I suppose I always imagined myself as a tough wife. As one who wouldn’t put up with this or that. When I was much younger I had a list of things in my mind that would make me walk out. Non-negotiables. Love must be tough, says one Christian psychologist. And I know it must be true. Sometimes we have to dig in and fight for our marriages. Sometimes we have to take action and say I cannot tolerate this any longer. I know this because I have seen the deeply set beating heart of so many marriages in Chad’s office, when couples come in with issues so big that it seems hopeless, when lines must be drawn and plans must be made: change or watch your life together whither and fade.
And now, almost twenty years into my own marriage, I can still imagine scenarios where I might find a toughness coming out in me. Where I would roll up my sleeves and fight the battle of my life, where I would find myself on the opposite side as Chad, staunchly holding my ground. And maybe I would even be right. Maybe I would be righteous and determined to prove it.
But I think I have finally learned that while it’s true that sometimes love must be tough, in the end it’s not the indignation or the holy anger or the demands, however reasonable, that will keep us together no matter what. It’s the tenderness.
I pray that God will keep Chad and me tender, whatever is ahead on the road of marriage. Even in the little annoyances and the routine squabbles. Hard hearts stubbornly beat out their own, self-serving rhythms, but tender hearts find each other through all the noise. Love must be tender, even in the tough times.