My husband and I were only 3 months married when we became pregnant with our first child. Still reeling in the bliss of being newlyweds, that excitement and energy quickly flowed into the dreams of starting a new family. We now have two little ones and just slightly less than 4 years of marriage under our belts. In no uncertain terms we are still “babies” at this marriage thing.
I never thought much about the toll children take on a marriage. In abstract ways before becoming a Mom, I imagined it would be a process of self-sacrifice that you would go through as you become responsible for another life…but I never thought much about how children challenge the dynamic of your marriage relationship.
I deeply believe that at the core of a true marital love is deep generosity.
The decision to love this other person in our thoughts, words and actions even when the ‘feelings’ aren’t there. Even when you are tired and feeling selfish. When you are busy and overwhelmed. When you have your own ideas of where you want your life to be headed. At all these hundreds of moments every day you are given the opportunity to love your spouse and do what is in their best interest.
But now, with children, I have never felt so needy. So stretched beyond my capacity. So exhausted from giving and giving. So aware of my own limitations and pride. So tapped out.
And it is at this point I find myself most challenged in staying generous, compassionate, and loving toward my husband. I want to become a child myself again and scream I NEED… I WANT… ME ME ME.
Here is where the big horn sheep come into the picture (did you think that was just a clever headline trick?). Big horn sheep live on the slopes of steep mountains. They traverse these mountains on razor thin paths etched all around the mountain sides. They also can not walk backward, only forward. So what happens when two sheep are walking along the same path in opposite directions and bump face first into each other?
If they fought, one would surely die as he would have to be thrown from the path. They can not walk backward and the path is far too thin for both to be on at once.
The only option is for one to lay down.
The other, then can cross on top, leaving both unscathed, safe and ready to continue on their way.
When I feel that tightness begin to rise up in me and I want to lash out and demand that my needs be cared for in my marriage, I am often reminded of the big horn sheep. If I give myself time to settle down and be honest, I can calm the raging storm inside that says I have to demand and fight for my own way, force my needs to be taken care of…and follow the paradoxical truth that if I lay myself down, then I will actually be saving myself and my marriage in the process.