Friday, March 9, 2012

Training for a Marathon Marriage

by Linda Schulze, M.S.W., LCSW, Clinical Director

I recently returned from traveling to Myrtle Beach to support my husband who was running in a marathon there. I started to think how training for a marathon can give some perspective on the effort involved in a successful marriage.  First, a decision has to be made to commit to do what it takes to complete the journey.  Training for a marathon is hard work and involves training the body, mind and spirit for the task.  Marriage is also hard work and is most successful when we are purposeful to train the body, mind and spirit for the task of a healthy marriage.

In marathon training, the body work begins with running, running and more running.  Healthy eating and good rest are also very important.  Runners train their bodies to burn sugars and fats differently then sedentary people so that they can keep running for hours.  A married person uses their body differently than a single person as well.  In a marriage, it is important for partners to spend time together, to work on listening well to one another, to talk in a supportive way one another, and to commit to sexual intimacy with that one person.  It will enhance your marriage to train yourself to be willing to serve the other unexpectedly.  It will be easier and more natural in time.  Look at your marriage.  Do you involve yourself in an interest of your partner’s that is not your interest?  The long-term rewards in your marriage will be many when partners are willing to serve each other and be a part of each others’ interests. 

As runners choose to run even though they’re feeling out-of-sorts, to run when it’s raining outside, to run when their legs get heavy; they are training their mind to be strong through the challenges of the 26.2 miles.  You guessed it—our minds need training in marriage.  We see the good and the bad of our partners and we need to train our thoughts to focus on the good.  After I had my children, I gained 50 pounds.  My husband never said or communicated anything but love and attraction to me even with the extra weight.  Now that I’ve lost the weight, he still expresses love and attraction. He could have focused on the negative, but he did not.  He remained supportive and hopeful.  Our marriages will be stronger if we train our minds to have a hopeful perspective: to believe conflict can be resolved, to assume the best in our partners instead of the worst, to quickly recognize expectations and what to do about them.

A runner needs motivating words and friends to encourage their spirit.  As a Christian, I look to my relationship with God and with close friends to support my marriage.  Do you have people around you that treat their partners well?  Do they brag about their spouses or complain about them?  Choose to have friends that support your commitment to your relationship and are committed to theirs.  Choose a friend or counselor that you can trust to help you through the hard times in marriage, because everyone has those times as well. 

With training and work, like the runner, you can be successful!