Friday, January 18, 2008

Pushing Through The Storms

Neal and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary on January 15. He is my best friend, my hero, my protector, my teacher, and my guide. But life hasn't been easy in the married state for either of us.

There are no two more different people than Neal and I. During our lives together we have taken advantage of marriage enhancement seminars and books. We've listened to a lot of temperaments studies and no matter what the similes are, we are off the charts in opposite temperaments. He is melancholy, choleric. I am sanguine, phlegmatic. He is fire and earth, I am wind and water. He is lion and beaver. I'm an otter, golden retriever.

The most helpful study was Lori Beth Jones' Elements. I realized that if Neal is fire and I am wind that I needed to be a gentle breeze in an argument. After all, what happens when you give fire oxygen? Neal learned that his fire needed to purify and give warmth in a situation and not burn everything into a crispy critter.

Another helpful tool in our 30 years together was a book called the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Chapman. The premise is that certain things mean love to us and we demonstrate love in the same way. However, we are all different. And when we do for others what says love to us, it may not speak love to them and they ignore our offerings, therefore making us feel unloved.

For instance: my love language is words of affirmation. Neal's is physical touch. So let's say I'm always encouraging him and he just grunts or counters with a negative response to my positive one. I feel rejected.

Neal doesn't pass by me without touching in some way, and if I don't respond, he feels rejected.

You see, I speak love by what says love to me, affirming words, and the same with Neal and physical touch. When we realized this, Neal began affirming me and I began to making physical contact, giving a quick hug, taking his hand.

Finally, listening to others who have been married longer than us has also given us a map to travel through life together. I'll never forget the words of my friend Loretta Dixon. Her husband, Red Dixon, is one of the pastor's of our church.

She said that marriage is like a boat going from one island to another. The trip out of the dock is in choppy waters going against the tide and then in the middle of the ocean there may be a storm. But if we press on through the storm we will see the land and the sailing is smooth because we will be going with the flow of the water instead of against it.

Neal and I are traveling with the flow. Oh, that doesn't mean there aren't little storms that pop up here and there. I mean, what do you expect with fire and wind that are not always controlled? But the trip has been a blessed one, and we look forward to cruising into old age together.