Being in ministry now for over 15 years has brought certain perspective shifts to my life.Being in a marriage now for over 15 years has brought a completely different VIEW of life!
Karrie and I will celebrate our 20th year together (we've been married for almost 16 of those years) this August. I've been with her more years of my life than I've been without her. Simply put, I can't imagine, nor do I ever want to imagine, my life without her.
Throughout our years we have been asked how we keep our relationship, our parenting, our ministry, and our lives together, so for what it's worth, here's a simple analogy we've used and shared with many others. I hope it helps.
Relationships are much like reading a book with someone. If you've ever read a book with someone you know what it's like to be ahead of them in the reading, behind them, or on the same page. This is especially true if you're reading a series together.
- If you're on the same page, you can communicate about everything.
- If you're in the same chapter, you can communicate about most things together.
- If you're in the same book, there are frustrations and disconnects, but you can manage a conversation.
- If you're in different books, the communication gap is a struggle.
- If you're in different series ... well, you can't even communicate "at depth or length" about the story at all.
THE SAME PAGEThis is where you want to be! You can cover everything together: struggles, dreams, goals, even conflicts are easier to work through. We strive to be on the same page, and when we are, it is ALL good. But in reality, this isn't where we "live."
THE SAME CHAPTER Communication here is very, very good. This is where our conversations and our goals are in line and we are together, for the most part. There is friction because one of us is a little ahead or behind, but for the most part, the gap is manageable and understandable. This is where we live the most, reaching "the same page" every once in a while.
THE SAME BOOK Surprisingly, this is where I find most couples in their relationship. One person is several chapters ahead while the other is struggling to keep up. Communication and "togetherness" - verbal, emotional, and physical togetherness - is difficult to maintain and a lot of work. This is where the grind of a relationship begins to cause unfixable gaps. Realistically, every couple slips here from time to time, BUT THIS IS NOT WHERE YOU WANT TO LIVE! If your relationship is here on a regular basis, let me advise you in all humility to seek out some help from an older couple that you respect, a pastor, or even a counselor.
THE SAME SERIES This is no way to live in a relationship, in fact, you're not really in a relationship at this point. One person is reading and living completely different experiences because the other is so far off the pace they can't understand or know what is going on. This is a dangerous and devastating place for a relationship to be. Again, in reality, couples end up here on occasion - over the years, and while relationships can (and often do) recover from this state, the can not survive if this is where it lives. If you'r here on a regular basis, please talk to a counselor, marriage therapist, whatever, immediately.
We use this analogy to help identify when we aren't on the same page and to celebrate when we are. If I were to quantify our time in each reading stage, I would say Karrie's and my marriage would look like this:
SAME PAGE: 20% SAME CHAPTER:67% SAME BOOK: 10% SAME SERIES: 3%
Karrie and I have been amazingly blessed over the years in our "togetherness," but we aren't where we are by dumb luck. We work very hard at our marriage - more than on anything else in our lives. We work hard at communicating with honesty and love. We work hard at being accountable and faithful to one another. We work hard at forgiving each other. We work hard at staying united in everything from our finances to our parenting. And most of all, we work hard at honoring God with and in our marriage. We don't see ourselves as being married just for one another; we see our marriage itself as an opportunity to honor and worship God.
Hopefully this simple analogy helps others out there.