Olympic-style training for marriage!

Harold N. Miller

It's easy for all segments of the political and religious spectrum to talk about the value of stable two-parent family units. But what about the hard part of keeping two adults in a stable marriage relationship?

At times married couples find it difficult--sometimes excruciatingly so--to communicate, to make decisions mutually, to forgive as they need the other to forgive them, or to show kindness and consideration instead of taking the other for granted.

I love my wife--she's my best friend, the one I like to talk with the most. But yesterday I hurt her with yet another manifestation of what bugs her most about me, and talking together was difficult for a while.

And in some situations the difficulties pile up and we wonder if the marriage can continue.

But while watching the Olympics the other week I realized that there are many seemingly impossible tasks that the human spirit and body can rise to accomplish.

Perhaps we need some Olympic-style training for marriage!

Those athletes decide that "going for the gold" is of higher value than anything else. So they become ruthless and eliminate anything from their lifestyle that hinders their chances.

What would happen if a couple struggling to stay married chose to ruthlessly eliminate anything hindering their marriage, denying themselves of many legitimate pleasures for the sake of this greater goal?

What if the ecstacy and glory of happily married couples were captured on prime time television?

Olympic training includes activities which seem to have nothing in common with the athlete's event. For instance, swimmers do weigh-lifting to increase endurance.

So also prayer and worship may seem removed from marriage skills, but when authentically done, they help us get self out of the center of our existence--something our spouses all wish upon us! Prayer gets me attuned to a Being who is interested in the highest and best aspirations for both me and my spouse.

The Apostle Paul said, "train yourself to be godly" (1 Tim. 4:7). I am. Because I need to be more like God, who is love (1 John 4:8,16).

The serious athletes surround themselves with persons of similar interests and goals. They take counsel and direction from coaches who have experience and expertise in the event. We who are serious about our marriage will do the same.

We laud Olympic athletes who expend years in training; we don't expect their performances to come easy.

Let's have the same realistic expectations about maintaining our two-parent families. The discipline and determination needed for maintaining a stable marriage is high.

The pay-off is also high--for the children, the community, the country...and for the husband and wife.

This column appeared in The Leader (Corning NY)