I often tell couples that marriage is like baseball. The key is knowing which pitches to swing at and which pitches to let go by. Others have said the key to marriage is figuring out which hills are too small to die on. However you describe it, there are times in marriage when you have to determine…is this something I should try to change or is this something I should learn to live with?”
In a podcast entitled “Managing Tension,” Andy Stanley talks about determining the difference between a problem to be solved and a tension to be managed. He is speaking to leaders of organizations, but I believe the concept is also applicable to spouses in marriage.
Early in marriage, we tend to look at any differences we don’t like as if they were problems to be solved. And we usually want it solved our way. We try to be gentle at first. We suggest. We hint. We try to subtly direct our spouse toward our solution. But as time go on, if our spouse doesn’t get the hint and change, we usually become more direct (if not demanding) about how we want things to change.
This usually ramps up around year two or three of the marriage, because that’s when the honeymoon is wearing off. It’s around this time that husbands and wives are relaxing their guard and becoming more their “real” selves. It’s also around this time when careers are ramping up and kids are coming on board. It’s a time when differences are really beginning to clash and everything seems like a problem that needs to be solved.
Still, not everything is a problem to be solved. Sometimes it’s just a tension to be managed. For instance…
- If your budget is in the red and you’re spending more than you make, that’s a problem to be solved. If your budget is not in the red but you disagree about how much money to budget for clothing, that’s a tension to be managed.
- If you and your spouse never spend any time together, that’s a problem to be solved. If the two of you disagree on how to spend the time together, that’s a tension to be managed.
- If you and your spouse are never sexually intimate, that’s a problem to be solved. If you and your spouse disagree on how frequently you should be sexually intimate, that is a tension to be managed.
The question is, how do you know what is a problem to be solve and what is a tension to be managed? I wish I had an easy, clear-cut answer to that question. I don’t, but here are some clues to help you decide:
- If it’s not morally or ethically wrong…it’s probably a tension to be managed.
- If it keeps resurfacing despite concerted efforts to solve it….it’s probably a tension to be managed.
- If other’s who know and love you don’t see it as a big problem…it’s probably a tension to be managed.
- If it’s a matter of personal preference, tradition, or up-bringing…it’s probably a tension to be managed.
When I talk to couples who have been married 50+ years, I usually ask them how they did it. They never give me a “secret sauce” answer. Instead they say things like, “You have to figure out what’s important and what’s not.” “You have to learn not to get upset over little things.” “You have to let some things go.” “Yeah, they drive me crazy, but I drive them crazy too.” “You have to learn to live with some things you don’t like.”
In short, these couples have figured out that love is like baseball. You have to know which pitches to swing at and which pictures to let go by.
Have you figured out which pitches to swing at and which to let go by? Have you learned the difference between a problem to be solved and a tension to be managed? Learning which is which can make all the difference in marriage. It can mean the difference between a happy, satisfying marriage, and a difficult, frustrating marriage.
So may you keep you eyes on the ball, and in the words of Red Green, “Remember…I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.”
Leave a comment and let us know of a pitch you’ve learned not to swing at.
Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg