Use It Or Lose It

Relationships are like muscles, if we exercise them, they will grow (even if we don’t see that growth).

Marriage takes work, and will not naturally grow on it’s own. In fact, left alone, a marriage will shrivel up and die. It takes consistent time and energy much like your muscles.

If you were to sit all day every day for a year, you would notice a significant amount of atrophy in your body. Your inability to function after that year of sitting would likely take you a more painful and greater amount of recovery to return to your previous abilities (if ever at all). Once you have lost muscle mass, it is very difficult to get it back.

Your months and years of dating and courtship are very much like a daily trip to the gym. You exercised the muscles of the relationship that allowed it to grow. Though for a lot of us, when we married, we stopped going to the gym (literally and metaphorically!).

Continue your visits to the gym. Read books together, attend marriage workshops, go on dates, spend quality time together, give each other gifts, surprise each other with good things, and take trips. Do all of these things regularly and your marriage will thrive.


No Trouble At All

Some time ago a friend asked me to help him sort through some technology issues with his phone and computer. My first career, and past hobby, was in technology so it came as no surprise that he’d asked for my help. After we’d finished the project, he said thank you and for the third time in that setting apologized for inconveniencing me. “Don’t be sorry, it was no trouble at all,” was my response.

I was a bit surprised by how quickly these words came out of my mouth. One of my pet peeves is when people apologize for things that need no apology. It wasn’t true. I’d taken time out of my day to help him with an issue that didn’t concern me. The truth was, it was an inconvenience. But it was an inconvenience that I was willing to give because I care about my friend. I wanted to help him. That’s what friends are for, right?

After realizing this wasn’t the truth, which wasn’t more than a couple of moments later, I corrected myself.

“Actually,” I said, “it was an inconvenience.” I paused to let those words linger for a moment and continued. “Saying otherwise isn’t truth, nor is it honoring to you and our friendship for me to pretend it wasn’t a big deal. Me giving you some of me, my time and energy, is one way I’m able to show you that I value our friendship.”

This led to a completely different conversation about self-worth, value, and why it’s difficult to accept love/care from others. It was an amazing conversation that never would have occurred had we both remained “nice” towards each other, exchanging the normal platitudes and pleasantries of a proper friendship. I don’t want proper friendships, I want deep ones.

Our conversation highlights a challenge in relationships: Telling the truth about the small things in life is hard. “It’s no big deal…” is such a simple, polite, and well meaning statement that all of us have made to another person. Too often saying something isn’t a big deal sabotages giving the gift of sacrificial love.

Telling someone “you’re not bothering me,” or “It’s no trouble at all” communicates that the request they are making is easy for you to accomplish. Spoken in regards to a task or to-do list, perhaps “no trouble at all” has some truth to it (especially if the request of you is something you’re gifted at doing). The limitation of this statement is that we deny showing the other person their importance in our lives.

We’re selfish people by nature. We want what we want, when we want it. As we mature, it takes discipline and proaction to act contrary to this natural tendency. So when someone asks something of us, we have to sacrifice our selfish desires for the benefit of the other—this is love. It may be minor in the sacrifice, such as helping a friend with a technology problem, but it is still a sacrifice. In order for trust and relationships to grow, we need to know that someone is willing to sacrifice themselves on our behalf. Without this understanding and experience, and we’re left to wonder if the other really sacrifices anything for us.

Letting someone know that we’re willingly choosing to sacrifice, be inconvenienced, and not hold it over their heads deepens relational intimacy. Little things piled together makes a big thing. Be proactive in your relationship to intentionally build a big thing of trust by celebrating the little things.