Make-Up-Monday: Marriage Lessons from the Driver’s Seat

by Merritt on August 6, 2012

Do you remember learning how to drive? With 20+ years of experience under my belt {and now, finally a safe distance away from the wrecks and tickets of my teens and twenties}, I feel like I’m a pretty decent driver. I’ve almost always driven a car with a manual transmission, so when I was 15, that’s what Dad used to teach me.

If you learned the same way, you can probably bring to mind memories of the characteristic lurching, screeching, whiplashing, white-knuckling of those early days learning to use the clutch properly. I distinctly remember sweating profusely as I tried to drive up the steep incline that was our driveway for the very first time.

The Husband and I went on a walk last night in our neighborhood. On our way home we stopped at a bench that sits in the parking lot of an abandoned big box store. {Sounds romantic, I KNOW!} But the sun was setting, we could see little peaks of mountains over the trees and it was just so peaceful.

We’d noticed a car running laps through the huge, empty parking lot. Up and down. Back and forth. Signaling at every corner despite being the only vehicle around. Ah, yes, daddy was teaching his young daughter to drive. After about 10 minutes of entertainment watching her learn to use the clutch, another car arrived. Driver and passenger switched seats and a second driving lesson ensued. For about 45 minutes we just sat and talked and reminisced about our own teenage driving lessons and watched these two—so carefully avoiding each other—circling the lot. It was QUITE a Sunday evening event!

This may be a reach, but as we talked, and watched, and waved at one of the daddies, and giggled when he feigned fear at his daughter speeding past us, we knew there was some sort of analogy to be made here.

And that’s where I’m going with this…

Today is Make-Up-Monday….And yes, we did have conflict over the weekend. And no, I’m not sure I really want to talk about it. I was emotional. Needing affirmation. Not communicating so well at first. Fearful of hurting his feelings. Struggling with my own feelings. Wishing I didn’t have to say how I felt. And then grateful at his grace-filled response when what I had to say was about how I wish he’d do things differently in our relationship.

And, I’ll admit, I was weary of having feelings I didn’t like and knowing I needed to talk to him about them. I was frustrated by our conflict on a beautiful Saturday night when all I wanted to do was eat fish tacos next to a waterfall at a unique little restaurant in a mountain town we were exploring. I’d been here before, and I was tired of it. I just want things to be good, happy, and perfect in our marriage. But they aren’t always that way.

So, here’s my reach–Learning to drive a stick was frustrating. My dad was so patient with me, and yet I had to learn to get the timing right. To know when to shift and when not to. To figure out where EXACTLY reverse was located so I didn’t try to grind my way there when the vehicle was moving forward at 55 mph. It took time to learn to start, stop, slow, turn. To learn that smooth transition from first gear to second. I didn’t learn it overnight. And then there were the accidents and the speeding tickets. It took practice to obey all the rules. To gain the common sense that experienced drivers have.

And just like learning to drive…learning to have a good, healthy marriage takes time. It takes effort. It takes practice. You don’t just get in the driver’s seat for the first time and have a flawless driving experience for the rest of your life. Marriage is the same. {Not too much of a reach, right?}

So, I’m learning—still—to let go of my desire to NOT have conflict or struggles or imperfections or disappointments in our marriage. Some days being disappointed in something the Husband does or doesn’t do feels like a crushing weight. Like, my marriage isn’t supposed to be this way.  But guess what. I’m sure I disappoint him too. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, even though we’ve worked through difficult financial struggles, are still working through infertility, and I’m sure there are plenty of other struggles ahead.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t change being married to him. Just like learning to drive, right? Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’d be better off walking everywhere you want to go. Because no matter how long the learning takes, that day will come when the weather is ideal, you’ve got all the windows down, and the perfect song comes on the radio, and for that moment—you just drive!

I pray that I can live in the moment in our marriage, not worry about tomorrow and continue to learn how to not fear conflict—because I know that conflict helps us grow, it teaches us about each other, and gives us an opportunity to engage at the deepest levels of our being.

What about you – got any good learning to drive stories? Or what have you learned about perseverance in marriage?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

julie August 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I found my way here through todaysletters and I am enjoying your marriage posts. After 18 years of marriage, my husband and I are experiencing some struggles. I fear conflict and have always felt it only tore people and relationships apart instead of helping. I, too, just want a good, happy, nearly perfect marriage. All this to say, thanks for your writing and for passing along the idea that conflict can help us grow.


Merritt August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Hi Julie,
I’m so glad you’re here, and thanks so much for leaving a comment. For years I avoided conflict like the plague, and as it turns out, that didn’t yield the healthy relationships I desired. It took a lot of practice (like driving) but I’m getting better at healthy conflict resolution, and I can testify that it does more to encourage and grow our marriage than just about anything else. And I believe anyone can learn it! Thanks again for stopping by.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: