“Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.” — Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 verses 9 – 12
For soldiers, this idea that two are better than one is a building block for operations—we learn to pair up as “battle buddies” right from basic training. One cooks the meal while the other does sentry, one boils the shaving water while the other boils the water for coffee. Both check on each other constantly—that each other has what they need for the days tasks, are awake when they need to be and get medical attention when they need it. Perhaps the best example of working together is in combat when one provides covering fire while the other moves. It is an act of incredible trust and necessity that ensures someone is covering you while you are vulnerable. We work together in both mundane and exciting tasks, often in spite of differences, all to achieve common goals. There’s another area of life that this approach would work really well in . . .
Here’s the thing, military battle buddies come and go. They help us in seasons of our lives—courses, exercises, deployments—but we have a non-work related battle buddy who is there for the whole of our life—our spouse. It is sad how often I have seen military personnel (and some military spouses) fail to recognize their most important battle buddy, and as such struggle through life issues that would be so much easier to deal with if they nurtured their marriage relationship. Some even start to think of their spouse as the enemy! That’s like deciding to attack a fellow soldier in the heat of battle—it makes no sense and does nothing for your chances of victory.
So here’s a thought: what if we worked on developing our marriage relationships so that our spouses become our life-battle buddies? Ecclesiastes is written by King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, and he offers some pretty good reasons why we should make this a priority. Imagine working more effectively because we work towards common life goals and support each other in their achievement. Imagine the security of always knowing that your spouse will pick you up when you fall and being committed to always picking them up when they fall. Imagine warming each other up when you are emotionally cold, shivering in loneliness or when the chill of fear that you might not be able to cope creeps in. Imagine knowing that you can fight off attacks on yourself, your marriage, and your children because you know that your spouse has your back just as you have theirs.
You may be thinking, “what a great imagination, but that’s not how my marriage works”. It is how God intended your marriage to work, but maybe it has been a while since you practiced some of the buddy habits that you need to draw you both together. Here are some suggestions to get started or re-started:
1. No matter what happens, never think that your spouse is your enemy—you may have differences, but you are absolutely on the same side.
2. If your spouse has a problem, it is your problem too—you solve problems together, side by side, rather than abandoning your spouse and becoming one of the people who criticizes them.
3. Start supporting each other in the small things— listening, making each other cups of coffee, helping with the dishes, telling your spouse how much you appreciate them, giving them small gifts, agreeing and supporting each other on parenting decisions, visiting family even when you both know it may be painful. These are things a battle buddy does. Pray for each other… at least twice a day.
4. And the most important suggestion—King Solomon talks about the strength of two people, then finishes his comments with “a rope made of three cords is hard to break”—make it a priority to daily entwine God into your marriage relationship. Start by praying and reading the Bible together if you don’t already so that between the three of you, you will be “hard to break”. Can you do this even during deployment? With some planning and creativity—yes. A suggestion would be to each have a copy of a one-year Bible to read “together.” Also you can do “Excellent or Praiseworthy” together by answering the “Questions to share” over email.
I love the picture of two people resisting an attack—back to back so that no one can creep up on them. Ask God to help you and your spouse to think of each other as life-battle buddies, working as one to fight off whatever life throws at you.
Questions to share:
1. What three things could your spouse start doing for you right now that would help you feel more supported?
2. What three things can you do to make your spouse feel more supported?
3. Discuss your lists with your spouse and be prepared to adjust as you make individual issues into shared issues.
4. Separately make a list of five things you want to achieve as a family over the next five years (or more if you want). Share your lists and agree to common goals and ways to achieve them together.