Charlene and I have been married for almost thirteen years now. About a year before we married, I took a course on marriage counseling. The professor talked about marriage as both the greatest blessing and the biggest challenge we’d ever face. He talked about his marriage, on how he thought he had made a huge mistake, how he wanted to stay married only long enough to save face. On the way to saving face, he discovered that he had something worth saving, and they ended up building a strong marriage. Since that time, I’ve met a few people for whom marriage has been an effortless joy. For most of us, it’s presented some of our greatest joys – as well as some of our hardest moments. This, I’m discovering, is the norm. Recently, Charlene and I faced a new challenge in our relationship. She’s become stronger and more assertive (in the good sense of the word). My patterns of behavior were geared to respond to her old patterns, and all of a sudden we were facing more confict than we had ever faced before. We couldn’t figure out why, and all the adjustments we tried to make weren’t helping. We were committed to the relationship, but were facing a problem we didn’t know how to fix. The solution, it turned out, was in my hands. It’s so obvious I hate to share it, but I’ve found that I’m not the only one who’s reacted this way. Charlene just needed the emotional air to breathe. When she expressed hurt, anger, or frustration, I needed to not respond by editing her, correcting her, or getting defensive. I needed to just let her express however she was feeling, even if it wasn’t neat or appropriate or my opinion. One small adjustment, one huge difference. I’m still learning this whole thing, but it’s reminded me that we all sometimes need help to figure this life thing out. It never hurts to ask for help. It’s also been a good picture of how God treats us. God never gets defensive with me. He never tells me I’m not expressing myself properly, or I shouldn’t say something a certain way. Thank God that he’s much better at this relationship thing than I am.