Our Relationships // Unstuck
Christopher and I have been together for five-plus years. Though we haven’t yet entered the season of marriage, we have been through a lot together and some of the challenges we have faced are ones we share with our married friends. I think if you are in any kind of authentic relationship with anyone and you spend several years together, you absolutely WILL go through something hard at some point – probably multiple somethings. It’s what we do to weather these storms that defines the quality of our relationships, and the quality of ourselves as people. One thing that is really important to us in our relationship is being intentional about showing love in the small things, because what we’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a small thing. The small things are really the big things in disguise.
Christopher is a morning person and I am 100% not. When I used to drive to an office for work, he would sometimes slip a surprise note into my lunch to brighten my day. These weren’t long romantic poems about how much he adored my flaxen hair (or whatever), they were usually short and sweet. Sometimes there would be a Bible verse and a little note of encouragement, sometimes just an “I love you and I’m thinking about you,” or “I want to have all my adventures with you!” Simple, small – and demonstrating great love in a practical way. He knew one of my big love languages is words, and that these notes would mean a lot to me. I began to tack these notes up on my cubicle wall as a reminder that I had someone in my corner on the toughest days (and I had many of those while working in child protective services!). His two-minute, small acts of love stacked up into a giant reminder that he saw me and cared about me and was thinking about me. Sometimes that’s all we need.
I recently bought a memo board from Target – the fun vintage-looking kind that you press little plastic letters into to spell out a message. We have come up with a game where we take turns leaving each other little messages using this memo board, and then hide it somewhere for the other to find.
I’m telling you, it might be the best $14 I’ve ever spent. I’ll be putting away laundry or looking for a pan in the cupboard and then, BAM! A mini love letter from my favorite person, who took the time to say something just to make me smile. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes heartfelt, always pretty short and sweet – but no matter the message, they always do one thing: they let each other know we were thinking about the other. They are small, intentional acts of love that add up into a solid foundation that we can fall back on when things get hard. They flesh out the bones of our love so that we can relax a little into the space between us, rather than always worrying about whether our affection for the other is going to be returned.
Sometimes little acts of kindness toward one another are a great way to get unstuck when we feel like we are in a rut, or when we haven’t been practicing a lot of intentionality between us. Other times, we’ve been in situations where a sweet little message won’t cut it. Sometimes we’ve dug ourselves into a bigger hole, and deeper healing is needed. Let me be totally real with you: in our years together, we have had some fights we’re not proud of. We have slammed doors, had shouting matches, and carelessly spoken some really ugly things to each other. Mostly when this has happened, it’s been because we’re both coming from a place of hurting and haven’t taken the time to listen to each other, and really think about where the other is coming from. When you’re in the middle of your own hurt, it’s hard to see past that into someone else’s.
Once, we were fighting about something (I don’t even remember what) and it was getting ugly. We both got so entrenched in our own perspective and our own hurts that it was pretty much impossible for either of us to see anything from where the other was standing. We had reached an impasse, and neither of us was going to budge. All of a sudden, Christopher’s eyes softened and he said to me, “I know this is going to sound weird, but can we please just pray together right now? I really feel like we aren’t going to get anywhere on our own.” I wanted to keep being mad at him – I had a good reason to be, after all, even if I don’t remember what it was! But a still, small nudge in my heart said he was right. Begrudgingly, tentatively, we dropped everything to pray together. We held hands while we did it, even though the last thing either one of us wanted to do at that moment was hold hands. My heart was still full of hurt and anger, so I let Christopher lead us in prayer and tried my best to just agree with him in pleading for Jesus to come hang out with us and heal what was going on in the space between us. We asked Him to get in the middle and mediate, explain, soften our hearts, weave trust between us, and help us give each other extravagant mercy. We asked Him to help us take care of each other rather than only looking out for ourselves. By the end of the prayer, our faces and laps were soaked with tears, and grace hung in the air. Everything wasn’t magically fixed, but we were in a much better place than we were two minutes prior. As it turns out, lots of hurts just get smaller in light of the cross. The hurt and sacrifice Jesus endured for us covers us in gratitude, and it’s hard to be angry and grateful at the same time. Now, when a fight starts to go to an ugly place, we stop and pray. I won’t lie to you, it’s honestly really hard and humbling at first, but then it’s always, always beautiful.
Relationships can be sticky and complicated, and we are not always going to feel lovely feelings toward the person we have chosen to partner with. Sometimes we just get stuck. But we do have a choice even then – it is our choice to keep asking Jesus to get in the middle, to keep choosing radical grace, and keep choosing each other. If you’re in a difficult stuck spot in your relationship, whether it is a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a relationship with a family member, please know you are not alone in the hard places. I’ll be cheering you on as you wrestle through getting unstuck together.
Next time, we’ll be discussing getting unstuck in our spiritual lives. Until then, I love y’all so very much. Know I pray for you pretty much all the time, and you’re my favorite thing about blogging. Talk soon!