There is a law of nature that we often ignore, to our own detriment. The law is: What we don’t maintain will deteriorate. This is true of our cars, our yards, our homes, and even our bodies. Who smells better after three days if you haven’t showered? No one. If you don’t take out your the trash for a month, what will your house look like? Smell like?
One summer I was so busy writing one of my books, I never weeded my garden out back. I was so busy I never even stepped outside to see my back yard. Eight weeks later to my absolute horror, the weeds were taller than me and covered most of my beautiful perennial garden. It was ugly and a good lesson on the law of maintenance. If we don’t do regular maintenance, things don’t automatically or naturally get better, they always get worse.
Then why do we believe that our marriage or other important relationships should thrive when we put no effort into maintaining them? It’s impossible.
When my daughter was a college student, she was given a car to use. It was an older car that ran well and served its purpose. One day the check oil light came on. My daughter told herself that since the car seemed to be running fine, she didn’t have to pay attention to that light just yet. After all she was busy, she didn’t have much extra money so maintenance could wait.
She was wrong. When the car stalled, she had it towed it to the mechanic. She said it needed more oil. She was wrong. The car had a much more serious problem. It needed a new engine. Because she failed to do maintenance, it now needed major repairs, a far more expensive problem than maintaining it would have been.
In the same way, when we fail to regularly maintain our relationships, eventually they will break down. Sometimes I receive a phone call from a desperate husband who wants to save his marriage. He says he must get an appointment for marriage counseling right away. His wife has moved out or filed for divorce and he’s desperate to fix this problem. When I ask him if this is the first time he knew there were marriage problems brewing I always hear a loud sigh at the other end. “Not exactly” he says, “but I just never took her seriously until now.”
Don’t get me wrong, even with regular maintenance sometimes things break down and need repairs. A car may need a new transmission or a house needs to have a broken pipe fixed. When we refuse to repair what’s broken, it doesn’t get fixed on it’s own. A pattern of ignoring problems leads to more problems and less warmth, fun, and connection in your relationships.
If you want better relationships, remember these crucial truths.
Maintenance is necessary for all relationships to flourish. Invest time and energy in getting to know your spouse and building your relationship.
1. Take time to clear the air, resolve small hurts, miscommunications and misunderstandings. Don’t allow them to build and fester. Like my daughter’s problem with her car, ignoring maintenance can lead to more costly and extensive problems.
2. Sometimes even good cars, healthy bodies, and new homes need repairs. To ignore necessary repairs only creates more problems. Even the most loving relationships need repair work at times. If you needed a plumber or a mechanic to fix what was broken you hire one. You may need to hire a counselor, coach, or at the very least humble yourself and ask wise, trusted friends for help so that you make the necessary repairs to your relationship.
3. One person cannot be responsible for all the maintenance and repair work of a relationship. Even when there is serious sin by one party and he or she has been repentant, the offended spouse must also forgive and be willing to rebuild if the relationship is to heal.
However, when a marriage has been fractured by a spouse’s sinful behaviors, it may take a consistent effort by that person to repair broken trust. Forgiveness is always a gift, but broken trust still must still be rebuilt. That takes time.
If you recognize that you’ve not been maintaining or repairing your relationships start now, start today, before there is further deterioration.