faith · marriage

how’s your atmosphere

Taking your temperature, like in yesterday’s post, is a momentary gauge of how things are going currently. It can be a warning system of something going wrong or right. Learning to see changes early in a marriage is a lot like going to the doctor for checkups and never missing your mammograms.

Going deeper, it’s about your marriage’s atmosphere.

There’s lots of examples of atmospheric conditions that I could Google up, but I’m a blogger, not a scientist. (Feel free to write me or comment and tell me some really cool examples of atmospheric conditions.) Each of us have our very own atmosphere. If you were to describe your marriage’s atmosphere, what would you say? Tense? High pressure – needing to perform, “get it right” – low pressure, barely moving the needle at all? Do you even know?

Each of us have our very own atmosphere. If you were to describe your marriage’s atmosphere, what would you say? Tense? High pressure – needing to perform, “get it right” – low pressure, barely moving the needle at all? Do you even know?

I snapped a little at my husband the other day. He can tell you for sure, but I don’t think this happens too often. I was tired. Hungry. The kids weren’t listening. The kids were loud. I was trying to get things done and I was not dealing well with the simple act of him asking me to repeat what I said and I yelled it. It was not a finer moment of my life. He knew this. He observed my current conditions, and, because he loves me so completely, he just had to give me a look and I knew I was wrong and my tone was all wrong and I was instantly sorry.

This happened because of our atmosphere – the atmosphere we have created together. One that has been forged from these building blocks which we have named and remind ourselves of in every instance – particularly the ones that could have been stormy:

  • mutual respect (do I trust him? do I believe that he is going to try to do the right thing most of the time if not all the time? haven’t I seen his integrity in action and why do I doubt it now?)
  • compassionate understanding (don’t I know his story? can I see why things are happening this way from what I know of him/us/current events in our lives? do I take the time to listen and understand my spouse?)
  • a continual state of humility (could I be wrong? haven’t I been wrong before? do I always know everything every time?)
  • an acknowledgement of emotional pull (am I tired? hungry? have I been thinking about something that is bothering me and not talking about it in healthy ways? has there been a lot of stressful situations lately?)
  • gifting each other with repentance (do I have ulterior motives that are selfish or shortsighted? have I confessed my self-centeredness and have I forgiven his? have I asked out loud for forgiveness and have I given it verbally, intentionally engaging in healthy conflict resolution with the one I love the most?)

It isn’t easy. Please don’t think it is. Please don’t read this and think, “well good for you two. Aren’t you just the cutest?” Or “Well, talk to me in ten years.” (In fact, I’d love to talk to you in ten years and plan to still be blogging, Lord willing!)

Truth is we have both been in relationships where the atmosphere was downright treacherous. Not enough oxygen. No warmth or light. High pressure, prone to spontaneous combustions. Or too much gas. Lots and lots of gas.

Truth is we have both experienced atmospheres that were less than Godly and we lost our way in the pressure and dense fog of continued sinfulness, selfishness, and self-pity. Praise be to God that He rescued us, first from ourselves, through the gift of repentance and acknowledging our own shortsightedness. Then through a series of unfortunate, and “fortunate,” events that led us to each other. We are wiser as well as older now. I can say that with confidence because I know where I started and I know where Rob started. We can both look back from where we stand now and see God’s hand, leading and maturing us all along the winding, stormy paths, all to His glory.

Changing an atmosphere takes time and resources. If it didn’t, people would be living on Mars by now. It takes years of research and careful pattern analysis to truly understand what your atmosphere is and then how to introduce the necessary changes to bring it back to a place where people can be free, healthy, and feel loved. Do it. Fix your barometer or get a whole new one. Study your patterns. Admit your failures. Strive for understanding and respect. Get help. Make visible, conscious steps toward each other. Everyone who comes into your atmosphere depends on it.

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