Tag Archive | tandem living

The Battle For Oneness

I’m just going to put this out there: The longevity of a marriage is not an indication of oneness.

sc0079bb1fMy parents-in-law divorced after 48 years of marriage. My sister-in-law and her husband separated and are heading toward divorce after 30 years of marriage. When people say they’ve been married for more than 20 years, we applaud them. But no matter how many years you are married, you have to work on oneness. It doesn’t come automatically with a ring and some vows.

Oneness means vulnerability and trust and truth and humility. It means caring about someone else’s needs before your own. It means sacrifice and teamwork. And love. Most of all, love.

My husband, David, and I will have been married 27 years on March 2nd. I think we have a really good marriage. But we definitely have room for improvement. There are things that I struggle with that I just can’t seem to overcome and he has areas that he wrestles with as well. Just last night we had to work through a situation of hurt feelings and misunderstanding. After 26 years! Sheesh, you’d think we’d have this down by now.

27 years at any job looks good on a resumé. But we’re definitely not experts yet.

But I don’t think that either one of us would say that we haven’t strengthened our oneness after 27 years.

Many years ago when our kids were still little, we went through marriage counseling to20120722-083057.jpg try and get a handle on some nagging issues. I had fought it for a long time, pridefully thinking that we could fix it ourselves. When I finally let God through, I gave the gift of agreement to my husband. It did a lot of good.

We still read books and go through daily devotionals on marriage. We talk to each other. We bring up issues, though it’s not comfortable and sometimes isn’t well received. We know that if we don’t keep these things in front of us, our oneness will be affected.

We are going in the same direction. We communicate. We try to remember to think the best of each other. We are on the same team. (I wrote a series a few years ago on how tandem biking mirrors marriage. Find the first in that series here.)

It makes a huge difference.

Once you stop thinking of your spouse as your partner and teammate, and start seeing them as the enemy, then you will be on a downward spiral that will lead you away from oneness.

Isolation is the enemy of oneness.

Anger is the enemy of oneness.

Unforgiveness is the enemy of oneness.

1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

85670316F046I realize that some marriages have been extremely hard. Perhaps there has been abuse or infidelity or addiction. The marriage covenant was broken a long time ago. I’m not suggesting by any means that anyone stay with an abuser.

Truth is, God is a God of redemption and reconciliation. The Trinity is the perfect model of oneness.

The best time to ensure that oneness grows in marriage is in the beginning.

And then do all you can to keep it going.

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Tandem Living: Being There For One Another

20130718-162721.jpgOver the last couple of months, I’ve been talking about how marriage and tandem bicycling mirror each other. It’s been pretty fun for me. There is one more thing that I thought I would talk about as I wrap up this series. More often than not lately, David and I have been riding our individual bikes. I ride as early in the morning as I am able, before it gets hot, and David needs to go to work. But even on weekends, we ride our separate bikes, because the workout is better. We’re still riding together, just not on the same bike.

What matters in our individual riding is that we are attempting to make ourselves stronger. What makes that bearable—especially to one who is not an exercise fanatic—is that we know we are on each other’s side. David is cheering me on in my attempts to be healthier. I pretty much have couch-potato tendencies if I don’t really work at overcoming them. I need all the encouragement I can get.

The same applies to how we approach our family life. I spend so much time focused on others, that I really have to work at taking time for myself. That’s really hard. Responsibilities never go away, and, in fact, more keep wanting to jump onto my already overflowing pile. Ignoring them isn’t an option; controlling them is crucial. When I feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities, and have to focus on them rather than David, I need to know that he’s on my side.

We just got back from a week of working in California. The day after we got back I had to jump right back into teaching, grading papers, getting ready for report cards and doing my magazine copy editing. Thankfully, David was able to take some comp time and go to the grocery store, clean the house and do some loads of laundry. Because we value the couple of times a year that we can work together out of town, the responsibilities when we return have to be shared.

We have to have each other’s backs. If I felt like my husband resented my responsibilities, I would be lost. I have to know that when the responsibilities are again under control, he will still be there, because he’s been encouraged before to be strong, and he’s been encouraging me the same way.

Previous to the both of us working at this out-of-town conference, David had been gone for 10 days. That left all the duties of the household and the kids on my shoulders. But that’s OK. He needed to be gone; I needed to pick up the slack. That’s the way it’s done. He encourages me to stand strong, and I encourage him.

Right now, our old tandem bike needs a lot of repair. We haven’t been riding it because we don’t know if it’ll make another trip before we have a chance to fix it—or replace it.

