Lately, in conversations with my friends and family, the same topic keeps popping up. In several different conversations, someone has mentioned that couples they know — people our age (late 20s/early 30s) who have been married only a few years– are getting divorced. And it’s scary. In every conversation, someone says, “It just seems so easy.” So easy to ignore your spouse. So easy to stop doing the little things that made your marriage special. So easy to cheat. So easy to just let your marriage fall apart.
It’s also easy to get a running injury. It’s easy to push too hard, too soon. It’s easy to ignore the warning signs. It’s easy to not buy new shoes, to skip strength training, to run on a rest day because you’re “not tired.” But you can prevent running injuries, and you can treat them if they happen. You don’t just give up on running, right?
I’m not trying to oversimplify marriage by making this analogy, but I do believe that the lessons we learn from preventing and treating running injuries can apply to our marriages as well.
Disclaimer: J and I have been married for six years. I won’t claim that six years of marriage makes me a marriage expert, but my parents have been married for almost 35 years, my grandparents for over 60 (and both couples still like each other), so I’ve had some pretty great marriage role models to learn from and try to emulate.
How to Treat Your Marriage Like a Running Injury:
1. Prevent trouble in the first place.
Being injured is a runner’s worst fear, so we take all kinds of preventative measures to keep injuries away. We cross train, strength train, do yoga, and foam roll, even when we don’t want to. We cough up money for massages. We ice, heat, and elevate. We analyze our nutrition. All of those things keep our bodies strong and flexible and keep injuries from slowing us down.
Treat your marriage the same way. Long before trouble arises, work on maintaining your marriage. Make time for your spouse. Have dinner together. Ignore the housework for an hour so you can just chat over a cup of coffee. Do something that she loves, even though it’s not your favorite activity. Bring home his favorite little treat just because you saw it at the store and thought of him. Listen — actually listen — as he talks about his struggles at work or she tells you about the silly things the kids did today. Hold hands, kiss, and communicate, even when you feel like you just don’t have time. That maintenance work will keep your marriage strong, flexible, and happy, and will keep many problems at bay.
2. Treat problems at the first sign of pain.
As runners, we’ve all ignored that little nagging pain, told ourselves it would go away… and pushed it into a full-blown injury. If, at the first hint of pain, we take a few days off, rest, and ice the twingy spot, chances are that within a week or two, we’re back out running as though nothing went wrong.
Do the same with your marriage. As soon as you feel like he’s putting you second to his job, or she’s consistently being short-tempered and disrespectful, or both of you just aren’t communicating like you need to, address the problem. Especially if you’re like me (i.e. a conflict-avoiding queen), it’s way too easy to just let issues and annoyances build up and simmer in your head until they boil over and you’re screaming at him because he folded your socks wrong when that’s really not the problem at all.
When something feels “off,” it’s hard to take a few days off running and watch the zeros line up in your log book, but it’s absolutely necessary if you don’t want months of zeros. And it’s hard to confront your spouse about the little thing that’s bugging you… but it’s absolutely necessary if you don’t want things to pile up into a huge, irreparable explosion.
3. When you do have major problems, treat them.
Maybe you ignored steps one and two. Or maybe you thought you were being careful, but you still got injured. And now you’re sidelined with a major injury that you can’t ignore any longer. What do you do? You go to the doctor and get a diagnosis. He sends you to a physical therapist, who gives you exercises to do at home. And you do those exercises, even though they suck, because you know that working hard is the only way you’ll get back to the runner you once were.
Marriage is no different. Sometimes, even if we think we’re doing everything right, major problems arise. One of you makes a big mistake, or you’ve let the marriage maintenance slide for so long that reconciling seems impossible. But don’t give up. Work on your marriage. You may need to go to a counselor. He’ll give you exercises to do and conversations to have at home — and they’ll probably suck. But do them, because working hard is the only thing that will get you back to the marriage you once had. (image source)
Preventing running injuries isn’t always fun (see: foam rolling). Taking time off when something hints at injury isn’t fun, either. And when we do get injured, some running injuries take a long time to heal. But most of us don’t give up on running, because we love it too much. We’re willing to slog through the hard times to get back to the running we love.
Preventing marriage problems isn’t always fun, either. Sometimes it requires skipping other things we think are important, or doing something we don’t really like but our spouse loves. Confronting little problems is not fun, either. And when big problems do arise, marriage injuries take a long time to heal, too. But don’t give up on your spouse, just like you don’t give up on running. You’re committed to each other. You love each other. And your spouse is worth the effort it takes to keep your marriage healthy.
How long have you and your spouse, your parents, and/or your grandparents been married?
What advice do you have for keeping marriages healthy?