Monday, October 6, 2014

Taking Each Other For Granted

At Mass today our pastor preached about the danger of taking things and people for granted. It's a trap we all fall into and it keeps us from being truly present and able to accept the gifts and grace being offered to us in each moment. It keeps us from bearing great fruit and becoming our best selves. It leads us down a path of entitlement and bitterness. (The tenants in the Gospel account of the Parable of the Vineyard became so focused on their own gain that they ended up choosing a path of evil that led to their destruction.)

I think that this "taking each other for granted" is one of the biggest "eroders" of marriages. As we go about the everyday tasks of living life and raising a family, it's easy to stop really connecting with each other as spouses. We are partners, coordinating schedules and juggling responsibilities. We depend on each other and share a home and a life, but we often stop really communicating, celebrating, and enjoying one another. Our priorities get "out of whack" and we veer off the course we really intend to take.

Jon and I are definitely guilty of this dynamic. We're both super-responsible types.... always looking at what needs to be done. Jon's a natural "helper," always willing to serve the family and do what needs to be done. I'm a "planner," always pushing us forward and getting us into all kinds of adventures. Those are complementary roles. We get a lot done, but it puts us in a cycle of always "doing" and rarely "being."

It's hard for me not to take advantage of Jon's "servant's heart." He'd do anything for me. Do I abuse his willingness to help and his devotion to our family? Do I keep us too busy to really appreciate and enjoy one another?

What's the order of our priorities? I frequently read that it should be God first, spouse second, children third. I/We definitely take God for granted. How much time do we set aside for prayer, service, just resting in the Love of God? When do we tap into the amazing Grace He poured over us when we were married? Instead, we try to keep going and doing things our way in our time.

And the children and their needs definitely get placed before our needs as spouses. I struggle with this one a lot. It would be selfish and inappropriate for us to put off their needs in order to go off and "do what we want to do." Right? I guess that's where careful planning and prioritizing come into play. We simply must do better at carving out time to be together, whether it's going on dates, taking time to truly talk (about more than just the kids), doing special things for one another, doing joint activities we enjoy (watching movies together, playing games, dancing, exercising, etc), or being intimate. Our tendency is to work hard all day and then retreat to our own spaces (physical and mental) to relax and recover.

We --- like countless other couples ---- are taking our relationship for granted rather than nurturing it. If you would have told me twelve years ago that this would happen I would have been dumbfounded. We were living in two different cities and just aching to be together. We never ran out of things to talk about and do when we were together. Now when we do get time to ourselves we laugh at our lack of things to talk about and our desire to just "chill out" or even nap.

All relationships go through stages and seasons. Right now we are busy raising our children and working out the challenges that come with that part of our vocation. I am glad we have the ability to work together, communicate well, and trust one another. However, I don't want to stop learning about each other, having fun, and growing closer through the years. Ultimately, the children will move on with their own lives. But Jon and I  have promised to share the rest of our lives with one another as one. By truly cherishing one another, keeping our lives and hearts closely connected, and continuing to build one another up as well as challenge each other, we're being true to God's plan for us, faithful to our marriage vows, AND effective role models to our children.... showing them how love really should be lived.

I've witnessed and experienced the pain that is caused when couples take each other for granted and grow apart. It's not what God intends for marriage. By taking each other for granted we're neglecting our vocation and hurting ourselves and others. It's a daily decision and ongoing challenge.

What can I do today -- right now --- to connect with my spouse and grow our love? It's never too late and it doesn't have to be something big or perfect. Let's just commit to appreciating one another more, not taking each other for granted, and hopefully enjoying some laughs and tenderness along the way.

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