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Friday, February 1, 2013

Living Room 1: The Marital Happiness Curve

Living Room 1: The Marital Happiness CurveI want my kids to know this and grasp it. There’s a happiness curve to marriage that rewards decades of faithfulness. We enjoyed the Mosinee living room in our honeymoon period of the first few years. After that: child raising. This is undeniably a wonderful privilege, but it’s hard. Career building and money challenges can push the happiness curve downward for twenty-plus years. Wow! For better, for worse!

Five great questions of life: Life * Love * Learning * Labor * Leadership

Love: Who Will I Spend My LIfe With?

Living Room 1: The Marital Happiness Curve

By Evan Nehring

When we moved into the big house in Mosinee, I’m sure some folks thought it was too much house for us. It was a great blessing for a season. Some of our best memories of Megan and Wade’s childhood happened there. The thirteen foot cathedral ceilings were met by the fifteen foot wide stone fireplace. Megan and Wade ran circles around the hearth for weeks, from living room to foyer and back around again.
 
Our favorite living room was at the Mosinee house.
 

Enjoying Life

Living rooms are joy and laughter, hanging out and living life together. They are long evenings with my Babe. They’re common space where we experiment with how our unique selves interact with each other.
 
I’ll confess, I love hanging out in the living room but not for too long. If I feel pressure from my projects and goals, I don’t enjoy relaxing. It seems that the Sabbath idea is a good one. God set out this ratio that one day each week would be focused on rest and renewal. There’s a rhythm to it, work and rest, accomplishment and relationship, like midday flowing to evening.
 
My favorite living room moment of all time might be when Colleen and I hosted my whole family and her whole family for Christmas in Mosinee. The whole house buzzed with laughter and warmth, all 4450 square feet. The fireplace crackled and my mom played Christmas carols on the semi-tuned piano. Her fingers danced in a way that made out-of-tune ivories merely colorful. White lights on tree and garland reflected back and forth across the many windows, adding to the magic. Uncles and aunts chatted. Cousins goofed around. Grandparents traded stories and wisdom, then paused to take it all in.
 
It’s a memory that makes me whisper in Colleen’s ear, “Thanks for my family.”
 
There was a happiness curve that used to show up in my premarital counseling materials. It spoke to expectations young couples bring into marriage…specifically, how wrong those expectations tended to be. We like to think of hopping into the limo after the ceremony and heading for happily ever after. That can be somewhat true, but there are decades of back-breaking, heart-breaking work in between.
 
I want my kids to know this and grasp it. There’s a happiness curve to marriage that rewards decades of faithfulness. We enjoyed the Mosinee living room in our honeymoon period of the first few years. After that: child raising. This is undeniably a wonderful privilege, but it’s hard. Career building and money challenges can push the happiness curve downward for twenty-plus years. Wow! For better, for worse!
 
Graphic created with information from The Mind Health Report. Accessed 2011-10-17. http://w3.newsmax.com/newsletters/mhr/marriage.cfm
 
The sad part is that myriads of couples have bailed out on the downswing without realizing the upswing that naturally follows for those who stick it out. Twenty-five years of parenting begins to show fruit in maturing children. Finances stabilize as the yield of career commitments is realized. Grandchildren come along and retirement comes closer into view.
 
Many 20-somethings can’t wrap their brain around this long-term perspective because they equate retirement with death. Au contraire! Retirement can be more decades of deep fulfillment in God’s calling and blessing. Besides, the downside of the happiness curve is not wasted! Those are amazing, wonderful, irreplaceable years! But the reality is that you might pass through them in a semi-coherent, sleep deprived condition.
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