When Turbulence Hits
When Turbulence Hits
Holding on when things get tough
I am writing this a few days after getting back from an amazing weekend away with my husband. A blissful 48 hours of romance, relaxation and fun with my best friend. The hotel was gorgeous and the food was amazing but that wasn’t what made the weekend so special. I know this for a fact as we went to the same hotel last year and I didn’t love it quite so much. Because 12 months ago we weren’t doing so well. We’d somehow lost our friendship, lost sight of why we’d chosen the other, and we both felt swallowed up by the demands of parenthood and life as a whole. Our marriage had hit some turbulence (and not for the first time).
We know that when we’re in an airplane flying thousands of feet above the earth, turbulence is normal. When we’re headed off on a lovely holiday, cruising along, munching on a snack and watching a film on a tiny screen, we don’t get worried if the plane gives a little shudder and we feel like we’ve dropped a few feet. We expect a bit of turbulence.
But I don’t think I ever expected turbulence in my marriage. I remember ringing my mum during the first year of our marriage, worried there was something wrong because we hadn’t laughed for a few days. If that freaked me out (and it did) nothing prepared me for the first time we hit an ‘air pocket’ and plummeted a few hundred feet. That was in the year after our first child was born. We were both sleep deprived, stressed, out of our comfort zone and instead of pulling together we pulled apart. We are different in nearly every way possible and while this can be balancing and energising, when life got tough we forgot to enjoy these differences. We stopped communicating, we misunderstood each other over minor and major issues, and our friendship that had once seemed so strong felt like a hazy mirage – had we just imagined the amazing connection we had in the early days?!
I thought we were going under; we looked like we were going to crash. So we started calling ‘help!’ We rang some friends (older and wiser, whose marriage had stood the test of time) and told them our relationship was shaky. They helped us to see that what we were facing is normal and that every marriage hits difficulties. They helped us to start communicating again and gave us new tools to go forward with.
Everything was great for a year or two and then we had our second child and once again we nose-dived. Only this time it was worse. The things we’d learned last time round went out of the window and we were both in our own personal world of pain and confusion. We genuinely feared we wouldn’t make it through. In the middle of that we went away for our (not so) romantic break. It’s not easy pretending to relax and have fun when there is no escape, no child or general busyness to hide behind. The weekend was an expensive disaster!
But thankfully things didn’t stay bad. The change came when we both got so miserable that the truth had to come out – so we started talking again. We had stopped communicating in any real way, and both of us had been swallowed up in our own tiredness, dissatisfaction and fear. After that weekend away everything came to the surface. It was painful. Speaking my unhappiness out loud was hard. Hearing my husband’s was harder. But it was the beginning of things turning around. We didn’t only talk to each other, we broke the silence with our closest friends and let them in on our pain. Their support and prayers helped enormously.
At the time one of those friends reminded us (and we really did need reminding) that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with our marriage, we just needed to remember to communicate. That felt far too simplistic but it was, of course, true. Communication is the most basic and important key to the health of our marriage and ultimately to our happiness. Without it we shrink back into isolation. Communication keeps us a team, talking bonds and re-bonds us; and chatting things through leads to laughter, understanding, and a sense of being ‘known’ and ‘in it together’.
As we’re only seven years into our marriage, I’m sure there are many other lessons we will learn in the future, for now we’ve learnt that turbulence is normal. We don’t need to panic and think we’re going to crash with every rough patch but we do need to go back to some of the basics if we want our marriage to fly. Here are some of the things we’ve picked that have helped us:
• Talk – to each other and to others
• Pray – together and for one another
• Make time for fun – not only the big once-a-year treats but in every day ways
• Connect over the everyday – we’ve found that a great time to talk is while we’re doing chores together. Doing the fairly mindless tasks of cooking dinner, tidying the house, and folding the laundry together means we can catch up on our days and share our concerns in the midst of the mundane, giving us a vital opportunity to connect.
• Encourage one another in every way possible
• Accept and celebrate your differences
• Don’t expect to feel in love all of the time. Commitment overrides romance most days
• Enjoy reminiscing – purposefully reliving fun and happy memories is energising and a helpful reminder of good times when life is feeling tough
For us the fantastic weekend away we’ve just enjoyed was a great opportunity for so much of the above, but all of them are possible in the everyday. In the midst of normality we need to choose togetherness. I’m sure we will hit turbulence again; life is full of highs and lows and a marriage will experience the rises and falls that follow. We’ve learned that whether things are great or really hard we must keep communicating. So when turbulence hits, buckle up, take the hand of the person next to you and hold tight. It will pass but not without learning (and re-learning) to talk.
Ali is on the leadership team of Soul Survivor and its associated church Soul Survivor Watford. Check out her two books ‘Loud & Clear’ and ‘Heart to Heart’: http://shop.soulsurvivor.com/products?search_api_views_fulltext=ali%20ma...
You can also check out some of her talks from Momentum events here: http://shop.soulsurvivor.com/seminars-talks