Thankfully, our marriage isn’t in the same boat. Yes, this has been a busy time since we returned from California. We haven’t spent any time alone. We haven’t talked through any issues that are weighing on us. We haven’t had a whole lot of fun. But that’s OK. It happens sometimes. We know we’re not in trouble because we are committed to each other and are on each other’s team. Sometimes we find ourselves simply standing on the sidelines, cheering on the other person. And sometimes that cheering is all we can hear.

And in the end, absolutely none of this would be possible without the strength that God gives us. The Holy Spirit is essential if we are to keep going. Does my husband feel loved by me? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do I have the strength to face the pressures of each day? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Can we get back on track with those pesky responsibilities put in their places and the priorities back where they belong? Absolutely, because not only are we on each other’s side, but we have the Creator of the universe right there with us.

Tandem Living: Riding Out of Sync

tandem bike drawingHave you ever seen anyone riding a tandem bicycle where the pedals weren’t calibrated? When one person’s foot is up on one side, the other person’s is supposed to be up also. If they’re off, it looks really strange. It doesn’t feel any different, and you can still go along your merry way, but something is just not right.

David and I recently were apart for 10 days. That might not seem like very long to some people, but when you’re used to living side by side, 10 days is a long time. I felt very out of sync. I was handling all the kids’ issues, I had to attend our boys’ open houses without him, I was doing every errand, I was doing all the thinking about our days and, because of a 3-hour time difference and a busy schedule, David and I rarely got to talk.

But sometimes it doesn’t take a separation to make us feel out of sync. Sometimes it might be a disagreement that hasn’t been resolved. Sometimes, it’s just a lack of time alone.

Because our tandem bike is old, several times on the last few rides we’ve had trouble with our chain. In the midst of shifting gears, it will fall off the cog. We have to then stop wherever we are, of course, because without the chain engaged, the pedals just spin. And if we don’t pay attention when we’re fixing that chain, we don’t make sure the pedals are in the same position and therefore they have that weird look of not being in perfect alignment with each other.

In tandem life, we can apologize if an argument happens, but there’s more to getting back in sync. Sometimes it takes digging a little deeper, turning those pedals just a little bit more to fix the root of the problem. Much as we may try to hide it, when we are out of sync with our tandem partners, people notice. Something just doesn’t feel right. We may move along just fine, completing the duties of our everyday lives, but the harmony, unity and beauty of synchronicity is missing.

It’s worth it to take the time to get off the bike, take off the chain, and get those pedals back in alignment again.

Tandem Living: You Never Know So Much That You Can’t Learn From Someone Else

tandem bike drawingIt’s been a very busy season in our household as school has started for me and our three kids. David and I are restarting our weekly date nights which we had let go during the summer. I apologize for my prolonged absence as I have attempted to figure out what my normal for this school year is going to look like. So far in this series on Tandem Living, we have looked at the importance of going in the same direction, communicating, trusting, being an example, weathering the storms, working together, and getting tune ups when needed.

Today, I want to say that, even though David and I have been riding a tandem bike for nearly 20 years, we certainly have a lot still to learn, and though we’ve been married for a bit more than 22 years, we would be the first to admit that we certainly do not know everything there is to know about marriage. There are always those who have more experience than we do. The day we decide we have nothing more to learn from anybody better be the day we die.

We might know the basics about biking, but we haven’t researched tips and techniques to making our riding experience better. We haven’t taken cross-country trips or even gone more than 30 miles at a time. We’ve never crashed. We’ve never had a flat tire on the tandem. We’ve never had it stolen.

In our marriage, we’ve never had to navigate the waters of infidelity. We’ve never lost a child after it was born. We’ve never had a major, life-threatening illness. We’ve never gone through a bankruptcy.

God forbid we would ever have to go through any of those trials, but we’d sure like to know how to handle them well if we did. We may have things we can teach couples who have not been married as long as we have, but we also have so much we can learn from those who have been married longer. But when we went through counseling several years ago, our counselor was a single woman. That didn’t mean she didn’t have something to teach us; she did because she had education and life experience. We didn’t hesitate to listen to her just because she’d never had personal experience as a spouse.

Seek out those who know more than you about being married, just as we need to seek out help from experts in the field of cycling if we plan on improving our ride.

Tandem Living: Even the Best Bikes Need a Tune Up Every Now and Then

tandem bike drawingWe bought our tandem bike in South Africa in 1994. Since then, we have changed the seats a couple of times until we found ones that are comfortable, we have gotten new handle bars that sit us more upright, and David has cleaned it and adjusted some things every now and then. After 19 years, it needs work. It’s a very heavy bike, so it’s not one we would consider high quality. But it gets us where we want to go. David often talks of selling it and getting something better. I’m kind of sentimental and want to hang on to it. For right now, it’s working for us.

