Saturday, May 3, 2014

My marriage is like an old truck...

Years ago, in one of our marital counseling sessions, our therapist asked me to describe my marriage. Being the analogy lover I am, I came up with this:

My marriage is like an old truck. 

The therapist asked me to elaborate, and I did.

Trucks are strong, built for the long haul, and specially crafted to carry heavy loads. Trucks are durable, and I imagine they can handle stormy weather, rocky roads, and can be a safer alternative for passengers to get from point A to point B.

That is how I see marriage.

The therapist asked me why my marriage was like an old truck.

Maintenance is important for any vehicle. Trucks are strong and can handle a lot, but they still require regular service in order to run smoothly. Neglect of oil changes, filters, or any other fluid levels can wreak havoc on what would otherwise be a perfectly running system. Older trucks require even more care- not just routine service, but occasional replacement parts, upgrades, and additional tune-ups. 

My marriage is like an old truck.

What happens when the truck breaks down?

Unlike a truck, a marriage is made of two people. Two people with two different personalities, two different sets of life experience, two different minds. The marriage dynamic between my husband and I had him driving the truck, and me as a passenger. I could navigate, change the music, and set temperature controls- but ultimately he was at the wheel, in charge of the destination. That said- we were both knew we were in the same truck. Our eternities, our decisions, and our fate (although we may experience them in our own ways) we saw as being shared.

So, again....

What happens when the truck breaks down?

Picture this:

We parked our badly beaten truck at a lovely home in Nauvoo.

The truck was in bad shape.

Here are the facts: the truck had not been routinely serviced. Not only were simple oil changes ignored, but more serious repairs had been left undone. The truck barely, and I mean barely, made it. The wary driver and passenger had clung to prayer and hope just to get it as far as Nauvoo- both believing that being close enough to the Temple, and a new start, would help offer them some rest from what had been years of rough roads. 

And yes, the roads were rough. Everyone can agree on that. Career changes, moves, considerably dangerous medical crises- the road had been anything but smooth. 

But now, the truck will not start.

Seems simple. Go fix it? Take care of it? Just toss in a few quarts of oil every so often?

It is not that easy.

There is a story floating around the internet about a woman whose husband had told her he was leaving. In the story, she declared that she wasn't buying it- and kept carrying on as if things were fine. She gave him his space, and just kept her shoulder to the wheel. She decided to keep the truck moving. She drove it herself, but she kept the truck going.

Years ago in our own marriage, we had our truck break. It was pretty badly broken for a few years, but Kurt managed to fix, repair, and replace so much of the truck that it drove better than new. He had decided to keep the truck moving. He did much of this himself, and he kept it going.

Many times a truck will experience a breakdown, and couples will tirelessly work together to pick up the pieces- seeking help when necessary. They work together, even if they are both exhausted, wounded, or hate the setback- they keep it going.

Sometimes there are opportunities to improve truck performance. Just as an improved suspension can help trucks creep over boulders in the road, couples can work together to increase the strength of their trucks to perform better and longer, while hauling more, preparing for uncertain terrain.

There are so many different types of marriages, and marital dynamics. So many different solutions to so many different difficulties. I could probably write a few thousand scenarios! Just as along a road, there will be many people along the way will offer advice, products, or services- that can either help or hurt a truck and journey, so it is in a marriage. It can be confusing enough just to drive a tuned-up truck, let alone be stuck in a rut with a broken one!

It is all to easy for onlookers to comment or pass judgement on another person's truck:

"Ooooo, that comes with air conditioning and cruise control? You are so lucky!"
"You are so lucky you have a truck at all. I would love a truck! ANY truck!"
"A lot of people don't have trucks, so stop feeling sad!"
"Your truck seems so perfect. I am so jealous."
"You should ditch your old truck and get a new one!"

"My truck performed better with product X- you need product X in your truck."
"Your wife should clean your truck."
"Your husband should get the oil changed on your truck."
"So-and-so got a new truck- doesn't she look happy! I wish I was as happy with my old truck as she is with her new truck..."

Similarly- all too often people enjoy commenting or passing judgement on another person's marriage. Don't believe me? Just read those above in a new way:

"Oooo, your husband does the laundry and makes dinners? You are so lucky!"
"You are so lucky to be married. I would love to be married! Any marriage is better than this!"
"A lot of people want to be married, you should be thankful for your marriage, stop feeling sad!"
"Your marriage seems so perfect. I am so jealous"
"You should ditch your husband/wife and get a new one!"
"I did ____ and it saved my marriage. If you want to save your marriage do _____!"
"Your wife needs to stop nagging you to make dates."
"Your husband should spend more time with you."
"So-and-so is so happy with her new husband! I wish I was that happy in my marriage..."

See? If you have not heard any of those, in some form or another, chances are you still may have caught yourself thinking them in your own head. While some of these comments could come from people who are well-meaning, it is important to remember than while all of us can see and hear about another person's marriage- none of us are actually living it. Just because I can see your truck, doesn't mean I know how it drives- and even then, test driving a truck is not the same as owning one- so it is best to try and keep comments like this in check.

It is best not to compare whose grass is greener - let's all just try to water our own lawns.

Our marriage has been broken for awhile. As I said, we barely made it here. Our own thoughts and feelings about this conflict greatly, and that does not help. Matt Townsend once told us that we needed to stop fighting about the smoke, and figure out what is causing the fire. Currently we are trying to do that- but the smoke is pretty thick, and we disagree on the cause of the flames. This process is not something that can be fixed quickly, and we are both busy- so even this seemingly simple step takes a lot of time.

I can say this: there are flames. There is a lot of smoke. The truck is broken.

I can tell you that I am exhausted. I feel like I have been in charge of caring for this truck so long, that I am just done with it. I feel like if I do not schedule the truck for service, and take it myself- it doesn't happen. I have had a lot on my own plate (We moved, and because of scheduling I did most of the packing and unpacking. I just graduated, our kids are both homeschooling again, and Fina decided she wants to potty train)- so I have not been able to handle any of the maintenance at all. My husband works 60 hours a week in a new job, and there is still yard-work, more unpacking, and weekend errands to run- so he doesn't get to working on the truck either.

So the truck is broken, and neither of us is fixing it.

For a long time we were nervous or afraid to mention our truck's current state because we have seen- firsthand- the extreme damage that can be done when someone shares information like this. We have witnessed couples go from civil separations to excessively hurtful divorces- all because, in their moments of pain, they allowed others to influence them. We have seen the significant damage that comes from allowing others to plant dangerous seeds- and we have tasted the bitter cup of regret for allowing ourselves to be fed the wrong kinds of "support." Neither of us hates one another. Neither of us wants to be single. Neither of us wants to be divorced. However- the truck is broken. Our marriage is broken. It teeters on the edge of ruin, and that has some very serious eternal consequences for all five of us. For this reason- we reserve the right to place immediate, appropriate, and healthy boundaries on EVERYONE. 

Some of you may be asking, "What can I do?"
DO offer your prayers.
DO NOT offer criticism of our spouse.

DO offer your ears.
DO NOT offer your own opinions.

DO offer small gestures of love.
DO NOT call us demanding to know details.

DO send texts or messages saying you care.
DO NOT demand us to tell you our plans.

DO support us as we figure out our next step.
DO NOT expect us to tell you what that step will be.

We have a lot of options. We are both reasonably intelligent people, who are trying to be calm during this time. We are trying to make good and healthy decisions, as rationally as possible, while dealing with our own pains. There is a lot in our past, a lot going on right now, and we have a lot in the future- and careful consideration is necessary at every single step.

My marriage is like an old truck... that has broken down... and it hurts.