In Relentless Pursuit of Excellence: A Marriage To Last A Lifetime

Life is full, and in the Morrow family with 6 kids - 5 still at home, we are all seemingly always passing one another as we come and go. Its actually rare these days when all 8 of us in the same spot. :( Its weird how our family has morphed over the last 21+ years of marriage, and today I'm a little introspective about it. Its Saturday afternoon and KC just rode off on his bike with Joey and Bradley on theirs, Holli is in her room studying, and Bayli and Linnie are vegging out in front of the tv: thrilled to not have plans and content to get to be slugs for the afternoon. :) KC, our oldest, is in college, but this weekend he and some of his buddies are camping out at the Coachella weekend multi-band concert. I'm sitting here at my computer looking out the window at a little squirrel running along one of the higher branches of our big oak tree out front. Thinking. Pondering. Sometimes I do that; just sit back and zoom out the lens I view my life through and take it in as an observer, looking for things to be thankful for, and areas where I see room for personal improvement. Do you do that? Well today I'm thinking about our family and how blessed I am to be still married to this man I love and how we've made it work through thick and thin, richer and poorer, through sicknesses and healthier days, and still connected, still active in one another's personal growth, still loving and liking each other. :) There were truthfully times when things were rickety as we figured life out together as two very different people, and just this morning over breakfast we were discussing how cool it is that with 21+ years of marriage behind us, we really have figured out how to come alongside the other and strengthen one another's weaknesses as we compliment the other's strengths. Kind of like our own personal dance. And I wonder "How have we done that, Lord? How can I pass on to our kids or anyone who's interested in finding how to get to this point?" How can I share the secret, if you want to call it that, to a fulfilling long term marriage? Well, surely not in one blog post but hopefully by living out loud and on purpose, in relentless pursuit of excellence, while pointing out what we did in hopes that it helps someone else who desires to have a healthy marriage that lasts a lifetime.The core relationship in a healthy, successful family is the marriage. The marriage is the nucleus of the family, and unfortunately so many couples get it reversed - and the kids become the central focus of the family. I have observed and spoken with so many wives who want more from their marriage, and yet dont even feel like a woman anymore because they've lost themselves in the mother role. Don't get me wrong - I'm a HUGE fan of Motherhood! :) HUGE! Its why I have a gackle of kids! But the truth is, when we moms fall in love with our newborn baby; so helplessly needy, dependent on us for every thing in order to live; that can cause a shift in balance that can be so beautiful, yet potentially dangerous to the marriage relationship. We LOVE to feel needed, we are hardwired to nurture, and find purpose and true joy in lavishing our baby with all the things that enable them to become who they were created to be. But that love comes on so fast and overpowering, and that big old man who sleeps beside you can suddenly appear less than "cute and cuddly" than that yummy smelling baby who needs you so desperately. I get it. Its something most women go through, that shift in love and focus and purpose, and without a mentor mom or two, who are a step or more ahead of you in life's journey, a woman can begin to feel a bit distanced from her husband.  We can even feel somewhat heroic and find our purpose in "doing anything" for our kids. Sadly, to the detriment to our marriage relationship; and fullness of who you are as a balanced woman. Marriage and Family Therapist John Rosemond says, "What happens is that the mother spends so much time with the child that the father's role ends up being a parenting aid." Not good. The baby quickly grows into a child who is in a position of power that is too much for them to handle because the family is out of balance, the dad feels undervalued, and the mom feels unfulfilled and under-appreciated as a woman. I am in such opposition to the commercials and tv shows depicting the father as a dufus or worthless tv watcher while the wife rules the family! It breaks my heart when I see shows where its assumed that worthless dad wont have anything to add, and if he does, he's patted on the head like a child or worse, everyone is shocked that he stumbled into an answer or solution that actually added value! :( It SO undermines the critical role of a father; speaking as a wife who has seen the incredible value of the father in my kids lives. Maybe most marriages go through this season on some level or another, but the sooner parents can get their relationship back to being the core relationship of the family, will order be restored in the home. And what if you're reading this and your "baby" is a teen or young adult? There's absolutely hope! As Chuck Swindoll says: "No marriage is "too dead" for the Lord to restore!"I want to encourage you if you are reading this right now, feeling like your marriage has come off the tracks. I have seen marriages where the husband and wife are so far apart they are pretty much roommates be radically transformed with time, attention, and intention. Truthfully, our marriage has slipped into that feeling at various times. Going through the motions, busy in life routines, living together but not emotionally connected, not feeling particularly close and not really caring. "Dullsville". ;o)  Thankfully our communication was open enough that one or both of us would notice, and we made a conscious effort to change it up and intentionally re-build and re-connect. Marriage takes work. HARD WORK. Intentionally connecting and investing into the relationship because you made a promise to one another, and to God, when you stood in front of your spouse and made promises. Your word matters. No matter what place you are in right now, let me encourage you that feelings will come and go, but promises - a covenant - matters. And love and warm fuzzy feelings can come back, even stronger than it first was. Its that thing only God can do with our willing hearts. There is something about a love that has stood the test of time and storms, and the reward that comes from promises kept. It becomes a force all of its own. Because the truth is, you WILL grow apart. Everyone does. Who EVER remains the same over decades of living, observing life, and purposely growing? But the beauty and challenge of marriage that lasts a lifetime is allowing one another to grow and change while continuing to intentionally stay connected. KC and I have had "Date Night" since the year or two before our youngest two kids joined the family. Sure, we did things like take walks together in the old days when the older four were younger, but not on the weekly basis that we do now. Back then life was slower so it wasnt a necessity to have that specified time because we connected more regularly. But as life transitioned to a faster pace, we carved out a time for just us and its not an option that we bump our date. :) I love that. We both do.How can YOU reconnect and stay connected? Start small. Have a conversation. Go Raw.  Not "in" the raw (though if that helps the conversation, have at it :)), but be transparent and take the risk of opening your heart and asking for what you'd like, what your goal is, and how much you desire for your marriage to be the most it can be. Express it from a place of love. Only you know if you need to apologize for any part of the current situation, though in any marriage I know that the good and bad take two. So beginning with your own heart, share what you'd love to see in your marriage. No accusing. This conversation may come out of left field for your spouse, especially if the bad habits are old habits, so allow him the space to hear what you're really saying and perhaps some time to digest the authenticity. No accusations. Yes, I know I already said that, I just want to drive it home. :) When have you ever been motivated to change when someone accuses you? Me? Um...probably none. At least not in that conversation. So be kind, remembering that "a gentle word turns away wrath" and "like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word aptly spoken". If you feel you need a mediator or counselor to help you, GO BROKE to save your marriage! Its worth it. Who cares if you have money in the bank and a broken family? Do all you can, as it pertains to you, to keep the peace and ferociously protect what really matters to you. You cant control another person - just keep working on you. There is no promise for the perfect ending, but love covers a multitude of error, so just keep working to love, and working on you.I did a year study on leaders and do you know what I found? Most don't finish well. :( That was disheartening, but further cemented my resolve to relentlessly pursue excellence, set up personal accountability with other like minded people, so that I finish well. I want my marriage to last the length of my life and as far as it pertains to me, I want to give my all to protect it and grow it so that God is honored, and KC feels loved fearlessly by me. And in the kids will see that it CAN be done, love CAN last a lifetime, and hopefully they'll relentlessly pursue excellence and finishing well as well! Its my deepest prayer.....and I pray that for you too. :) Please feel free to comment below and ask for prayer for your marriage and list your names. I commit to pray for you, and ask you to do the same for me.TOGETHER....we'll live....In Relentless Pursuit Of Excellence,TRACI :)