We sat and talked about life, marriage, and the challenges that go along with managing those two things. They had not been married very long, had a small child, and were struggling as many people do early in marriage. Add to that the challenges of life itself: new careers, challenges of a new job with all the attendant learning curves, office politics, and performance reviews, and a baby.
“We’ve been given some good advice,” she offered. “We need to fill up each other’s love buckets, and make sure that we both have our needs met.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “But it isn’t that simple. I get frustrated when I come home at the end of the day and there is no supper plan, and it seems that she’s done nothing all day long. I’m not a neat nick by any stretch of the imagination, but …” he voice trailed off. He realized that his anger was getting the better of him, and he could soon be treading on the thin ice of his bride’s dangerously-fragile heart.
“He really doesn’t understand what I do – caring for our little girl. There’s more than he realizes. I’m tired all the time.” She was nearly in tears. She stopped, however, fearful that she would trigger his anger again.
“That was a great moment,” I said. They were confused. They had just expressed their frustrations toward each other. They thought that they were emptying each other’s love buckets. It looked to them like bad things were unfolding right before their eyes.
“If I understand it correctly, you really do want to provide a good home for him, but you’re having a hard time doing it because the baby takes so much energy and attention.”
“Yes…” Her answer implied a certain reluctance to agree. She may have been led into a trap in times past by such reasoning.
“And you are trying to get it together at work, but are challenged there at almost every turn. When you come home, you just want some peace. You don’t want to have to deal with any more challenges.”
“You got that!” He had no sense of any trap in the offing. It seemed to me that he thought he had finally be heard. I could tell she was afraid of what would follow. He was confident that things were going to go his way.
“I wonder if you’ve got some unrealistic expectations.” I was looking at him.
“What do you mean by that? I work hard. I just want some peace when I come home at the end of the day.” He was defiant. I could imagine how his anger could boil over quite strongly at his wife. It would be safer to do so with her, but not with me.
“Hmmm. Do you think she’s not working hard?”
“Yes, but…” Fortunately he caught himself. He didn’t complete the sentence. “Maybe I do need to think about this some more.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg that marriage challenges offer. The conversation was a bit more complex and free-wheeling than can be recounted here. And the denouement came when he discovered that he was more appreciated than he realized, and that his attitude toward his wife was undercutting her respect for him.
So often we think in terms of love buckets, fulfilling each others’ needs, and the nuts and bolts of life (or marriage). The deeper reality of love and respect are often more significant and relationship-changing than all the love bucket filling we may attempt.
Often, however, the love bucket filling (which is actually an important thing to keep in mind) can become all too manipulative. We can end up filling each other’s love buckets only in order to get ours filled up. Thankfully, most spouses can see right through that ploy. All but the most desperate will stop that in its tracks.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:12-17