There is a neighborhood I travel with wide, tree-shaded streets. It seems a straight shot with few stop signs. The home owners association decided to install speed bumps to slow the traffic down. Thumping over them is not pleasant. But it does make you brake. It can also jostle your lower back. Ouch.
Throughout our lives, our marriages can experience speed bumps. A new baby takes the focus off you as a couple now that you have the responsibility to care for this helpless, wiggly joy. Husbands can become jealous, feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, and long for the more carefree, spontaneous days. When their wives were pregnant, they puffed out their chests with the “Look what I did” grin. Now they watch this helpless babe in her arms and see college looming, grown-up accountability and someone being dependent upon them. They are no longer the primary focus of their wives, or anyone else who sees the baby. They sigh, “Look what I did!”
Us women? Well our load has quadrupled once the kids enter the picture. We are walking zombies facing 2am feedings, extra laundry, sterilizing everything, and having that sweet bundle demand the stuffing out of us 24/7. Plus, many of the old demands are still there?job, house, husband, church.
Next speed bump – career moves. It may be one of the couple has suddenly escalated in their company while the other is left in their humdrum job. The extra income is nice, but the extra demands are not. Or maybe one of you has been downsized and is out of work. Maybe the wife has to go to work for the first time, or someone has to find a second job to make ends meet. That means lees time together as a family. Perhaps, one of your jobs requires a move to another city away from family, friends and familiarity. The one with the job who caused the move has instant settling-in. They are the center of attention and in the midst of the “brand newness excitement”. The other is left with unpacking boxes and deciding where to put everything, possibly job hunting as well, and having no friends. Change is unsettling and starting over is difficult. Remember how the Hebrews in the wilderness longed again for Egypt? Thump.
Divorce can be a tremendous speed bump?even when it is not yours. A sibling, coworker, or worse your close friend, heads down that road as you watch. It can do one of two things?make you appreciate what you have in your marriage or question it. How do you combat the negativity that is hanging in the air? The one going through the divorce wants you to come along with them because misery loves company.
Death is a major speed bump. It can be of a grandparent, a parent, a close friend or even your child. Many couples do not survive the sorrow, the depression, the change and the refocus. Often times we marry people who are like our parents. Men tend to seek women like their mothers and women search for men who resemble their father’s personality. When that parent is no longer around, the constant reminder of the similarity can put enough stress on the foundation of a marriage to crack it. The death of a child brings out grieving in different ways, and each is going through the stages at a unique rate. The one you turned to for support and emotional strength suddenly is impotent to give it because they are hurting as well. It can be a very lonely time.
When the kids leave the nest, it can be a similar thing. The whole focus of the marriage can shift, just like the ground in an earthquake. It can rock your relationship. Men and women feel “age” coming on, and wonder if they are attractive anymore. You suddenly realize the foundation of your togetherness was your focus on the kids, their needs and schedules. One may be depressed while the other is ready to jump back into “it’s finally just me and you” couple-ness.
Retirement?oh, is that a major bump in the road. More like the road is yanked from underneath you. If your career defined you, who are you now? What do you do with your time after the initial month or so of blessed “do-nothing-ness” becomes routine or after you have ticked off all the boxes on the “I wanted to do that for a long time” list? And how are your finances working?
How do you handle the bumps in the road of life?Slow down. Use them as a time to reflect on yourself, your relationship as a couple, and where God is leading you. Jesus said He was the Way and the Truth (John14:6). No matter what is looming ahead in the road of your life, if you keep your eyes on Him, He will guide you over the bumps, around the potholes, and even gear your speed when the pavement is smooth.
If you focus only on the bumps, you will become frustrated. Focus instead on them as a tap on the shoulder to slow down, regroup and reassess where your attention lies. God said He would make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:6, Isaiah 42:16), not that He’d remove the bumps along the way. Life is bumpy.
Above all else, remember when you made those vows, you made then not just to each other but to God. When He is the center of your marriage, it is the best shock absorber you can have. The bumps will still be there, but the jostling will be a lot less painful on the backbone of your marriage. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:30.
Follow one couple’s heart-felt, and at times humorous, journey over the bumps of middle age, empty nest and the death of parents in the novel Focused available at www.juliebcosgrove.com. in paperback and Kindle Thanks!