by Lynn M. Griesemer
Have there been times in your marriage that required endurance? If you haven’t had many hardships or intense challenges in your relationship, someday you may encounter a situation where endurance will play a major role.
People think of endurance as a term reserved for athletes. Endurance is defined as “the act, quality or power of withstanding hardship or stress…the state or fact of persevering; continuing survival.”
Consider the following scenarios:
-In the still of the night, 12 years into your marriage, you wonder, “Is this all there is?”
-You feel exhausted by serving as a “single parent” in your marriage, with a spouse who is uninvolved, or more detached than you would like.
-You think you’ve tried everything to get your spouse to admit alcohol or drug abuse and are waiting for some - any - type of breakthrough.
-You’re raising a disabled child and haven’t had much of a break or vacation with your spouse in 5 years.
-Your life turned upside down when you discovered that your partner had an ongoing affair with a co-worker that lasted a year.
Situations like these can test a marriage to the breaking point. Some people are tired of waiting or believe they’ve tried everything possible to move beyond the difficulties. They may see no glimmer for a better future and feel stuck in the present situation. Those who are not able or willing to endure prolonged pain might be tempted to dissolve the relationship.
How is it that one person can endure 15 years in a dissatisfying marriage and another chooses divorce after a year of struggling? Is a person a fool who has stayed in an unhappy marriage for more than 15 years?
Do you hear people encouraging you to hang in there and that there will be cycles over the course of marriage? Where are the cheerleaders shouting, “Give me an E-N-D-U-R-A-N-C-E!”?
Each individual and couple arrives at decisions in different ways for different reasons. The tolerance level varies, but in a society where self-fulfillment often comes before everything else, there is sometimes pressure and advice to end relationships if the going gets too tough. Some will choose to seek professional help as a last resort. Others will try to quietly solve their problems on their own or reach out to friends for advice and support. How does one endure heartbreaking or devastating experiences? Does it mean having patience and waiting for time to pass or your partner to come around?
Endurance is not patience, but more. Patience is tolerant understanding or the capacity for calm endurance. I believe patience is not a temperament trait we are born with, but is something that is freely chosen and developed. Endurance involves deciding to cope with something that requires patience. Endurance lasts longer than patience and is more comprehensive. In order to endure something, we must develop strategies and techniques ahead of time. Marathon runners expect and train for the moment in which they must break through the wall. Some anticipate an encounter with the little voices that whisper or shout, “it’s time to give up.” This is usually more mental than physical.
Let’s say you are waiting in a long line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Being patient, means you will simply wait until you are called upon. Enduring an hour-long wait means that you have decided to accept the situation and you’ve chosen ahead of time to not complain or stew in anger and frustration. Perhaps you have reading material to pass the time. You reason that some situations are not what we would choose, but must accept as part of life. Patience is more of an outward politeness and not as much as an inner acceptance. You can feel anxiety while being patient, but endurance includes more calm and centeredness.
Endurance is a choice that individuals make without regard to the spouse. Those who stay together are not fools, nor do they have special qualities. They do not necessarily value commitment more highly than others who do not seem able to endure the pain. They have made the choice to endure the hardships. Endurance does not mean you carry the burden alone. Examine your particular situation and consider reaching out for the proper help for your marriage, your most important personal relationship.
While in a period of waiting, the marriage may be tested like never before, but there is usually an unexpected breakthrough. To experience this point in marriage is one of the most profound turning points. It puts the hardship in a different perspective, opening the way for gratitude and growth. The couple can now proceed to deeper levels as they continue to build their histories. Sadly, many people will not choose the difficult road of endurance.