The playgrounds of my childhood always had two things to play on – a swing and a teeter-totter.
The teeter-totter was an extremely long board fitted perpendicular to a piece of large pipe that it pivoted on. The only way to hold on and ride it was to grip the sides of the board. The more advanced teeter-totters featured two pieces of pipe fashioned into a t-shape securely attached to the end. Those didn’t come into fashion until a few years later.
By today’s standards there was nothing safe about it. There were multiple ways to incur an injury. One of the favorite “tricks” to pull on someone was when they were up in the air and you were on the ground was to jump off and let them plummet to the hard-packed soil. No doubt this resulted in multiple spinal compression injuries.
The teeter-totter also worked as a catapult. If you pushed off the ground with all your might and your friend on the other end braked hard when he touched the ground, no matter how tight your grip, you could be dislodged. Your trajectory resembled a broken-winged quail as you sailed across the playground, landing in a cloud of dust.
One of the problems involved the weight differential on each end. The twelve year old bully who was still in third grade required two to three classmates on the other end to counterbalance the board. If he pointed you out to come sit on the other end of the board, you were caught on the horns of a dilemma. If you refused, he’d beat you up. If you joined the other victims on the board, you knew he would eventually either catapult you or let you drop like heavy stones into a mangled heap of knees, elbows, and heads striking each other and the ground.
What you needed to make the teeter-totter work perfectly was the perfect partner. My perfect partner in Kindergarten was Jane Foote. Jane and I were the exact same size. Her being a tomboy didn’t hurt either. We made, and kept, a promise to never jump off the teeter-totter when the other was at the apex.
As simple as it may seem, marriage is much like a teeter-totter. Just like the teeter-totters from my childhood, there is nothing safe about marriage. There are innumerable opportunities for injury, some self-inflicted and others perpetrated on us. Betrayal, neglect, abuse and affairs cause the most harmful injuries – a broken heart, a broken spirit and a broken mind.
The most important safeguard against being wounded by the marriage teeter-totter is finding that perfect partner, someone who brings balance to your life. Someone you can look at across the teeter-totter from a position of equality. For a marriage to work, both people need to make a commitment to never bailing out (jumping off the teeter-totter) when the going gets tough.
The reason teeter-totters have been a staple of children’s play for hundreds of years is because it’s fun to ride a teeter-totter! That dizzying feeling in the pit of your stomach when you suddenly descend rapidly; the joy of watching and listening to your partner’s laughter; the skill it takes to create that balancing act when you are sitting level; the challenge of holding on through the bumps; the relaxing feeling of a gentle ride; the exhilaration of a rapid ride; the excitement of finding that perfect partner.
Marriage can provide the same types of thrills. It’s ok to be afraid of marriage, but don’t let that fear keep you away from the most exciting toy on the playground.
And don’t settle until you find that perfect partner.