Marriage Lessons Learned From the A – Z Challenge

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.45.19 PMI recently completed the A-Z Challenge, a challenge calling bloggers to post 26 days of April. I heard about the challenge a week or so before the kickoff and knew some bloggers had been preparing for months refining posts, relating content, linking material.

I had only days to prepare,

And three jobs,

And five boys,

And a slew of other stuff,

But I figured, “I post 6 days a week anyway what’s the big deal?” Blogging my way through the alphabet shouldn’t be too hard.

Besides, everybody else was doing it; I wanted to jump in on the fun!

I began proud of my posts

A is for Abandoned But Not Alone,

B is for Baby. A Surprise? Definitely! Unplanned? Not at All!

And so on…

They were topics I knew only too well,

But somewhere along the way, something happened.

I’m not even sure where it happened or why or when I began to notice it, but blogging my way through the alphabet turned to sludging my way through.

The A-Z Challenge lost its appeal. I felt constrained, restricted. There were so many other things I wanted to write about, things happening in my life, with the boys, with our faith,

But I had committed to this A-Z Challenge!

I resented it and began to think of quitting.

So what if I just gave up?
People did it all the time.
I had done more than most!

But I kept going.

I had made the commitment. I had given my word.

I would finish the darn challenge.

But I would never commit to another restricting experience like this again!

There was some comfort in knowing I would not repeat my mistake, but that still left me bitterly scraping through the second half of the alphabet.

But I didn’t want to finish with resentment so the question became…

Could I Find Good in the A-Z Challenge?

I had to admit, it wasn’t all bad. Some really great people stopped by my blog and encouraged me. I got followers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook, and found some really neat blogs I enjoyed reading too.

I began thinking that maybe there was some benefit to this after all.

And I had more choices:

  1. I could quit the A-Z Challenge completely. Walk away and be done with it.
  2. I could finish the A-Z Challenge with resentment and frustration just to say I had done it.
  3. I could find things to like about the challenge, even if it’s small, and begin planning ways to be happy with it.

The A-Z Challenge could not provide me with fulfillment the way I had approached it, but if I changed what I was doing maybe I could learn to fall in love with the A-Z Challenge all over again.

It was up to me to use my strengths to make the Challenge better, not the other way around.

And I began to realize how this challenge reflects marriage today.

How too many jump into marriage thinking of all the fun it will be or because everyone is doing it or because the time seems right.

How too many spend months studying DJ recommendations and wedding dresses patterns but little time studying recommendations for conflict resolution and patterns of successful marriages,

How so many enter marriage with the, “We are living together anyway, so what’s the big deal?” philosophy.

But somewhere along the way, something happens.

And we’re not sure where it happened or why or when we began to notice it, but the joy of the wedding turned to sludging through marriage.

Our spouse lost his/her appeal. We feel constrained, restricted. There were so many other things we wanted do.

Some will say, “But we committed to this stupid marriage!”

We resent it and think of quitting.

So what if we just gave up?
People do it all the time.
We’ve done more than most have!

And so 50% of all marriages end in one or both spouses walking away, justifying departure in one way or another.

Others stick it out by bitterly scraping through marriage.

They will say they would never commit to another restricting experience like this again!

They blame others when life isn’t better;

But there are the few who seek and find some good in the marriage and yes, even in their spouse!

The change comes from inside them, not from the spouse. The person who makes the change, who chooses to act differently, discovers marriage doesn’t always provide fulfillment the way we approach it, but she makes changes within the marriage, treating her spouse as she vowed to not as she wants to, and that couple often slowly finds love again, a different kind of love, a stronger Love.

You may not be able to change your spouse, like I could not change the A-Z Challenge (or my spouse either!) but I am glad I stuck it out and found the good. Next year, I will be doing the A-Z Challenge again, but I’ll do it the way that works for me rather than confining myself to the formulas I thought others wanted me to have.

