Sometimes it seems that everything falls apart at once.
In the winter of 2008-2009, our appliances died. Within three or four months, we had to replace our water heater, dishwasher, stove, and refrigerator (after trying some unsuccessful repairs). Our dryer stopped working and needed to be repaired.
When a major appliance is broken, everything seems off. I would automatically reach for the refrigerator, only to remember mid-reach that I had to go somewhere else for what I needed. When I cooked with an electric skillet on the counter, I had to use a different place to prepare food instead of using the counter as usual.
None of these necessary adjustments required anything hard. A few things took more time. Mostly, it was about altering the ways and places I did things.
With each change, I experienced several days of constant recalculation of my movements. It was like when your GPS tells you to go one direction, but you pull off the road for a potty break. “Recalculating,” it says.
Then one day I would realize that I was no longer having to recalculate and change my actions. The new normal had become automatic. Naturally, that was exactly when an appliance would be repaired or a new one would arrive. I’d have to go through the whole process all over again while I resumed my old routine that now seemed new and unfamiliar.
For several months, I was constantly recalculating and learning a new pattern of doing things. From one week to the next, I didn’t know what routines I would have to adopt.
My marriage made it all feel worse. We always had tension between us. Big Guy didn’t seem to acknowledge how hard all this adjustment was for me. He wanted to act like everything was normal and fine, which added to my feelings of frustration.
I needed less tension, not more.
I was already frustrated and flustered because everything was in flux. A tense marriage made it even worse.
This week brought that time to mind. It wasn’t appliances this time, but everything did seem to fall apart at once
The fuel pump in Big Guy’s truck gave out. He took my car to work, which meant that I had to cancel plans I’d been looking forward to for this week.
Then in the middle of a Skype meeting, our internet conked out. (Ten hours later the tech repair guy told us that our line had been unplugged and was “dangling in the wind.”)
Naturally, everything on my to-do list that day required the internet: write a blog post, conduct research, catch up on email, and so on. Normally if this happened, I would go to a coffee shop or the library long enough to download copies of what I needed. Without a car, however, that wasn’t an option.
On top of that, we have lousy cell phone reception in our house. My husband and I tried texting each other about the fuel pump and the internet throughout the day, but our messages went through at the whim of the wind.
Out the window went my fun plans to spend a day with my friend, my work plans for the day, and my ability to work toward a solution on any of it.
So much that I do automatically—check the weather forecast, read, plan, find a recipe, and even bible study—happens online. Without internet access, I had to make do with other activities. Without a car, I couldn’t go anywhere. I was stuck at home, only it didn’t feel quite like home because the internet was out.
My sense of normal was off-kilter. I was restless for the entire day without my normal routine.
I found myself thinking back to the winter when our appliances died. I don’t like having to change how I do things, even for one day—and I remembered how everything had seemed worse because of the condition of our marriage.
The changes this week would be short-term. The garage sent a tow for the truck, and my husband arranged for internet repair. I knew everything would be okay—but even so, I felt agitated and frustrated. These feelings increased throughout the day, and I prayed for comfort.
The End of the Day
At the end of the day, I got to experience one of those things that still seems like a miracle to me.
When Big Guy walked into the door, I could feel my whole self—body and mind—RELAX. My man is home! I thought. Now everything is okay.
It was such a different feeling than it was during that time when all our appliances had broken. Instead of wanting him to stay away from me to avoid adding tension to my frustration, I craved being with him because I knew I would feel calmer.
Our marriage isn’t perfect, but it has become such a conduit of comfort and joy to me. It diffuses my tension rather than adding to it.
I had prayed for comfort, and God used my husband to provide it.
The New Normal
When I began to address the sexual issues in our marriage, I experienced weeks of learning new rhythms and experiencing recalculations of how I thought, felt, and acted.
It was like choosing to have all my appliances break at once and learning all new routines. I repaired what I could by recalculating and adjusting my actions. I replaced damaging thoughts with new thoughts that helped me focus on God’s truth about marriage and sexuality.
I experienced frustration and tension in the process—but as I learned new things, they stayed with me while I moved onto a new thing to work on. I had to recalculate less and less frequently as my new rhythms became my new normal.
As the tension melted away, I saw that God was using my husband—and my marriage—to bring me comfort and joy.
If you are beginning to work on your marriage, you may be frustrated by the necessary changes. Have hope, and keep making the effort.
It will take more than a day and probably more than a few months, but at the end of it, you may well find that the tension you’ve experienced in your marriage is replaced by comfort and joy.
As I sunk into my husband’s arms at the end of the day on Monday, I knew that those months of repairing, replacing, and recalculating had been worth it.
Repair. Replace. Recalculate.
Then, at the end of the day, rejoice in the change that God has brought to your marriage.