Have you ever felt like things are just harder than they need to be?
That maybe relationships shouldn’t require so much work, humility, and acceptance?
Well, there are plenty of times I felt that way.
And even a few times I felt like giving up.
Pretty crazy, huh?
Everyone struggles. Everyone has challenges.
We all do.
We have personal struggles, struggles at work, struggles at church, personal goals, health and fitness, and our future.
But we also have struggles in relationships.
When you get married, things seem so rosy. You think it’s going to be easy bliss forever. There’s so much excitement, enthusiasm, energy.
But the truth is, that’ doesn’t last, not for most of us.
Within six months of my marriage, normalcy settled in, and we had to figure out how normal people who were no longer in twittered-pated honeymoon phase make it work.
Because relationships, especially marriage, require give and take, compromise, and sacrifice.
Struggles are hard.
Our marriage survived the tense years because we were committed. We prayed together. And we built a family together.
But we didn’t always feel joyful, happy, or emotionally safe.
There was often a low rumble of not being sure one of us wasn’t upset or frustrated with the other.
There were times when we just accepted that a marriage that was consistently between 40% and 70% of awesome was just normal.
Struggle is worth it—when you know what to do.
It took years to learn what I needed to learn to bring easy harmony into our home. To learn that being different is a strength, not a weakness.
To build the kind of harmony that doesn’t take offense quickly. Where happiness is the norm, not the exception.
That happiness doesn’t just come on its own. In fact, happiness requires work.
It’s something I have to choose every day.
I’ve learned to separate how I feel about me from my relationships. One isn’t dependent on the other.
By accepting that, and doing the daily work to stay there (or return there when I get a little off balance), I am free to love and accept my wife for the wonderful woman that she is.
Same goes for other relationships, including my children and colleagues at work.
By creating a vision of what I want my relationships to be like, then living according to that vision. I include God and spirituality in the mix so that my core values support and sustain my thoughts and behavior.
And by choosing the words that build a great marriage and strong relationships. Including the words I say and think about myself.
Faith. Love. Belief. Trust. Kindness. Compassion. Fun. Work.
These are all part of the framework I’ve built.
And it works. Now we’re consistently in the 90% to 100% of awesome. We still have our dips. We still have our struggles. But we work through them so much faster, safer, and with much greater support.
The struggle created the opportunity.
Without the struggle, I would never have learned on my own how to really LIVE!
And how to really LOVE!
You see, the struggle is part of the journey.
It doesn’t always have to be hard. In fact, it can often be joyful.
But the struggle is what causes us to develop, grow, and create something of lasting value.
For me, my marriage is a hundred times better, stronger, happier, and more rewarding.
It’s not without its moments.
But the choices I make to live it, to work through it, an to claim my part in it, have dramatically changed everything.
Struggle can work for you.
So if you’re struggling, don’t take that necessarily as a bad sign. Sometimes, it is. And for those cases, I mourn for you.
But so much of the time, that’s not the problem at all.
It may just be you’re on the cusp of something great. You just haven’t figured it out yet.
And when you do, your life will dramatically change.
You will be stronger, healthier, and more capable.
Happier, more confident, more valued. More accepting, and more courageous.
Just like an athlete who puts in the time to exercise.
You grow. And soon you find you can be, live, and do more than you ever realized.