About Faith: Not Paying Attention to Life’s Hiccups Can Cause Marriage to Fail

Do you ever doubt the reasons for your divorce? Perhaps you recall the reasons for your divorce and suddenly your logic seems minor or even petty. You hated the way she laughed.You hated the way he brushed his teeth.

The things we remember seem the most trivial things now. These trivial things that should have been minor hiccups in our relationship suddenly became major things. Hiccups are something that begin as a minor annoyance,“ hence we use the word to describe a minor interruption to a procedure. But if hiccups continue, they are no longer trivial. They become a major interruption to life.

I once met a patient in our pre-surgery area of the hospital I worked as a chaplain whose hiccups had become a major interruption to her quality of life. “Pre-surg” is a place I often hover on early mornings looking for people facing serious surgery without the benefit of pastoral support. I don’t usually spend much time with those who are doing quick and simple outpatient procedures, as was this woman.

The nurse practitioner inserted a tube though her nose and down into her stomach. The patient would wear a monitoring devise for a few days and carefully record all she ate. The devise would hopefully tell the doctor what kinds of activity were causing the digestive reactions that triggered the hiccups.

As minor as the procedure was, this annoying reflex had unraveled her life the past two years. She and her husband once had a good marriage and were active in a faith community, but a minor annoyance was threatening to torpedo everything they had together. As I spoke with her husband, I learned of the countless hours of interrupted sleep she had experienced. Sleeplessness became fertile ground for depression and depression sprouted hopelessness in every area of her life. Causing much the same stress that chronic snoring is known to cause, this was infinitely worse because it was chronic day and night.

The woman looked tired and barely spoke to me, so her husband did all the talking. He talked about the missed opportunities that this problem had caused in their lives and about how a small annoyance had mushroomed into something so fatiguing that it threatened to dwarf the joy found in 28 years of marriage.

As I look at my own life, I know I carry an armament of defenses against the major enemies of happiness. I know I can spend a lot of time trying to mentally toughen my soul in preparation in anticipation of some nebulous life-altering event. I obsess over what it might feel like to lose a child. I wonder about diseases or late-life divorce.

We all do it. We think about what we might do if our spouse asked us for a divorce or our boss gave us a pink slip. We obsess over the monumental worst case scenarios that plague victims all over the world. But the truth is the major things we worry about seldom happen to us. We spend hours vitalizing our defenses against the possibility of a cataclysmic failure, and we fail to see how devastating the little things can be on our lives. Marriages more often fail from the poor respect we pay each other day-to-day more than they fail over affairs.

To defend ourselves from all these cataclysmic possibilities, we often tell ourselves and others to trust in God, but it seems to me the trust has to begin with the little things. We pray for protection before we take a big trip or make a big decision, but we forgot to ask God for help in the little daily annoyances in our lives.

Marriages are more often lost over trivial boredom than they are over affairs. Jobs are more often lost over the daily office relationships than they are from corporate takeovers or bankruptcy. Children are more often permanently scarred through the daily insults parents hurl on them than by rarity of a stranger abduction. It is the little things that blossom into the not-so-trivial.

In the next few weeks, the woman I saw in pre-surgery regained her health from the trivial hiccups. But the cure for their relationship that had been so majorly interrupted was a little more elusive. It was not trivial. It would take the restarting of communication, the presence of understanding, and of course, some long-deserved rest.