Now, my husband’s road bike and our Townie and cruiser bikes, those are a different story. I mentioned before that David is a bike snob, so he bought those with special attention to quality. They’re not top-of-the-line, which we can’t afford, but they’re not Huffys, off the rack at Wal-Mart. But what would happen if we just let those bikes sit out in the rain and sun, never cleaned them or made sure their gears and brakes and tire tubes were in good shape? Well, we wouldn’t have them for long.

One day recently, both David’s road bike and my Townie got flat tires on the same day. And I did something to mine that caused my brake to start dragging on the front tire. And then there was the near spill I had that broke the bottle cage. All these things needed to be fixed before the bikes would be truly road worthy again. (Well, the bottle cage is still waiting to be replaced.)

The same is true of our marriage. Many years ago when our kids were still little, for Christmas I gave David the gift of agreeing to see a marriage counselor. We didn’t have huge, divorce-on-the-horizon problems, but David had been pushing for us to talk to someone about some issues that just were’t going to go away without help. Our marriage needed a tune-up. We loved each other, we were committed to each other, but we had some things going on from our histories that were putting roadblocks in our future. Those needed to be torn down.

I have a friend who has been married just short of a year whose husband refuses to go to counseling because he thinks that seeing a counselor means that you’re crazy.

It doesn’t. In fact, it means you’re very smart. Although David knows a lot about bikes, he still takes our nice bikes to a bike shop for a professional to work on, because he knows that he doesn’t know everything. He wants what he loves in the hands of those who know what to do with it.

There are people who’ve been married a lot longer than we have. There are people who have been trained to ask the right questions and dig beyond the surface. They’re the ones to whom we want to entrust our most valuable relationship. And counseling isn’t always necessary. Sometimes just attending a conference like FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember or The Art of Marriage, or joining a couples Bible study, or reading a marriage book together will highlight some areas where work needs to be done. (Comment below if you’d like some ideas of books to consider.)

Keeping our bikes road worthy is a priority as we spend a lot of time on them. Making our marriages shine is even more important.

Tandem Living: Weathering the Storms

tandem bike drawingSo far in my miniseries on tandem living, I’ve talked about the importance of going in the same direction, how communication is key, that trust is essential and that people are watching us. Today I want to talk about what happens when you get caught in the rain.

A couple of years ago, on our biennial trip to Colorado, David and I were riding our rented tandem from a meeting back to the apartment where we were staying. We knew the potential for a storm was there; we were hoping we could outrun it. No such luck. We got drenched. And, unlike Florida rainstorms, this one came with some chill to it. So wet, cold and still miles from home, we could have gotten really grumpy with each other. But what good would that have done? It’s not like either one of us planned to get caught in the rain. It was simply the circumstance. We were here, and we needed to get there, and the only transportation we had was our bike. We either weathered the storm together, or we found a place to hide out and never got to where we were going until it was too late for whatever it was we were supposed to do next.

It would have been good if we had known it might rain and had been better prepared. This past summer, we knew there was a stormy day in which we would have to ride, so we had two weatherproof jackets with us. Though the rain this time wasn’t as hard, we still would have been much more wet if we hadn’t had those jackets. Preparation for the storm helped.

Before we were married, David and I attended a FamilyLife marriage conference. One of the things I most remember from that conference is one of the speakers telling us, “Your spouse is not your enemy.” If we determine to see ourselves as members of the same team, we’ll be able to face whatever confronts us much stronger. In the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, King Solomon, the writer, says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecc. 4:12). The third cord is God.

For four years, from 1992 to 1996, David and I battled infertility. Month after month we hoped to be pregnant, and month after month we were disappointed. When we finally did get pregnant, under the care of an infertility doctor, I miscarried. That was certainly a storm we needed to weather together. And it made us stronger.

Strong enough to endure two more miscarriages over the next several years. Strong enough to face David’s chronic ulcerative colitis. Strong enough to weather the storm of my parents’ deaths 16 months apart. Strong enough to handle the divorce of David’s parents after 48 years of marriage.

Storms, whether actual or metaphorical, are a part of life. Without the rain, things don’t grow. Without trials, our character cannot be molded. How we face those storms in tandem living–with perseverance and partnership or anger and an adversarial outlook–determines our ultimate character. Knowing those storms will come, and having whatever tools we need to help us better face them, makes a big difference.