Two weeks ago my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Sad to say that in today’s world that’s actually quite a milestone, but regardless we were both looking to do something memorable.
Now normal people might do a great vacation, like a cruise or something, or at least nab a short getaway to some really cool destination like Napa Valley… but not us.
No, we signed up for a Spartan Super.
What’s a Spartan Super you ask?
In short, it’s an 8+ mile obstacle course race with 25+ obstacles that takes you up and down a 1,400-foot mountain three times across very rugged and steep terrain. It’s brutal, even for those who are in great shape.
I know. Sounds fun! And totally sensible if you want to “celebrate” something. (Note sarcasm)
Now before you think we’re completely crazy, we did a “Spartan Sprint” (the 5k version of this race) back in October so we thought, “How bad can this be?”
Let me tell you, we figured out very early in the race that what we signed up for was an entirely different animal.
This race was the absolute HARDEST thing either of us has ever done.
We got the crap kicked out of us.
Bruises, cuts, pulled muscles, busted knee… you name it.
Days later we were still feeling the hard effects of this race. No joke.
We both agree that it was a miserable experience in many respects. But at the same time, we both agree it was one of the BEST THINGS we EVER did for our marriage.
Here are four reasons why.
This race taught us…
1. It’s ONLY about the experience.
We entered this race for one reason. We wanted to do it together.
Early in the race my wife had a small anxiety attack come out of nowhere which really slowed us down initially. Her pulse rate was up. She was having a hard time catching her breath. All of this while we were climbing a steep mountain and our hearts were pounding.
There were several times she said to me, “I’m sorry, I’m holding us up.”
To which I replied, “Sorry for what? We did this to have fun together, not to earn a medal or beat the best time.”
That consolation made all the difference for her because when I pushed her to keep going she knew that I was doing it for the sake of experiencing something together, not because I had some sort of self-interested objective.
Marriage is all about doing life together.
It’s not about you.
So many people quit on marriage because they get discouraged when they don’t hit goals or meet self-imposed expectations.
It’s not about that.
It’s about the experience and the journey together.
Forget the rest.
2. You need each other to get through.
Like I said, in the early part of the race my wife needed me.
She needed my strength, my encouragement, my understanding, and my love. No doubt.
But around mile 4 into the race, I jacked up my knee. It hurt so bad that I could only manage a sad limp when I was walking down the mountain and such.
Guess what? The tables turned.
The strong one was now the weak one.
The encourager now needed encouragement.
The affirmer now needed to hear the words, “I’m so proud of you.”
I can honestly say that my wife was what got me through that last 4 miles, just like I was what got her through the 1st four.
You need each other.
There will be times when you have to pull your spouse through tough circumstances and there will be just as many times that they will need to do the same for you.
If you don’t see and understand that you need each other equally you will NEVER make it to the end.
3. Tough times can grow your love for each other instead of destroying it.
After the race I told my wife that I loved her more that day than the day before.
I know it sounds like a cheesy Hallmark card but it’s completely true.
Because we suffered, sweated, and endured that race as a team and served as each other’s cheerleader instead of each other’s detractor our love grew.
Yea, we could have pointed fingers. We could have turned on each other as our shared suffering increased.
She could have said, “I can’t believe you signed me up for this ****!”
Or I could have said, “Why aren’t you going faster?”
But we didn’t.
And because we chose to LOVE each other through the pain rather than blame each other through the misery our love grew exponentially.
Marriage is the same thing. There will always be pain, suffering, and tough times.
It’s up to you to CHOOSE to love and support each other through those moments rather than turning inward and looking to shift blame on the closest scapegoat.
And if you choose to love, your love will grow.
4. It’s not HOW you get to the end. Just get there.
I’ll be honest, our race was ugly.
Between her anxiety in the beginning and my injury halfway through (combined with our lack of running experience and training for such an affair), we ended up completing the race in a dismal time.
On top of that, we were beat up, had mud in places you should never have mud, and smelled like… well, I don’t know exactly but it was nasty.
At the end of these races there is a fire you have to jump through right before the finish line. It’s really cool. And when you see the video and pics of some people and their creative ways of jumping that line you think that when it’s your turn you’re going to have an amazing photo finish yourself.
But as we approached the fire we both knew we had nothing left in the tank and even a weak leap was going to be a stretch to pull off.
No arms raised in victory.
Nothing really amazing or creative.
None of that.
Holding hands was enough as we managed a weak stride across the burning logs because in that moment all we wanted to celebrate was that we finished the way we started… together.
Listen, marriage is not easy.
Never think that it will be.
But it is an amazing experience and if you BOTH keep pressing, even through the hard times, when you come through the fire you’ll be able to do it together.
And that’s what matters.
Don't give up on your marriage. It is worth the effort and investment. If you feel like your marriage is struggling, or even failing, there is hope. There is healing.