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Sitting in a restaurant today, working on my laptop, I overhead a couple bickering at the adjoining table. It was pretty obvious they were both in bad moods and spent the whole 30 minutes they were there snapping at each other. She was trying to talk him into something he didn’t like. She started out by calling him stupid and the conversation went downhill from there. He was just as busy sniping at her. I wanted, so bad, to walk over and say, “Stop. Don’t waste this precious time you have together by snapping at each other. Appreciate each other. Love each other. Discuss things in a peaceful manner.” I didn’t, of course, and they soon went on their way.
I thought about them later in the day. I realized that they were not atypical. Almost all couples bicker. Granted they were a bit extreme but it is almost impossible for two people to live together without some fusses brewing up, no matter how much they love each other. And for members of the Sandwich Generation, the pressure can be even more intense. In addition to the normal, everyday hassles most couples endure, there may be pressures from extra errands for elderly relatives, more than the usual round of colds from those darling grandkids, etc. Extra pressure can lead to shorter tempers and more bickering than normal.
There is no perfect solution to this problem but being aware of this situation can be a big help. Sitting down, talking it out, and planning how to deal with each other on bad days, before the bad days occur can be an excellent precaution. Praying a lot is always wise. Set rules that you both follow, such as never use or think the word, “divorce.” Never call each other names. Tell everyone about the wonderful things your spouse does, tell only God about the things your spouse does that frustrate you. These are all excellent ways to “seek peace and pursue it” with your spouse.
Proactively working on your marriage, even in the midst of a storm of busyness, is crucial to every married couple. I would encourage you to date your spouse on a regular basis, no matter how much you might have to pay for a babysitter or elder care companion while you are gone. If money is too tight, look into trading. Trading babysitting/elder care companioning with another couple going through the same situation is one way to do that, but there are other options as well. When my kids were older but not quite old enough to leave alone, I went back to work and was too tired to trade babysitting but too broke to afford to pay. I found a wonderful sitter who traded her sitting for my typing her school manuscripts. It was great! Many churches offer opportunities for parents/grandparents to have a date night while they watch the kids/grandkids. This is often for little or no payment. They might also offer respite caregiving for elderly relatives to give those who need it a regular break.
Getting away alone for a weekend every couple of years is also refreshing to a relationship. Whether you just go off on your own to a favorite hotel, or use the time to work on your marriage through a retreat such as the marriage conferences put on by Family Life, it can be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect and re-energize your marriage.
Caregiving, whether for old or young or both, takes a lot out of a relationship. Spending time working at refreshing and replenishing the relationship will pay off handsome rewards for you, your spouse, your relationship, and ultimately for those you love and care for.