By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)I’ve always said I’m not afraid of heights. I’m afraid of falling from them. Or, more accurately, of the results of hitting the ground at the end of the fall.
However you want to describe it, when I get any distance off the ground, I experience vertigo, accompanied by freezing and clutching the closest stable object.
On our recent vacation, my husband and I completed a ropes course, including multiple zip lines. A ropes course is basically a series of elevated obstacles, ranging from 25 to 60 feet above the ground. (To put that in perspective, it’s higher than your average two-story home.)
You strap on a harness. The carabineers on that harness snap to a safety wire while you’re up on the course to keep you from plummeting to your death should you slip up while navigating an obstacle. But other than that, you’re on your own.
You might have to hop from post to post along a widely spaced path made of nothing more than wobbly poles that barely fit a single foot. You might have to balance along narrow logs suspended from ropes (and therefore swinging with every move you make). You might have to grab a rope and leap, swinging into a pirate’s net attached to a distant tree.
I wouldn’t describe a ropes course as fun for me. But this is the second one I’ve conquered, and as I was dangling from an obstacle that basically required you to traverse a series of swings, giving myself a pep talk to take that next step, I realized how much what my husband and I were doing was an excellent analogy for what a good relationship does as well.
(Yeah, I know. You know you’re a writer when…)
So here are the three lessons I learned about good relationships from braving a ropes course.
You sometimes do things that scare you or aren’t what you’d necessarily choose because those things are important to the person you love.
You might be asking why I would do a ropes course at all if I’m so afraid of heights. Well, I like to push myself so that my fears don’t control me. But, more than that, my husband loves ropes courses. I did it for him, because he wanted to.
My husband moved 600 miles and changed countries so that we could be together. It wasn’t his first choice to leave his home, but he did it because it was the best thing for us, as a couple. I’ve only been married three and a half years, but one of the things I learned early was that a relationship requires sacrifice and compromise to work. It can also require stepping out in faith.
When the person you love is weak and you’re strong, you don’t leave them behind. You encourage them, wait for them, and help them make it through safely.
My husband can fly through a ropes course. He’s fearless.
I’m so slow that twice I let other people pass me because I felt bad for holding them up.
My husband could have left me behind to pick my way through the course, but he didn’t. After each obstacle, he waited on the platform for me to catch up. At the end of a couple of zip lines, when I missed the stop rope and was going to slide backward away from the platform, he caught me and pulled me up rather than letting me struggle alone.
I’ve seen this same principle at work in my marriage and in the happy marriages of friends and family. It’s inevitable that at some point one half of a couple hits a rough patch. Maybe it’s depression. Maybe it’s a job loss that steals their confidence. Maybe it’s a life skill they never learned and are struggling to figure out. Maybe it’s a battle with an addiction.
We could give up on them. We could go try to find someone without any problems. (Good luck on that, by the way.) But what separates a good relationship from a bad one is when we stick it out, pick them up, dust them off, and help them figure out how to do better next time.
When you look back at the challenges you’ve faced, as difficult as they were at the time, you’re still glad you weathered them together.
After we finished the course, I was glad we’d gone. I have no doubt we’ll do yet another ropes course in the future. It was hard and it was scary, but that’s part of what made it an achievement.
Those of you who’ve been reading this blog long enough know some of the challenges my husband and I have faced, and those are only the ones I’ve shared. I’m sure most of you have similar stories of adversity.
Adversity is never fun at the time, but when we make it to the other side, we come out a stronger couple…with a good story to tell.
What every day experience taught you a lesson about good relationships or reminded you about what’s important in a relationship?
If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen, on sale over the summer for 99 cents. Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.
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