Recently, my wife and I started reading a marriage book together. After we finished the first chapter, my wife polled me for my reaction. I sat speechless for a bit and struggled to answer. Why? Because I was bugged! Irritated! And that felt wrong. I mean, this is important stuff right? Working on your marriage is a big deal, of huge importance, a necessity one might say. And so a wave of shame came about as soon as I admitted to myself this frustration with working on our marriage. Shame screamed, “What kind of man are you that you’d NOT want to work on your marriage?? Don’t you love your wife!”
I turned my distant gaze back to Amanda. She was still waiting for my answer. As my eyes met hers, I realized I really DO love this woman. She’s so much fun, deep hearted, beautiful, the woman in college that I harbored a crush on for a whole year. Our relationship had its struggles, has its struggles, but at the heart of relationship is this wonderful passion I really enjoy. So maybe I’m not a jerk who does not want to engage his wife. Maybe something else is bugging me.
As I gave my irritation more of a voice I discovered that I am bugged, not by the effort of growing more in love with my wife, but by the concept of “working on my marriage.” It sounds more like a Saturday morning chore. Take out the trash. Clean the garage. Work on my marriage. How did this concept ever creep in? I seem to hear it a lot in marriage books. Its almost as if we could work on marriage and never actually enjoy any of it or delight in the person we’ve married. A duty divorced from desire. What a tragedy! Its got things turned upside down, out of place. As Mike Mason, author of the Mystery of Marriage, writes, “I… had never considered that in getting married one espouses not an institution but a person.”
So as a marriage therapist, and a man married himself, I want to encourage you to stop working on your marriage. And “work” instead at enjoying your wife or husband again.