Contrary to the popular adage that marriage is for settling down we think that marriage is about expecting the unexpected. What brought this to mind yesterday were a few events that lead us to having to change our plans for the day. It was a beautiful spring day. Bob went for a bike ride and I was waiting for a friend to arrive so that we could go for a walk, something we do several days a week. As I waited, Bob returned home after not having been out very long telling me about the nasty spill he had taken on his bike. Nothing very serious but I encouraged him to get medical attention. He ended up with lots of scraps and bruises and a few stitches. Thank God for bike helmets and knee pads. Our friend arrived and she drove us, changing her plans for the day along with mine. I felt bad for my friend and concerned about Bob but I’ve/we’ve learned to roll with what life deals us.
Later in the day as we were speaking about what had happened and were discussing possibilities for today’s posting. Bob suggested “dealing with the unexpected.” While it seems like something that we all should just agree to, perhaps it is one of the things that most affects marriages. So many unexpected things have happened in our marriage along with unexpected people coming into our life, some with positive responses and effects and some with not so good ones. If we had not been able to live with the unexpected perhaps like many couples our marriage might have ended.
The following are a few examples that might help you to think about unexpected things and how they might affect how you love each other, as they have us. Like most married couples we thought that part of living happily ever after, part of settling down, would involve children. Little did we know of the twists and turns it would take for us to have the children that we have. It required us to have good communication skills and lots of trust and prayers. We often refer to our children as our love for each other with a name and face.
Deciding where we would live. We have lived in three apartments and three houses and are beginning to consider down sizing into a condo in the future. The move into the various apartments came as we wanted more space, nicer living conditions and closer location to Bob’s work. It required us to not get too comfortable. Our houses brought their share of unexpected things as well. The first one we bought on a lark. We were vaguely looking for a house as we were expecting our second child. We stopped at a new housing development one Sunday and put down ten dollars to hold the price for two weeks. Bob crunched the numbers we, talked about what it would require us to own a home and went back in two weeks to find that the house had gone up in price, but the ten dollars protected us from the increase and we had our first home. Five years later we had a third child and the commute for Bob was getting more difficult, He came home one day and said there was a new housing development going up about ten minutes from school. We put the kids in the car, took a look and decided to make the move. Twenty years later, with one additional child and adult children now married, we began to look at the needs of our family, decided to look for a larger house when many of our friends were beginning to downsize. While we didn’t use the words of expecting the unexpected we did talk about not getting too settled in and keeping new possibilities in our lives. We also thought it would be a good financial investment. Until recently, that was true. That too became one of the unexpected things we have dealt with.
While we never faced losing of a job, Bob was lucky enough to keep his teaching job for thirty five years, my career outside our home did create the unexpected. When I stopped teaching at birth of our first son we saw a significant drop in income. After being a full time mother for twenty years as our older two children were going off to college and our youngest to school I resumed my teaching career. The extra money helped pay for college but it changed everything about how we lived together. We had to look at all the things that needed to be done around the house, our time together and how we handled the needs of our two children who were still at home. It too required us to talk a lot about our frustrations, the demands that my job quickly put on my time and how to maintain the intimacy we had always enjoyed in our marriage.
A variety of people have come into our lives through the years. Many friendships have come and gone. Thankfully for the most part, they have been good and have enriched our lives. A few have had not so good results, one in particular that rocked us and changed us forever. Had we not been able to handle the unexpected, this might have had devastating affects on our marriage. We have dealt with the realities of aging parents and their passing. Our children came in to our lives with great excitement, much love and grew up with relative uneventful lives although there were a few unexpected events like car accidents and college issues but three have found good spouses and one is “seeing” a wonderful friend. We are gifted with seven grandchildren. But while we are no longer responsible for them on a daily basis we still take their calls with good and not so good news as their lives also have the expected and unexpected.
Learning to deal with retirement and aging is likely another learning to roll with the unexpected. While we wanted to live with each other happily ever after, doing that every day 24/7 brings its own challenges like yesterday. But as I reflect back no matter if the experience was good or not so good, it helped us to realize how much we loved each other and to draw on that love.
The trip to the medical center yesterday reminded me how the unexpected in our lives can often bring stress, but also seems always to lead to a greater appreciation for the other. Had it been totally up to me I might not have sought medical help, but I could not resist Rita’s obvious concern and caring for me. My body is bruised and achy but the stitches in my finger and warmth in my heart from her and for her make me glad that her concern prevailed. I’m still sorry my ride was cut short, though – it was such a beautiful day.
Each time we moved to a new house we had been idly looking for some time, but the decision was sudden and unexpected when the time was right. Each time that initiated a flurry of activity leading up to the move and getting settled into the new house. One of the things that stands out for me with each move is the moment when we were moved in and stood there hugging each other and thanking God for the privilege of living in this wonderful new house.
We had planned for many years for Rita to take a full-time job outside our home when our youngest child started school. When she got a call asking her to take a full-time teaching job after twenty years at home with the children, we were not quite ready to execute that plan. But we considered it and decided that she should take the job, knowing that many things in our relationship and family life would be affected. It took a little time and some stressful moments to get our lives to run smoothly with Rita in a demanding teaching job. I took over more jobs around the house and caring for the kids – especially cooking and attending children’s sporting events. Our willingness to communicate and make adjustments allowed us to adapt to the new reality and to keep our relationship from being shortchanged.
As we look to the future we can expect many changes in our lives – new housing or living arrangements, changes in our health, perhaps one of us having to give up driving, adjustments in the way we travel. Even though we can anticipate some of these changes, we may have to make them in sudden and unexpected ways. Our goal is to maintain an attitude of expecting the unexpected and to be able to accept them and adjust to them with prayer and gratitude for the wonderful lives we have together.
Jesus often said and did things that the people of his time did not expect. This week we remember and celebrate his death and resurrection – perhaps the most unexpected events of all time. It’s a good time to pray for the ability to deal with the unexpected in our lives.
Please share with us how you have dealt with the unexpected.
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime, is available on Amazon.com. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Check out our Marriage Enrichment Programs at readabookpress.com.