Last night I was talking to my husband. I compared marriage to a three legged race and told him I picked the best partner for it. After thinking about it some more, I realized my analogy was good but not perfect. In a three legged race, you are strapped on to someone else’s leg and have to work together to successfully finish the race. The more you work together, the faster you can move. The problem with my analogy is that marriage isn’t a sprint. You don’t just work together for a few minutes to win this race. Marriage is a marathon.
Can you imagine running a three legged race marathon?? It’s easy to get frustrated with your partner in a short three legged race. Maybe they are faster than you or taller. Maybe they step in a hole and stumble, pulling you down with them or at least slowing your progress. Maybe “inside leg, outside leg” is a pattern they just can’t grasp. There are a lot of things that go wrong for these racers. That’s what makes them so entertaining to watch! If you can run into those problems during a sprint, what else could possibly go wrong in a marathon? Endurance differences, inability to handle changes in terrain or climate, injury…plus all the other issues!
In a marriage these things could be likened to partners having different strengths, to stumbling over challenges such as job loss or difficult children or personal vices, to the inability to see things from each other’s viewpoint, to one person giving up on working through relationship problems, to moving or other significant changes, or to emotional injuries. How we handle these different challenges will determine how well we do in the race. The winners aren’t those that never stumble but those that get back up and keep going. In a three legged marathon, I can guarantee that everyone will have at least one significant challenge. Some couples sit down at that point, untie themselves and go different directions. The ones that finish the race find a way to help each other up or over or through whatever comes up. And yes, you might get frustrated and yes it might seem easier to quit sometimes but it isn’t.
While I was in college I took a class on family relationships. One thing that stuck with me through all these years was a statistic. I don’t remember the exact numbers (maybe we never learned them) but I remember the general idea. Some researchers surveyed couples who worked through their marriage and some couples that decided on divorce. Then they surveyed them over the next couple of years. Most of the people who opted for divorce were significantly less happy 5 years later. Of the couples that worked it out, most were significantly happier after the same 5 years. Now this didn’t say ALL were unhappy or ALL were happy. I understand that sometimes divorce is the right choice. But very often, people quit on a partner for stumbling too often or being too tall.
I’m tied to the best partner I could ask for but that doesn’t mean I never get frustrated with him any more than he never gets frustrated with me. But we work together to get through it. We might have to sometimes chant “inside, outside” until we can get on the same groove again. We might have to adjust the rope. We might even have to slow down sometimes. But we never untie ourselves. We never look around for a partner we might like better. We never sabotage each other. We committed to this race together and we’ll finish it together.
And the best part of this being a marathon? You have a lot of time to figure out a groove that works for you. You have plenty of time to make up for mistakes. And you don’t have to reach the finish line first to win. So happy racing! Good luck and have fun with it. That’s why you signed up isn’t it?