Droughts will happen, but you can take these few simple steps to becoming a marriage that withstands the drought. It will rain again… sometime. But until it does, AVOID ISOLATION, CHECK YOUR SOIL (HEART), FERTILIZE, and WATER DEEPLY.
I was raised in lush and green West Virginia. One didn’t have to go far to find a stream, spring, pond, lake or river. If you could find full sun (which often was a problem), stick a seed in the ground and watch it grow with little or no tending. IN CONTRAST, consider the panhandle of Texas, where I have lived for 18 years. It is beautiful in its own right, once you get use to different shades of brown. Water is scarce, dirt is mostly clay on top of rock, and the sun is scorching.
This past year, like many parts of the country, we experienced a severe drought. Some parts saw absolutely no rain for over a year. Crops were either destroyed or of poor quality. Finally it rained. The skies finally opened up and poured out… a ¼” of liquid. People were actually smiling and walking with a hopeful bounce in their step.
A lady sitting across from her husband, hoping that something can take place that is positive between the two, admitted that he had done some things well. Then she says, “Just because it rained a ¼” doesn’t mean the drought is over.” We, in the middle of the drought plagued land, know this reality all too well. A ¼” of rain doesn’t stop a drought. A few kind gestures do not revive a relationship that has been ignored for years.
Droughts happen; a period of dryness because of a variety of reasons. A spouse is deployed overseas; a child is sick and demands special attention for a long period of time; a two income family is down to one and the necessities of life are barely met. The marriage is put on hold to take care of these more pressing issues. Droughts happen to strong and weak marriages alike. So what are the differences between a marriage that withstands the droughts of life and one that does not?
There is nothing more pathetic than to drive through farmland and notice a single, volunteer, dried up, and ignored stalk of corn. There is also nothing more inspiring that to see a field filled with green, tall stalks tasseled out with plump ears. Marriages that AVOID ISOLATION and involve themselves in healthy community, find themselves growing while also encouraging others to grow. Together, they shade the parched ground, prevent weeds that threaten, and actually help the soil improve through time. Community helps prop us up during the hot winds that blow during difficult times. We are not meant to live in a vacuum and that goes for marriages as well. Yes, your partner might be your best friend, but marriages are not meant to be your “everything”.
During the hottest time of this past year, I would find myself driving through dust clouds. What was amazing about this was that these clouds were intentionally created by farmers disking their land. The dust that this kicked up was really a sign of the farmer keeping the dirt workable. The fields were barren, but if a crop was to be seeded again soon, the ground needed to be kept from getting hard. In Scriptures, the heart is portrayed as soil (Matt 13:7-9) Different kinds of soil produce different kinds of results. CHECK YOUR SOIL (HEART). A personal inventory is always wise to determine if your heart is getting hard or if it is open to receiving nutrients. Is it closed off or is it workable? Are you getting resentful during this drought or are you doing the personal work to keep your heart soft toward the other? You have to be vigilant to make sure yours is not getting so hard that it is going to take years to soften it back up. This means that you must be responsible for the condition of your heart. No fair blaming your partner for your hard heart.
KEEP IT FERTILIZED. (Hold all jokes about manure). I only have to look out my front window to see the affects the dry conditions has on my lawn. The nutrients in the ground deplete more quickly in those conditions so fertilizing is important if you want to keep your yard or crop. The difference between happy couples and unhappy couples is not the amount of bad that occurs in the marriage. It is the amount of good that they keep pouring into the marriage. Experts have determined that a ratio of 5:1 should be maintained to keep a zero balance. That is, for every dumb thing you do to hurt your marriage you need to make sure you put back 5 good things. It is always wiser to have more in your relationships “bank account” than zero. I have found that depending on how dumb or hurtful the offense will determine how many positives need to be put back into the relationship. Forgetting the milk for breakfast will demand a lot smaller restitution than if I forget my wife’s birthday (duh!). You have to be intentional about fertilizing the relationship. Just practice the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22, 23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Pouring these nutrients in the relationship when there is a drought will go a long way in keeping the marriage strong.
We all know plants need water to keep them alive and growing. The key to good watering is to water deeply. I am surprised to see my neighbors who water their yard everyday but all it does is hit the top of the ground. The water makes the grass look greener for a moment but the grass is not really getting healthier and stronger. WATER DEEPLY! Even if done less often, is actually better for your plants. With couples, watering deep includes connecting on a deeper, emotional level. I am not a big believer in always sharing your deep feelings all the time. That just wears me out. But, I do believe that being transparent, honest, open, willing to take an emotional risk, and being vulnerable are capacities for closeness that must be the norm. This deeper connection is what makes the difference between a superficial relationship or a deeper, significant one. The deeper the connection, the more likely it will survive (and often thrive) during a drought. Sometimes just sharing how much you miss the other person, a short glance of desire, or even a heartfelt appreciation for the other’s sacrifice during the drought is all the watering that will need to be done.