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Monday, August 19, 2013

when your marriage is walking the tight rope…

The circus, of all places, is a kid’s ultimate emotional roller coaster filled with sugar highs, laughter and smiles, but also tears and frowns too. The big top experience warrants great excitement but it also leaves kids fearful and frightened.  I remember one of the most unforgettable and emotional times in my life. I was 7 years old and it was my first experience at the circus. I was watching the infamous tight rope act. With pole in hand, the first step the tight rope artist made was a little wobbly. He caught his balance and took the second step. The crowd gasped and belted out big sighs of relief. As I watched him slowly take that third step, his left leg suddenly lifted, his body contorted to the right and then the crowd let out a huge scream, “Oh no.” I covered my eyes and my heart started to rapidly beat. The tight rope artist dropped his balance pole and then took a long fall! Suddenly paramedics rushed to the floor and tended to him. The crowd remained eerily silent and scared. As the emergency team lifted him onto the stretcher and wheeled him off the circus floor, the collective perspective changed. The emotion in the place became one; filled with a sudden lack of enthusiasm and the need to leave.

As I reminisce about that experience, I can’t help but think how our perspective often changes throughout life, and especially our relationships, particularly during an unstable wobbly marriage. As we walk on the tight rope of married life, we do stumble and even experience long falls which cause us to lose control and certainty. And when we find ourselves at the end of our relational rope, when life gets off kilter and out of balance, the tendency for a fearful perspective consumes our minds, actions, eventually our soul.

A marriage relationship must go through rough roads and dry spells in order to make the relationship stronger but not every marriage relationship needs to take that dangerous fall. How can you avoid your marriage from slipping off the tight rope? The answers to this compelling question is three-fold. 

1. See your current marriage struggle as an opportunity rather as a threat. Your struggle can be a great opportunity for incredible growth if you take a healthy alternative perspective. In the midst of marital hardship, the prospect of doing something different rather than what you would normally do can be the best decision you will ever make. Slow down in the fall... and think about how to grow from it.
2. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes before you attempt to push him or her off the tightrope. I don't mean to be trite or flip--but have you showed empathy? It is easy to stay selfish in any marital struggle because you may believe that you are fully justified but consider what your spouse is going through, maybe what they are dealing with and how they are hurting.  Maybe it should take president this time.  Maybe taking a back seat immediately (and revisiting your issues and feelings later) could give space for your partner to feel heard, start to trust  you, and even be a little vulnerable with you. When you take just a moment to empathize, the focus comes off of you and appropriately focuses on the other, thus turning a tense situation into a more open and forgiving environment. 

3. Finally, do before feeling. Couples who are struggling in their marriage often say, “What’s the use of improving when I don’t feel like I love him or her anymore?” Sometimes, our feelings deceive us and can manipulate our ‘doing.’ I tell couples (both spouses) who are struggling in this area, “What are you doing to make your situation better, not worse?” Ironically, emotion is driven by motion. As much as you may feel your current situation is bleak and an unworthy cause, the reality is you can do something different, for the positive, if you act. Again, emotion is driven by motion!
Tight ropes are a part of the big top experience, and tight rope metaphor certainly plays a part in marriage but they don’t have to be the main attraction of your relationship. When those anxious tight rope feelings arise, remember to view your situation as an opportunity, display a sense of empathy and do before feeling. These tips may be the very thing that takes your relationship off a wobbly rope and onto safer ground.              

Rob Lane
Marriage Mechanic

Rob is proud that his wife Cara plays an instrumental part of what he does. They have a combined 20+ years helping individuals and couples with their relationships and marriages. Rob has a BA in Christian Education from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and is an Online Psychology Professor for Grand Canyon University. Rob is also certified marriage counselors in the PREPARE/ENRICH program. He is a non-denominational ordained minister and officiates wedding ceremonies. Rob combines his experience and education along with his unique approach that is sincerely relational, empowering, hopeful, honest and compassionate. To learn more about Rob, The Marriage Lane and his approach read here.


  1. MM,
    Thanks for the perspective! This blog post has me pondering a situation we're going through. I realize now that I never considered my spouse, his patience, and his empathy. Instead, selfishly I've been so focused on the situation at hand I've let it consume me. His feelings are important, I lost sight of that.


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