Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recovering Genuine Companionship

by John and Stasi Eldredge

John has a circle of things he loves to do. It includes fly- fishing, rock climbing, working on cars, hunting, reading, smoking cigars, and just about anything with adventure in it. I have a circle of things I love to do. It encompasses going to movies, working in and enjoying my garden, talking, taking walks, worshipping, and reading novels.

Oh, dear. Hopefully, somewhere, we can find some overlap. I am also the mother of three sons. I live in a house hold of men. I love them passionately but it can be lonely at times being the only woman around. Do some of you feel that way too? It isn’t easy to find places to connect with them and to share in their lives. I don’t play Xbox. I’m not a hunter. I’m not a rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, snowboarding teenager. Often I don’t even understand them. I long for real relationships with them and have been praying for ways to connect.

And John just gave me a Ping- Pong table for Christmas. Ladies, I know what you are thinking—doghouse gift; what a miss! But John knew what he was doing. My family had a Ping-Pong table while I was growing up and I spent hours playing with my brother and with my dad. Those are sweet memories for me, times of real connection with my family. The present of a Ping- Pong table was an invitation to connect. Now I am playing with my sons and my husband. Team games. Single games. It doesn’t matter games, because we are spending time together doing something we all enjoy. Big sigh. Yay!

I also love water. I love being near it, on it, and in it. Pools, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, oceans, and even bathtubs! All of it. Diving in, putting my head under, swimming as deeply as I can breathes life into me. I’m happy sitting next to a beautiful mountain lake; I am happier paddling a canoe on top of it, but happier still diving into it. We have found ways to share our love of water. First, John introduced me to canoes, those wobbly precarious silent crafts that can explore shallow channels and mysterious inlets. How many adventures we have had paddling around lakes, bays, and rivers! He got me into my first kayak; I was so close to the water I was sitting in it but somehow still remained dry. It was while we were kayaking as a family that we came so breathlessly close to a humpback whale; I felt I’d crossed back into Eden.

Over the years we have found other ways to build companionship. We love to travel. We love going out for Chinese food. We share with each other movies that we like, or something from a book that has stirred us. John loves the wilderness; we found a way to enjoy it together using lodges. In this way we can spend a day out on the trail, but at night I get a shower and a bed!

And, we still enjoy many of our loves alone, or with other friends. There is no need to feel jealous that your spouse loves to do things without you. There is simply no way you can be everything to each other; your hearts are too vast and your interests are too diverse or you to “be one in everything.” It would be weird if it were otherwise. And of course you want your spouse to have a “full cup,” to be filled and happy and well; they will be so much easier to live with. And they won’t be looking to you to make them happy. So good grief, do not fight their enjoyment of other things or other people! Sometimes I [Stasi] would feel that I was in competition with John’s close friends and other interests.

How freeing to come to understand that that was not the case. The place I hold in John’s
heart is not up for grabs. (But John had to reassure me this was so, and God needed to move in my heart so I could believe it.) There is an ebb and flow to the companionship of a marriage. During hunting season, I don’t expect to see John much. But afterward, I do expect him to come home and re engage with me! There are seasons when the two of us are “connecting” well and seasons when we aren’t. What you want to do is create an environment where over time and with intentionality, you are nurturing companionship.

Every day is unrealistic; once a month isn’t often enough. Somewhere in between.
This can feel a little awkward if it has been a while since the two of you spent time together. Initiate anyway, and don’t be put off if your first few efforts aren’t warmly received. A friend tried to get her husband to enjoy bubble baths; that was a miss. Watching American Idol might be a miss. Bass fishing might be a miss. But you are going to have to find some meeting place together. Tennis. Beachcombing. Vietnamese food. A favorite TV show. Scrabble. Square dancing. Do you ever read together? (One suggestion: Maybe you two could read “Love and War” together and talk about it chapter by chapter.)

Maybe you should just ask your spouse what they’d like to do. Our suggestion is to explore this together. Find those intersections of life that you each enjoy and both can share.

Excerpted from Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge Copyright © 2009 by John and Stasi Eldredge. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.