When I was in graduate school, I read about an experiment that has stayed with me through 21 years of marriage. The researchers put two rats in a cage, then created stress in the rats by sending a mild current through the cage's floor. Not surprisingly, the rats attacked each other.
High levels of stress cause rats, and people, to turn on one another. Too many couples, when confronted with a stressful situation, fight each other rather than attack the problem. This is a formula for self-protection, a natural tendency often brought on by stress. But marriages suffer as a result.
The good news is we don't have to act like rats when we're under stress. We are living souls, made in God's image and moved by his Spirit. God has given us the capacity to reason, to express our emotions and hear those of our mate and to find meaning in the darkest corners of life.
The Power to Choose
When a college basketball team with a losing record comes from behind late in the game to beat a nationally ranked team, we see the effect of human will. In the newspaper the next morning, sports writers will talk about courage, perseverance and character. When an unheralded team faces seemingly impossible odds and comes out on top, we all take hope.
Coaches often refer to these incredible victories as defining moments—turning points that lead to additional success in the future. In this regard, marriage and college basketball have a lot in common. The crises life throws at us can be defining moments in marriage. Whether a stressful situation leads to defeat or contributes to future success begins with a choice.1