Recently I was talking to my mom…well, more like complaining to her about my car woes. As I shared with her that we’d put my car in the shop for the third time in less than a month, my mother said “oooh! I know how you feel! I remember when we didn’t have a car and when I did the laundry I had to pull the clothes to the laundry mat in a red wagon”.
Wait. Stop! What? Did she just say a red wagon?
My mother could tell I was shocked and so she said, “Honey yes! A red wagon! We didn’t have a car nor did we have a washer and dryer. So when I had to do laundry, I would put the clothes in a red wagon and pull it to the laundry mat”.
Can I tell you the image of a grown woman (with one child at the time) pulling her clothes to the laundry mat in a red wagon was….ummm….interesting to me. We aren’t talking about a city like New York where people walk most places anyway. We are talking about in Dallas, Texas where her laundry mat wasn’t necessarily close to where she lived.
As I thought about my mother and the red wagon, I couldn’t help but think about how much she and my father have gone through and endured in their 40+ years of marriage. It reminded me yet again that in this new age of marriage, folks don’t know how to survive the tough times. Couples who’ve been married 30, 40 and 50 years have learned the values of fortitude, resilience and tenacity that I am afraid we are losing in this day and age. Somehow we believe that our marriage should resemble the “Cosby Show” without having to put in the work to get there.
For me, my mother sharing with me that she had to pull a “red wagon” to and from the laundry mat, was just one of many many stories she has told me over the years of challenges and obstacles she and my dad have had to overcome. It’s easy to look at my mother now driving her luxury car and living in a home that is paid for and think “wow, she’s got it made…”. Looking at her now you’d never think she use to pull a ‘red wagon’.
Most people marry in the hopes to get to 47 years (like my parents) and beyond, but do we really take into consideration all that happens from “I do” at the altar to forever? That journey can be filled with ups, downs, and turnarounds. If we are going to experience forever, we must learn how to survive the “Red Wagon”.
The “Red Wagon” are those tough spots in the marriage where the picture of where you are doesn’t match where you thought you would be. The “Red Wagon” are those times when you feel frustrated, disappointed or discouraged. The “Red Wagon” is the “…for worse”; “…for poorer”; “…in sickness” part of the vows we so solemnly declare on our wedding day!
I know. This isn’t a comfortable read. I get it….we don’t want to talk about this. But see, if we don’t talk about the “Red Wagon”, when we face those experiences we don’t have tools to navigate through them.
In my 12 years of marriage, my husband and I have surely experienced our own “red wagon” moments. From failed businesses, to money woes, to health scares, to miscarriage, to feeling disconnected…I could go on and on. And I am sure we aren’t alone. We all have experienced those moments of pulling the proverbial “red wagon” and wondered what in the world was going on!
Listening to my parents (and other seasoned married couples) over the years, I have learned critical tips for navigating the tough times. The lessons are invaluable and I try and apply them in my own marriage. Today, allow me to share 3 of the 6 strategies that stand out the most to me. Check back next week for the remaining 6:
- Forgive and Forget
In any relationship we have the potential to be hurt or disappointed….or to be the one that hurts or disappoints someone else. That is just what happens when humans connect with one another. In marriage, learning how to forgive and to move on from the hurt will go a long way in maintaining a strong union. Now, let’s be clear. This concept is often misunderstood and misused. Forgiveness doesn’t give someone the license to continue destructive behaviors. We shouldn’t abuse the act of forgiveness but accept it as the gift that it is and commit to not repeating the behavior in the future.
- Monitor your Mouth
Folks use to say “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”….but the couples I know who have survived the tough times tell me that what is SAID can destroy your marriage just as much as what is done. Be careful what you say and how you speak to one another. In addition to that, intentionally speaking well of your spouse to others goes a long way in the relationship.
- Build the Bank
While building your monetary bank is important, I have learned from the wise couples I am connected too that you must also build the emotional, sexual, and spiritual banks as well. Make sure that you are INVESTING way more than you are WITHDRAWING. Fill your bank with love, constant laughter, private memories, and prayer. That way, when you go through tough times, you’ve invested SO much in the bank your marriage won’t go bankrupt.
If my parents were to give me permission to share their marital story you would learn that pulling a red wagon was the least of the struggles they faced. But, they can actually look back on that time and smile at how far they’ve come.
I believe that employing these 3 tips and also making a decision to “stick & stay” will get us all closer to “forever after”.
Your turn! What are tips, tools or strategies that you believe can help couples through the tough times? “LIKE” our Facebook page and share your comments under this blog!