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posted: 2/11/2013 8:41 AM

Marriages should transform over time

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Do you remember Transformers? Not the movies, but the original toys that were so popular when they were first introduced?

Rearrange the parts of a race car and it becomes a robot. Shift around the pieces of a plane and it's a boat. Turn a tank into some futuristic warrior. I'll bet there were a hundred different variations, some so small they'd fit inconspicuously in a pocket, others so large it took two hands to pick them up.

I found one of my favorites the other day up in our attic home for outgrown toys. It was a little worse for wear; I suspect one too many fruit juice spills or sand box battles had clogged its inner workings. But after a few tentative movements it soon transformed itself from a lowly yellow dump truck into a sleek, shinny space ship.

There's something magical about such transformations. We start with the same old familiar parts, put together in the same old familiar way, doing the same old familiar things. Nothing particularly new or exciting. Then, with a twist here, a turn there, those same old parts become something entirely different.

Sometimes I think healthy marriages are like Transformers. Certainly all sorts of things change across the life of a marriage. We grow and mature as individuals. Our kids come and go. We change jobs, houses, towns. We accommodate to aging, illness and disease.

The basics building blocks, however, remain, for the most part, unchanged. We are still the same two human beings, with the same distinct and enduring personalities, who started out together five or 10 or 50 years ago.

Actually, these basic building blocks will change little over the course of a lifetime. They can, however, be rearranged in our marriages in all sorts of new and exciting ways.

He likes a place for everything and everything in its place. For the first few years of their married life this meant he handled the money. Now it has led him to take responsibility for the cooking, where he has quickly become the master of intricate recipes and exquisite presentation.

She had always been a loving caregiver -- first for their small children, then his elderly mother. Her career, they'd both agreed, would take a back seat for awhile. Now she's gone back to school, gotten a degree in counseling, and is considering caregiving as a profession.

Same old familiar people. Same old familiar relationship. Both doing the same old familiar things. Then a twist here, a turn there, and a marriage that is once again new and exciting.

Sometimes, as in the example above, we transform our marriages because we choose to. Sometimes, though, we transform our marriages because we have to. Much of life is beyond our control -- we are laid off, we develop a chronic disability, a natural disaster destroys our home -- and our marriages have to transform if we are to survive.

Even then, however, such a forced transformation can lead to a marriage that is new and exciting.

Of course change is often stressful, whether it is the change we choose or the change that chooses us. As with the old Transformer in the attic, we are all a bit worse for wear; our inner workings get clogged a bit. But if we go slow and are sensitive to each other and to ourselves, it is amazing just how much transforming our marriages can still do. A twist here, a turn there, and, who knows, maybe even a dump truck can fly.

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