You have the power to make yourself happy in your current situation (“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials.” ~ James 1:2) Don’t let anyone tell you differently. You can change your actions and your actions can change the world for your family and for many others.

Your Turn To Share:

What do you do when you are backed into a corner?

  1. Quit the challenge completely? Walk away and be done with it?
  2. Finish the Challenge with resentment and frustration just to say you had done it?
  3. Find something, even if it’s small, to like about the challenge and begin planning ways to be happy with it.

God Bless…

8 Comments

  1. Mare on May 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I know of what you speak. The A-Z is exciting at first, but the month seems long as we move along! This was my 3rd year – I learned writing posts all year long is the way to go. As an S word comes into your life, write about it and stow it until April. It’s very easy this way. Then, once the challenge starts, you can spend your time just reading other blogs. Nice analogy to marriage, or any challenge in life, really. it’s the tendency of the flesh to quit. We’re just lazy! But it really does build character to finish things we don’t like, or are tired of. You go, girl! Yours is one of the blogs I started following, b/c I like finding other women of faith in the blogosphere!



    • Strahlen on May 8, 2014 at 12:57 am

      Thanks Mare, I know you’re right. I hope I can do it that way next year. I’ve blogged by myself for so long in secret – I feel like a whole new world is opening up to me! It’s fun but time consuming so I’ll have to search for better ways to do things! Right now, I have about 50 tabs open to different pages and at least three windows and 2 browsers – all because I keep saying I’m going to catch up and comment or research or discover or … the list is unending. Having time to write ahead would certainly help!

      PS – Yours is one of my 50 tabs. Couldn’t resist the title when I was skimming through blog choices, and even though I read enough to know it’s a name thing more than anything, I will keep going back. I liked what I read there! Thanks for the comment, and I hope you come back often! 🙂



  2. Zoanna on May 5, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    This is the best, most thoughtful best reflection I’ve read yet! I like your transparency because I was sludging my way through. To compare my thought process in the marriage metaphor, I didn’t listen to wisdom. I rushed into it. And the honeymoon ended quickly for my A to Z because i wasn’t getting comments (communication problems p) but decided to stick it out because I dropped out on T last year. I don’t regret my posts, and I’m glad I persevered, but felt restricted rather than inspired by the challenge. It would be wise to counsel anyone seeking marriage to ask if that other person inspires them and others, do they encourage dreams, do they give you a “got-to” or a “get-to” feel about the relationship. Well, that’s more than I meant to say, but my thanks for your honesty and encouragement. Happy Mother’sDay to someone with the hardest job on the planet.



    • Strahlen on May 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      Zoanna, Thank you so much! I’m glad you said more than you meant to and your response has warmed my heart. I’m glad I stuck it out and glad you did too! Congratulations. I love your got to vs get to idea. I’ll stop by your blog later this afternoon (I have 3 ball games and a Scout meeting still to attend today), and I will be CERTAIN to comment! 🙂



  3. Martine Frampton on May 5, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Hi, just visiting from the a to z reflections list. Confess I usually avoid blogs with overt religious connections, but I read your post and found it very thoughtful and perceptive. thanks for sharing and best wishes to you and your lovely boys



    • Strahlen on May 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Thank you Martine. Everything in our lives revolves around our faith. If you had five boys you’d be praying a lot too! 😉



      • Anne on May 9, 2014 at 6:21 am

        I came across your reflections post (but not your blog during the challenge) and I liked your analogy. I admit to feeling quite exhausted in the middle and now too but I opted for number 3, planned ways to be happy with the challenge. I write my family history in the hope that my children will enjoy it. I asked them what I should do for some of the letters and followed up on their ideas and enjoyed their comments afterwards.
        Best wishes
        Anne



        • Strahlen on May 9, 2014 at 6:27 am

          Thanks for stopping by Anne. I love history and personal family history makes it even better. I haven’t had time to stop by every blog in the challenge – who could??? – but I’ll be sure to stop by yours today. Thanks for visiting! I hope you come back often! 🙂



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