Marital Climate vs. Marital Weather
It’s been an odd winter in the Southeast this year. We’ve had record rainfall and relatively moderate temperatures. The near-constant flooding has meant that most of the trails (many of which run alongside streams in low-lying areas) have been inaccessible and even damaged from the fast flowing water.
Without perspective, you might easily assume that Atlanta is always partially aquatic and rarely blessed with sun. But of course, that’s far from true. The error comes when weather, which is temporary and always-changing, is confused with the general patterns and tendencies of climate.
And we often make that same error in judgment when it comes to our relationships.
It’s an easy mistake to make, getting lost in the trees and failing to see the forest. We get so caught up in each moment and allow our emotional responses to situations, both good and bad, to accentuate certain traits while dismissing others.
We can confuse a distressing moment with an unhappy union. Decide that a misspoken comment is a sign of complete decimation. Or, conversely, we can ignore a pattern of poor behavior in exchange for the periodic and passing warmth of a kind word or loving embrace.
Every marriage has storms where the battering winds cause the very foundation to tremble. All marriages have periods of drought, leaving both parties feeling desiccated and shriveled. It’s the rare union that doesn’t experience the occasional chill, the blocks of ice preventing true connection. And most marriages have those perfect sunny days when the warmth permeates your very soul and you feel relaxed and secure.
And just like with the weather outside our windows, it’s easy to form judgments about the relationships within our walls based on what’s happening at a specific time. We stay with people that are bad for us because they can make us feel good in the moment. Or we begin to tell ourselves that our marriage is troubled after a rare deluge. And then, all too easily, that story can become taken as fact.
So before you have yourself convinced that your tundra-like union is happy because the temperatures occasionally rise above freezing or that your totally normal midwestern marriage is in shambles because of a rare flood, look at the bigger picture. Marital climate is defined by the trends, not by the moments within. And sometimes you just have to wait out the rain, trusting that the usual sun will shine again.