Things I've Learned About Marriage While Riding a Tandem Bicycle
It's spring time in west Texas, which means my husband and I have just aired up the tires, dusted off the seats, and taken our tandem bike out for its great season of adventure. It was an anniversary gift four years ago that scored him major husband points, but if I'd known then what I know now, it probably would have garnered even greater excitement on my part. And that's because our canary yellow bike with two seats, one wicker basket, and an obnoxious squeezy horn attached to the handles has been the best marriage counselor we've ever had. I'm serious. Have marriage issues? Buy a tandem bike. You'll either fall more in love with each other or get so ticked off that you'll be forced to "work it out," sometimes all in the same evening ride around the neighborhood. You're welcome.
But, if bicycling is just not your thing and you can't see yourself making it happen, I don't want you to miss out on the valuable knowledge you could have learned if you had done it. So, in the spirit of sharing, I'm going to give you the Top Five Things I've Learned About Marriage While Riding a Tandem Bicycle. (And if you ever have a Top Five Things I've Learned About Marriage While Running a Marathon Together, you'll need to share that with me, because that ain't happening around my house):
It's really ok not to be in control all the time. Ok, so I'm starting off with a big one here. And it's the one thing that pushes all the panic buttons, which means it's probably the most important. Here's how I learned it---I rode behind my husband, which meant I had absolutely zero control over where we were going. None. No matter how hard I tried. And I was not at all prepared for how helpless that made me feel, especially when he decided to trek down the path marked "Golf Carts ONLY. NO TRESPASSERS!" We were not on a golf cart and we were most definitely trespassing, but did he care? No. Is he much of a rule follower when it comes to signs that warn of legal doom? No. Do I care much? YES. I am 100% a rule follower, and yet there was nothing I could do except yell, quietly, so as not to attract any more attention that we were BREAKING THE LAW! I found myself actually trying to turn my handlebars for all I was worth, the same handlebars that are welded in place and will give no results whatsoever. And when the panic from the back seat only produced laughter in the front seat, I couldn't help but laugh, too, but quietly, so as not to attract attention. Because sometimes it's just plain awesome not to have to make every decision, to let your partner in life lead the way. And that's good for both of you, by the way. Because when it was his turn for me to drive, he had to learn that lesson for himself.
It's good to make time to listen. I have found a wonderful trick when it comes to uncovering the secrets of my husband's brain. He's thinking things in there, but I've realized that I sometimes forget to slow down long enough to find out what those thoughts are. Women are usually pretty verbal and they like to sound out their thoughts in order to even know them for themselves. Men, however, usually tend to mull things over for quite awhile, sometimes "stuffing" them, without having the same need to express them out loud. Which means, one gift a wife can give her husband is in helping him "connect" his thoughts to his emotions and begin to process them in a clear way. And, when you're on a tandem bike, and you ask your husband a question...there's no where he can go to get away from it. So, when I needed to know what he was really thinking about a situation or how his heart was handling a tough season we were in, I found I could ask him the question from the back seat of the bike, where he didn't have the pressure of regulating his facial expressions, he could just think about it. And then I would pedal silently...and sometimes pedal a little longer...and he would finally answer with something deep and real. And it made me realize, it's always in there, I just don't slow down enough for it sometimes.
Routine is good in marriage. It's been nice to have something we do, together, several evenings a week, from spring till fall. We expect it now, and look forward to it. Our kids expect it, and think we're cute. Our dog expects it, and gives us sad eyes every time we leave her behind. Our neighbors expect it, and throw up the hand in a smile and a wave. It's our routine. Our thing. Our safe place. And marriages need some of that.
It's also good to mix it up. We can't ride the same path every night, that would get old. So, we're always in search of a great new route. This has meant we've gotten ourselves in trouble a few times and had to turn around and head backwards. But, it's also meant we've found things we didn't know were there before. A few times, we've even strapped the bike to the back of the suburban and driven to a completely new neighborhood, just to change up the scenery. It's more work, but it's worth it to keep the sense of adventure flowing. And marriages need that, too--some work and some adventure.
- You both have to pedal. Because when one person stops, the other one knows they're pulling alone. And while that might work for a little while, eventually there will be a hill that can not be climbed with just one set of legs. Eventually, you're going to have to move in sync to overcome. I love to look down and see our shadow when we're riding our tandem, both of us in perfect rhythm with the motion of the bike. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Together. Together. Together. And yes, there's been some times I've tried to put my feet up and rest for a bit. And that happens sometimes in marriage, when one is weak, it's the other person's chance to be strong and to carry the weight. But, it can't go forever like that. Because the way forward is together. Through the ups and through the downs. Together. Together. Together.