A few years ago, my husband, Stuart, and I began seeing a marriage counselor. You know the saying, “Things will get worse before they get better”? Well, this was definitely true for us.
During our counseling sessions, we learned the importance of expressing our needs to each other and not having expectations the other person had no idea about. For example, Stuart needed some alone time apart from work, and I needed his help with our sons when he wasn’t at work. Our boys were 3 and a half and 1 and a half at the time. For those of you who are parents, you know those ages combined are a LOT of work.
For a while, expressing our needs had been helping our communication. Until one day when our needs were clearly in conflict.
And that’s when I lost it.
Stuart had asked to go fishing to get some alone time like we’d discussed in counseling. I said yes because I wanted to give him what he needed. But when the day came and he began getting his fishing gear ready, reality dawned on me.
It had probably been a draining and overwhelming day of parenting—which, let’s be honest, seemed to be most days. I melted down. Like full-on Wicked Witch of the West style.
“I hate this! I can’t give you what you need! You need alone time, and I just can’t give it to you!” I cried.
Thankfully, he didn’t react to my emotional outburst. He knew there was something bubbling under the surface we needed to figure out. Instead, he called his parents and asked them to take our boys for a couple of nights so we could have uninterrupted time to focus on our marriage.
We spent the weekend talking, crying (mostly me), and just being us. Not as Mom and Dad, but as Jenn and Stuart.
A cord of three strands
For about six months following that “event” (sounds a little better than meltdown), Stuart’s parents took our boys one weekend a month to give us time and space to intentionally work on our marriage.
When you have children, it puts a natural strain on your marriage. Kids are the best, and I’m so glad we became parents. But it just changes the dynamics of your relationship with your spouse. And we were at a point where we needed help.
Others came around us as well. My mom paid for a babysitter one morning a week so I could focus on work and myself. I could read my Bible without being interrupted. I could write, workout, or go grocery shopping. Alone.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Although our marriage was made up of three strands—God, Stuart, and me—we needed to care for it. Our cord was frayed by the realities of life: parenting, ministry work, and, of course, being the selfish human sinners we all are at our core.
Getting some alone time, whether individually or together, was healing for our marriage and our three-strand cord. (Although my dad would disagree, sometimes duct tape is not enough.)
Preparing for the storms
We’ve all heard, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But I think it takes being in true community with others and communion with the Lord to not lose yourself in the busyness and trappings of life. Sometimes we just need to step back, pause, take a breath, and evaluate ourselves and our lives in order to keep everything from boiling over.
Although our parents don’t pay for babysitters or take our boys for a weekend every month anymore, I’m so thankful for that time. We needed it to reconnect with each other and the Lord. It helped us remember how important it is to continue dating each other. And that before we were a family of four, we were a family of two. And that relationship needs continual, tender, loving care to remain a strong foundation, able to withstand the storms of the world.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
Copyright © 2021 Jenn Grandlienard. All rights reserved.
Jenn Grandlienard grew up an East Coast Philly girl, but now loves calling the Midwest her home. She lives in Xenia, Ohio with her husband, Stuart, two sons, Knox and Zeke, and pup, Crosby. Jenn and her husband work with Athletes in Action, a ministry of Cru that teaches college athletes what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. She loves to read, work out, laugh really hard with friends, and spend time with her husband and boys. You can check out her blog about all these things and more at OurGrandLife.com. Find her on Instagram at @heyjenngrand and on Facebook.