By Ashley McIlwain
If you are like me, you’ve been following the summer Olympics in London. The Olympics always amaze me because those athletes train most of their lives just to have a shot at being the best. They commit so much time, energy, effort, emotion, and everything they have to try and bring home the gold medal in their event. As I watch them, I realize that there is a lot to learn from these Olympians, and most of these lessons can be applied to our marriages.
Getting a gold medal in any sport requires non-stop dedication amongst a lot of other superior efforts and attitude. Marriage is similar. If you want a “gold medal” marriage, then you have to exhibit an unprecedented amount of commitment and effort consistently and constantly. If you want it to be the best, you can’t just sit around and hope that it magically happens. You’ve got to do something … a lot of some things … to make it happen.
While Olympians slave away for their big moment, this one event, this one dream, this one prize, marriage is a daily “competition” with many rewards, moments, and dreams realized.
Olympians, especially gold medalists, put forth extraordinary effort in everything they do to become the best at what they do. There is no room for mediocrity or complacency for them if they hope to achieve that goal. If there were one word to sum up what an Olympian possesses to make their dreams a reality, it would be commitment.
Commitment – day in and day out, putting your best foot forward no matter what. Commitment is what each of those Olympic athletes has in common because it takes a relentless pursuit of repeating the same things over and over, tackling new things head on, and overcoming obstacles and challenges along the way to master their trade. If a gymnast only practiced when it suited him/her, there is no way they would be the best. The average aspiring Olympic athlete spends eight hours a day, seven days a week training their mind and body for their shot at being the best. When an athlete falls down, they get back up and try harder. They may be bruised and hurting, but they never give up. They take those bruises and bumps, learn from them, and use them as inspiration to push harder. Their commitment is unparalleled.
How does this apply to marriage? Marriage requires commitment! We can’t have a casual and complacent attitude toward our marriage putting forth only the occasional and minimal effort. There is no way our marriage stands a chance at being the best it can be with that kind of poor work ethic.
Marriage requires that constant and consistent effort that comes with commitment. Exhibiting vigor, excitement, and determination each and every day. Sure there are times that marriages leaves us with bumps, bruises, aches, and pains, but those are opportunities to become stronger, more determined, and to push through for the victory. What if we spent eight hours a day, seven days a week training our minds and bodies to be the best spouse possible?!
Marriage isn’t a nonchalant thing with an exceptional outcome; exceptional marriages are birthed out of commitment to be the best from both spouses. We can’t go into our marriages or can’t at some point decide that it’s too painful, too challenging, too much work, and expect our marriage to make it. A gold medal marriage requires a commitment to put the time needed into our spouse and into being the best spouse possible, dusting ourselves off when we fall, pushing through the pain for the rewards on the other side, and coming out tomorrow to do it all over again. That’s what makes a gold medal marriage.
Tenacity is defined as holding fast; characterized by keeping a firm hold; highly retentive; persistent or stubborn; holding together; cohesive; not easily pulled asunder; tough. There is a lot packed into the definition of that word, and I think that some of the finest real life examples of tenacity are Olympic athletes.
Olympics athletes hold fast and firm to their dreams of being the best. They are highly stubborn and persistent as they spend an unmatched amount of time doing whatever it takes to get their routines and moves perfected. They are not easily pulled asunder, and they are tough, demonstrated by their refusal to give up no matter what the circumstance.
When I think of examples of tenacity, I think of people like Lolo Jones that suffered heartbreaking disappointment in Beijing when she was leading the 100 meter until clipping the last hurdle. Despite this, she fought hard to come back and place 4th in the London games. Or Lashinda Davis who unexpectedly got pregnant and gave birth to twin boys, suffered with postpartum depression, and managed to still compete in this year’s games claiming silver in the 400 meter hurdles. This is the type of tenacity we need in our marriages.
Tenacious spouses are strong people that hold fast to their marriages, refusing to give up on it or let it be pulled asunder. A huge dose of tenacity is exactly what every marriage needs to be a gold medal marriage. We may suffer severe injuries at times, but what we have to remember is that we are two imperfect human beings just trying to do our best as life throws its punches our way. Sometimes we fall in our marriages, sometimes we go through difficult trials, sometimes we struggle beyond belief, and sometimes life is just hard on us, but the winners are the ones that are tenacious. They are the ones that relentlessly hold fast to the dream of and commitment to their marriage come what may.
The mindset of a world-class athlete consists of the realization that they are a work in progress, constantly training to become a better and stronger person. Knowing that gives them the ability to possess the commitment and tenacity needed to succeed. If you want to be the best, you have to recognize there is always room for improvement; we are a constant work in progress.
Many of the athletes that I saw perform this year at the Olympics were returning athletes. Time and time again you would hear stories of how the dream of medaling at the games had alluded them for one reason or another. Some fell, slipped, got injured, didn’t perform their best, hadn’t trained hard enough, or made a simple mistake. What happened to those athletes after their dreams fell short? Most of them gathered themselves, trained harder, worked harder, and came back a million times more determined than before. Olympic athletes know that mistakes or disappointments are the building blocks for their future. They are aware that they need to constantly improve, learn, work hard, and train to stay on top of their game and their field.
Marriage requires the same mindset – that we are a work in progress continually training to be the best in our marriage. Marriage, like life, has ups & downs, hilltops & valleys, winters & summers, but it’s always worth it. The truth is that while we would love marriage to entail skipping off into the sunset without a care in the world, that’s not reality. Marriage entails combining two lives that are two drastically contrasting genders each from two totally different families with their own set of baggage. That means that we have our work cut out for us. The fantastic and exciting news is that the love, intimacy, fun times, good times, memories, and adventures we share with our spouse are what make it worth fighting for during the rough times. Marriage is amazing and such a rewarding gift from God, but we have to understand that we are works in progress that can always improve. We need training and to utilize adversity as a stepping stone for strengthening ourselves and our marriage.
This reminds me of a quote from A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks character says to one of the girls contemplating quitting the baseball team because it was too hard, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” Marriage is hard, which is why so many marriages are falling by the wayside. Hard is an opportunity to grown stronger and closer together though. Anyone can quit, but the successful don’t; they not only survive but go on to become the best.
If you want a gold medal marriage, then you’ve got to have the commitment, tenacity, and willingness to constantly work hard at it. This includes your individual journey to be an amazing, supportive, and loving spouse as well as your collective journey to have a great relationship with your spouse. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it!