I think before I got married, and even as I am married, I have a different image of what “hard times” means. It’s like, I’m ok with hard times, but I want different hard times. Maybe instead of Wal-Mart hard times, I want Target ones. Just a little… cuter.
“Of course every marriage is going to have hard times! I’ll know them when I see them! I’ll set aside lots of time to be there for my spouse during this hard time. I’ll make sure he/she knows I’m there for him/her. We will turn our focus inward and it will be us against the world- taking on any challenge, hand-in-hand.”
But what if you don’t know it when you see it? What if it looks awfully like a couple of sub-par weeks, with your wife a little less talkative than normal? What if for all you know, your husband is just feeling a little under the weather and everything will look up after your weekend getaway?
Depression, illness, infidelity, job loss, family planning difficulties, “mid-life crises,” and an array of other “hard things” often initially masquerade as regular ol’ days in the life of a couple. I have found myself vigilantly standing guard against say, disconnection through lack of time together, while through the basement window, personal fulfillment was sneaking out.
Sometimes I think I’d handle a hard time better if someone came up to me and said, “This is that hard thing you will look back on and care about how you responded to it.” I like to imagine that I would say, “Ok! Let me buckle up. I will put everything aside and focus. I’m gonna crush this trial.”
Instead, the problem has been going on for weeks and I’m just now catching on, and then I catch on and don’t realize it’s as big as it is, and my “supportive wife” status has already taken a big hit. I haven’t been supportive, because I didn’t realize we were in the middle of one of those times! I thought it would look different than this, more dramatic maybe? More Oprah-worthy? I didn’t think it would come in this mundane package…
It has been helpful to say this to myself, “This is a hard time. It’s happening now. This is one of those moments that years from now, my husband will say, ‘the only way I got through that time was because of the amazing support and wisdom of my beautiful wife.” This is IT!
When I say I am ready to take on challenges, this is my chance! Maybe it’s on the junior high drama stage and not a blockbuster movie screen, but this is my big break!
That’s the point of hard times. They are hard, but they are also confusing, complex, and full of highs and lows throughout. To further complicate things, it’s even possible to feel joy during a hard time.
I’ve decided it doesn’t hurt to always assume that any struggle within your marriage is a “big deal,” as long as your commitment to handling “big deals” has always been to step up and handle them with optimism and grace. Putting everything else aside for a time while your spouse navigates something hard, committing to being a soft place to land and an empathetic presence is something no one ever regrets once the hard turns easy.