My dog cracks me up. She smiles endlessly… even when she’s being reprimanded. She cannot resist pulling things out of any available trash can and she loves to steal dirty laundry from the hamper and entice me into a chase. She’s a smart girl.
When she came to live with us she was a ten pound sweetheart (with razor sharp teeth) and when we first put her in her crate, it looked like a castle next to her tiny body. Attached to her crate is her exercise pen, which was meant to provide her with an area to wander around while she was still a puppy. Once she reached six months, we considered taking the ex-pen down, but we decided to leave it up so she would have a little extra space. Now, she is a full grown dog and her head towers over the side of her ex-pen.
What amazes me about my smart dog is that she does not realize how easily she could jump over the walls of her ex-pen to complete freedom. When we put her in there at dinner time, it is not long before we hear her whining and see her head hanging over the side. With a little concentration, and the same effort it takes her to jump onto a bed, or jump up to grab a dangling leaf, she could jump out of her prison; but, she doesn’t realize it, because she’s lived in that cage for most of her life.
There was a time when Ramsey couldn’t jump out of her ex-pen, but those days have long since passed. The only reason she has not jumped over the edge is because she does not understand her potential. She’s grown bigger, but she does not realize that the obstacle that was insurmountable when she was younger is no longer an obstacle. She doesn’t know she’s bigger. Just like dogs, and people, relationships grow. When they are new, they are fragile and they need to be treated with the right care to make them grow. As they blossom, they still need to be nurtured, but their potential grows. A couple that is just beginning to understand each other just is not as effective as a couple who has a strong foundation, and a deep knowledge of each other.
One problem I have seen in some marriages is stagnation. They have been together many years, but have little growth to show for it. The fire they once had is gone and their zest for life is gone as well. When single people look at these marriages, it’s not surprising when the idea of marriage makes them nervous.
The character of Theodore Huxtable on the Cosby Show once referred to married life as “the marriage graveyard: where romance goes to die.” Marriages that keep going through the motions for years without tending the relational garden do resemble graveyards: cold, quiet, stony, and lonely.
The good news is that marriage does not have to end up in the marriage graveyard. In fact, it was meant to be just the opposite. The potential for good two people can have working together is far greater than the potential of someone working alone. When a couple chooses to keep the weeds out of their relationship, there are no bounds to what they can accomplish together. Two people, in one accord, working towards a common goal can be nearly unstoppable. However, two people who choose not to weed their marriage garden can allow unresolved problems to rob them of their potential. Water is the most powerful force on Earth when it is on the move, but when it is contained in one place for a long time it not only stinks, it becomes stagnant and diseased.
As you are preparing for marriage, remember that your relationship has the potential of a mighty oak in what starts as a small acorn. The more you nurture and care for your young relationship, the more potential it will have for greatness. And, with neglect, you can expect your relationship to grow cold and stagnant.
Letting conflicts pass unresolved may seem like the easy route at first, but in doing so, you are robbing your relationship of its potential. Continue to grow. Stare that obstacle in the face, and jump over it together. The more you conquer together, the more you will realize how much you can conquer together. Choose to actively work on your relationship together by discussing it, reading good books about marriage, attending marriage seminars, or even taking a relational assessment to keep your relationship out of the marriage graveyard. You can even do this while you are single or dating to prepare in advance!
What are you doing to keep your relationship vibrant and alive?