Doug and I had been married for several years when he began working for UPS. For the first time in our married life, I had no real connection to his job or his coworkers. Each morning, he would walk through a security gate into a huge warehouse that I could never enter. With the exception of one coworker who became a family friend, I never met the people who surrounded my husband day in and day out. My only understanding of his work and work relationships came through his descriptions. Meanwhile, I worked two days a week at a local mother’s day out. Doug had met many of my coworkers, but we as a couple never engaged with any of them socially.
Then there was church. An hour-plus drive to a small, rural community in the northeastern corner of Arkansas – very different from the busy Memphis suburbs where we lived and worked our secular jobs. There was no doubt that we needed a church family; but they just needed a part-time pastor and we lived too far away to forge any real relationships. And our immediate community? Well, the neighborhood felt closed and so very different from the seminary community we’d just left.We never really learned the key to unlocking relationships there.
Bottom line: we as a couple had no natural, joint community.
Much is often said about women having the chance to get away regularly with their girlfriends and men being able to hang out with other men. And yes, those things are necessary. I’m smiling just thinking about the reality that my best friend and I are both married to men who understand that she and I need each other. They go out of their way to make sure we get that connection time as often as we possibly can – even if it’s a Skype text chat across thousands of miles and a vast ocean! They know we are better because we strengthen, encourage, and sharpen one another.
But, it is not enough that I spend time with Joanna, just like it’s not enough for Doug to spend time with her husband Aaron or some of the fellow ministry guys he chats with from time to time. No, we also need opportunities for Doug and I to have relationships that merge. We need double dates like the recent ones we’ve been blessed to have not only with Aaron and Joanna but with another dear, dear couple. We need to know the same people and share a circle of interactions. We need to be unified in at least some joint community.
Why? Because it’s far too easy in our culture to live completely separate lives even when under the same roof.
That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for each of us to have our own communities. We live in a culture where husband and wife both tend to work, and they cannot help but walk in separate communities part of the time. But, when we do not make an effort to merge our worlds at least now and then, we run the risk of ending up more as roommates than as a husband and wife who are walking through this life together.
God very intentionally designed us for community. When a husband and wife choose to maintain separate communities, only coming together in private interaction, they run the risk of being pulled apart instead of remaining bound together. Each finds that the other just doesn’t understand the life they live because each is outside the other’s community. They forge separate interests. Separate connections. Separate lives.
It takes effort to center ourselves in joint communities when our lives naturally pull us apart, but it is possible. Through church. Through getting to know our neighbors. Through choosing to introduce our spouses to close coworkers and getting to know their spouses. (I can’t wait for the day when Doug will get to meet my boss’s husband!) The more we pour energy into creating these communities, the more reward we see from it.
What joint community exists in your marriage? What can you do to strengthen it? If none exists, what can you do to build it?