I love to swim and always have. Every time I get the opportunity I’m in the water and someday I want to live near water (either have a pool or be by a lake or ocean) so that I can swim every day. As I watched the swimming competitions at the Olympics I realized that swimming can be an analogy for marriage as well. Whenever I swim I am exhausted. It’s not like when I do other athletic activities like tennis or running where a certain set of muscles is sore or tired afterward. My whole body is tired. Swimming manages to exercise what seems to be every muscle in my body simultaneously. It is a wonderful way to exercise and increase strength.
Marriage is like swimming. It works out every area of your being. Marriage exercises you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. You must learn to read your spouse’s non-verbal cues, the tone of their voice, and their background and personal history in order to understand where they are coming from and then use all of that information, along with the words they are actually saying, to construct the context for the conversation. And they do the same for you. That’s a lot of work for a simple conversation. Then you add in having patience with them, learning and practicing selflessness and self-sacrifice to make your spouse happy and meet their needs, and on top of all of it you add financial strains, friendships, families, and children. It is like the perfect recipe, along with all of the ingredients, for a mental breakdown.
But a mental breakdown doesn’t need to happen. Just as swimmers take breaks and rest from their strenuous routines so should we. Go on a date, read a book alone or together, get adequate sleep, remind each other of your love and never lose faith that it is all worth it. Just remember that no workout lasts forever. Eventually it must end and when it does you will be so much stronger because of. And best of all, you will be stronger together.
In closing I leave with you the encouragement that my wife’s college swim instructor provided to her when she was struggling: “Swim, little fish, swim!” Just keep swimming.