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posted: 1/27/2013 6:00 AM

Bad times can make a marriage stronger

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We remember the good times. The first time we realized we were in love; that special getaway weekend; the walk by the lake; the all-night talk; the vacation out West; the birth of a child.

The good times are part of the foundation of marriage. They build it up, support it, make it strong. We need the good times -- the more the better.

Like it or not, though, bad times are part of life, too. We try not to remember the fight that broke off our engagement for a few weeks, the job loss that almost drove us into bankruptcy, the times our spouse was self-absorbed and insensitive, the auto accident that nearly cost us our life, the death of a child.

Such bad times strain the very foundation of our relationship. Even the best marriages crack, cave in, under such strain. We have to work hard to clean away the debris, seal the cracks, shore up our foundation.

And, yet (and here is where our foundation analogy doesn't quite fit), the bad times actually build the foundation of our marriages as well. In the midst of struggling with life and with each other, we can share, understand, and be understood at a level of intimacy far deeper than that we experience during the good times.

The bad times can bring out our best (and worst). They can strip away any pretense, any facade. They can force us to be real, to be vulnerable, to be totally present.

We are building our marriage when we honestly work through a disagreement, when we comfort our spouse in the midst of disappointment, when we just hold each other when confronted by an overwhelming loss. It is an uncomfortable, painful building, but it is building nonetheless.

The bad times build our marriages, but only if we make it happen. Too often when the going gets tough, we attempt to run away from closeness. We pull back into ourselves, we hide what we really think or feel, we pretend we aren't affected. Such running does even more damage to the foundation of our marriage. It robs us, and our spouse, of the togetherness we need to repair, rebuild, make strong again.

If we had a choice, I am sure all of us would rather see our marriage grow strong through the good times. But we don't have such a choice. The bad times are just as much a part of life as the good.

If you find yourself in the midst of one of the bad times, then, ask yourself the following question: what do we need to do to build our foundation, not tear it down. And if you can't find an answer to that question, get some help from someone who can.

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