A year ago I left the big smoke to come back to the sleepy town of my childhood. That plane flight is still fresh in my mind – the thoughts and feelings, the hopes and fears. Anyway, in the past year the single biggest change was going from living alone to living with the family again. Here are some snippets, thoughts and lessons learnt from participating in family life.
Ups and downs
In the interactions within my own family and those of their married friends, I figure that you can work hard to build a relationship, be faithful to one another, raise children, be responsible to the family for decades and decades. But the stressors of daily life keeps coming with that of ageing parents, menopause, other health issues, finances, the children’s schooling difficulties, amongst many others. Midst the heated disagreement, the raised voices and unkind words, the worst side of you appears. A side that no one else would imagine possible. It doesn’t take many episodes for one or both people to want to give up. Even if separation doesn’t actually happen, the scars in the relationship can take a long time to heal. So marriage seems pretty fragile even in your old age and requires ongoing work. Well, fragile but maybe a little less so than when you first start off in your youth.
At your worst
Following on from the above, for us unmarried people, I think one thing to consider before sharing a life with someone is how the other person might react to your sinfulness in the midst of daily life and its stressors. To you at your worst, like, when you are crazily upset or angry, whether that is directed towards them or not. Of course you won’t know completely until it happens but you might have an idea from the disagreements that happen as you’re getting to know each other. Will they be hot-headed or quickly take personal offence? Criticise? Mock you? Hold grudges for a long time? Give up? Ignore the issue and find distraction in their work or entertainment? Will they be kind and encouraging? Find the right time to rebuke or remind you? Hear you out? Work through the issue or emotions with you? Forgive you?
By the way, in case this conjures up this popular relationship quote in your mind:
“If you can’t accept me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.”
…I’m going to make it clear that this is not the sentiment that I’m expressing at all. Considering how your potential life partner may react to your worst is different to say that you at your worst is acceptable behaviour at all. Besides, for whatever expectations we might have for the other person to respond graciously to our failings we should expect the same for ourselves when we encounter their sins. The question to ask too then, is how will you respond to them at their worst? Or the question that encompasses both – can you love and walk with each other through the ups and downs of life, as God enables each of you to do so?