What I learnt about marriage from 6 months in a camper van with my husband.
The prospect of living and travelling in our mobile home for a prolonged period was both exciting and challenging. Of course, we had been away in it before for periods of 5 or 6 weeks, but always returned to our warm home with comfortable furniture, big telly and, one of the things we came to miss the most, a washing machine and tumble drier.
The plan was simple, if a little fluid, that having quickly sold our house, banked the money ready for the next one, we would drive off into the sunset and explore more of this beautiful country. The date we planned to leave was Easter Sunday, after our final service at the church we had attended for nearly 20 years. But plans in the land of house buying and selling never go straightforwardly, so Easter came and went but the house didn’t. We decided to begin our grand journey of adventure anyway.
The challenge of living in such close proximity with another person was quickly felt. When the sun is shining and it’s warm outside the outdoors becomes part of your living space. You can spread out, move around one another easily, and leave possessions [non-valuable of course] lying around. But the weather this Spring and Summer has been very mixed, as our British summers so often are. On wet, cool, windy days the side door of the van must be shut, and the available space is suddenly very much smaller.
Rob and I are introverts and like our own space at times- both actual and head space. It soon became a time of learning and making decisions of forgiving and keeping a short account. It seemed that every time one of us was at the sink the other wanted to get something out of the shower room, which required lots of breathing in and allowing passage past in the 90 centimetre or so gap. Or one of us might be comfortably sprawled on the bench seat reading when the other needed to get something out of the cupboard underneath. Or the challenge of 2 people in the morning both trying to gather clothes, towels, shower gels etc from different parts of the van, constantly passing [breathing in lots, naturally] and reaching past and over one another. Or maybe the wet shoes laid out on the tiny mat by the door [Rob’s are size 11s!] making it impossible to exit or enter the motorhome gracefully, but rather risk a broken neck! Or the ……..
I could go on, but it’s been a brilliant growing time in our marriage. Here’s some things I’ve learned:
Lesson 1. I have a choice.
That’s stark and I knew that before. But this time taught me that I have a choice not to react negatively, to make a sarcastic comment, to think that he is just doing things to annoy me, or to take offence. It has been a minute by minute choice-making exercise to empathise, be patient [not my natural gifting], and to show love.
Lesson 2. Keep a short account and forgive perceived wrongs.
Simmering resentments would have made this trip unbearable and not a journey of adventure.
Lesson 3. Negotiate.
We were quite good at this anyway after 42 years of marriage, but never has it been more important than in the last few months. If we are both wanting the best for one another we can’t go wrong.
Lesson 4. Be flexible.
Sometimes things won’t go the way I want them and then I have a choice [ that word again] to get angry, give up or sulk, or try to think of another option.
Rob and I have travelled a long way together in the last 6 months. It has been great fun and has grown our love for one another. I pray the memory of it won’t fade too much and that the things God has shown me have prepared me for the years ahead. And maybe they have made me a bit easier to live with??