher. I know my grammar – so well one of my editing clients calls me a “Grammar Nazi.”

So I’m more than irked when Otto Korreck (another name I dubbed the irritating function) changes my words and hence the meaning. How dare it! I know what I intend to say. Otto doesn’t. Otto only thinks he knows what I intend to say.

One day while retyping and resending a message – and grumbling about the time wasted correcting Otto’s mistake – it hit me: I can be like Otto.

I, too, can misinterpret what another person is saying because I assume what the other person means. I don’t listen. I’ve tuned them out because my mind is reviewing the story I want to tell (related to what the other person is saying, of course) when he pauses long enough for me to jump in with my two cents.

I act like I’m listening. I nod, murmur appropriate phrases to show my (fake) sympathy or understanding. But my mind is all but truly listening.

Listening is different than hearing.

Hearing happens. We hear sounds all the time – the dishwasher running, a neighborhood dog barking (or cow mooing), traffic on the road, wind chimes. Some we block out; some we stop and listen to.

Listening is a conscious act that you choose to do. It requires concentration and time to allow your mind to process the sounds.

My mother was good at hearing but not truly listening. It irked me to no end because I just needed someone to listen (and commiserate). I didn’t need the preaching and teaching session she launched into when I was done. I wondered if she really heard and understood what I was saying. She was too busy preparing her message to really listen to me.

Do I do the same? Do I only hear other people and not truly listen to them?

Listening involves the heart. Listening involves shutting off my mind to the stories and things I want to say. Listening means putting the other person’s needs first. After all, it isn’t about me.

The person probably doesn’t need me trying to fix her problem. She just wants to vent. She just needs someone to listen with compassion and sympathy, someone to squeeze her hand or give her a hug.

In his epistle, James tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).

The Amplified version expands the meaning and tells us to be careful, thoughtful listeners, and when we do speak, to carefully choose our words so they show we’re reflecting on what was said (and thus listening).

Don’t be another Otto Korreck. Listen with your heart.

Remind me, Lord, that I have two ears and one mouth. Help me to use them to minister to others. Amen.

Read and meditate on Philippians 2:3–4.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.