In the part of the country where I live, autumn is beginning its transition to winter. Nighttime temperatures have been below freezing several times over the past few weeks, and I don’t remember the last time our daytime temps have been even as high as 60. I’ve finally put away my open-toed shoes, and I’ve been reminded of the comfort of flannel sheets.
What a rotten time to discover that our furnace didn’t work.
We tried all sorts of things. We did the obvious and easy stuff—flipping switches and checking to be sure nothing was loose. This didn’t work. Our son with electronics experience knew that he could replace the ignition control (I had to ask my husband what this part was called, as I was just going to call it a box with a bunch of wires), so we bought a nice space heater and ordered what was needed for the ignition control. Despite our son’s attention and rewiring skills, replacing the ignition control didn’t work. So we had to have a furnace guy come to the house.
The furnace guy checked the ignition control and complimented our son’s work. He cleaned out a heat exchange thingy. Still, it didn’t work. The blower would turn on, but the heat just wouldn’t kick on. My husband called me at work to say that we needed a new furnace and to ask if I had any idea how we could come up with $3000 for one. I thought about how many space heaters we could buy for that much money and wondered how we were going to get through the winter—and I knew that we would have no choice but to replace the furnace.
My husband began to make some calls about furnaces and money while the furnace guy checked things out to make sure we had everything in place for the high efficiency furnace we would need to buy. While my husband wheeled and dealed on the phone, the furnace guy came back in carrying a small piece of luggage.
Oops. My bad.
I had set the bag out to air out in the sunshine late in the summer. It was in a spot I didn’t see regularly, and I completely forgot about it—and somehow during this time, it had gotten caught on the intake pipe that carries oxygen to the furnace, blocking the flow of air to the furnace. As soon as the neglected bag was removed, our furnace fired up and warmth began to flow throughout our house.
The ignition control had been a problem, too, so our son saved us labor cost on that, although we had to pay for the part. The space heater provided us with heat and is something we will continue to be able to use as our living room is always a bit cold. The furnace guy, though? Basically, we paid him $180 to come move a bag for us.
Compared to $3000 for a new furnace, $180 is practically nothing. Nonetheless, by neglecting to pay attention and take care of something, I caused our family to be stressed about our heating, my husband to lose several hours of work to be there for the furnace guy, and my husband and me to worry about having to buy a new furnace. My neglect cost our family money, time, and unnecessary stress.
Lessons in Keeping the Home Fires Burning
Neglect can cost you. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” can also mean “something important might not function as a result.” It is no fun to deal with unpleasant things, so it’s easy to choose to not see them, simply look away from those things, cover them up with superficial distractions, or even think that since things are going better you don’t need to pay attention.
For quite a few years, I had an inkling that our sex life was a huge problem in our marriage. Even though I truly didn’t think I was the problem, it was easier to simply ignore it or get distracted by all the details of life. Is there something you are neglecting in your marriage? Is there infidelity or pornography use that you and your husband haven’t finished resolving? Has there been a time when one of you said words that are still hurting somewhere beneath the surface? Is neglect now going to cost you big later?
Look at all parts of the system. We had done a good job of looking at the furnace itself, pulling off covers and looking at how all the parts work together. However, we didn’t really look beyond the furnace to see the entire system of air flow to see what else might be contributing to problems.
When something isn’t working in your marital intimacy, it’s important to look at what is happening within the relationship. However, it is also important to look at other things that might be contributing to difficulties. Is one of you experiencing medical problems or hormonal changes that might be affecting your ability to enjoy physical intimacy or become aroused? Are you part of a church that doesn’t talk about intimacy in marriage beyond “guys, be nice to your wives and vacuum now and then”? Is one of you struggling with some baggage or a sin that the other one isn’t even aware of?
Recruit assistance. We tried to figure things out for ourselves. When that didn’t work, we had our son apply his expertise to our furnace situation. We eventually called in an expert. If we’d called him earlier instead of trying to work on everything ourselves, we might have saved ourselves some of the stress and cold. We will need to replace the furnace in a year or two, but our expert gave us the ability to be thoughtful and intentional about this major purchase rather than have to react in panic mode. The right person thought to go check to be sure we had everything in place for moving forward—and that’s when we discovered the real problem.
In our marriage, we did a bad job of asking for help. We were both unhappy, yet neither of us sought counseling for assistance as individuals or a couple. My husband did go see our pastor once or twice, and while he was encouraging and supportive in some respects, he didn’t push enough to check to be sure that we had everything in place for moving forward. I know well how easy it is to try to deal with things without going outside the marriage. We want to keep things to ourselves because we don’t like the embarrassment of sharing private details. Maybe finances are tight, and it’s hard to see that counseling is an important investment. Do you have at least one person you can truly share with, someone who will help you pull things apart even if it makes you uncomfortable? Does your husband need a serious accountability partner to help him deal with something? Have you remembered to go to the ultimate provider and expert by praying about your marriage?
Short-term patches can give you tools to use later. We probably could have made it through the past few weeks without our space heater, although we would have been a bit more uncomfortable than we were. It’s likely that we would’ve called the expert in a bit sooner. But the space heater, our short-term solution that gave us time to figure out how to proceed, is something that will continue to be useful for us.
When we’re going through a rough patch in marriage, it can be easy to say, “Oh, this is just a season. We’ll get through it and we’ll be fine. We don’t need help.” While this may be true much of the time, getting some short-term assistance isn’t going to hurt, either—and it might give you something you can use in the future. I have a friend who has used an employee assistance program at work to have three appointments with a marriage counselor along with her husband. They are dealing with some short-term issues. They’ve gained some language to use in talking about their communication styles and intimacy, and they’ve worked on developing some new habits. Long after this short-term issue is resolved, they will be able to pull out these to help them with future cold spells.
Don’t block what feeds the fire. I messed up and ended up blocking the oxygen supply to our furnace. I’m surprised neither of us thought to check this, as we’ve had a couple times when the pipe has been blocked by heavy snowfall and our furnace wouldn’t function. Instead, we were focused on the small parts and trying to just stay warm while we waited for our son to repair a part and then for the furnace guy to show up. A furnace can become dysfunctional by a small piece not working—but if there is no air supply, it doesn’t matter if everything else is perfect. The furnace simply won’t work.
We can get just as caught up in neglecting what supplies our marriage. My husband and I get through our work day and come home tired. It can be easier to just deal with the small things (checking the mail, getting dinner, and dealing with immediate problems) than to ensure that we are spending time with each other and with God. Lots of things can make a marriage dysfunctional—but if we aren’t taking care to make sure we are getting the supply of what we truly need, it doesn’t matter if all the small stuff is perfect. A marriage won’t catch fire and keep you truly warm if you are blocking the things you need the most.
What are you doing to keep your home fires burning?
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