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Friday, May 23, 2014

Your Marriage and NASA - Part 2: Out of Limits

A lot of people can remember where they were on a January morning in 1986, the day the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up.

The images of the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) chasing insanely across the sky while the rest of the wreckage sleeted down into the Atlantic is one of the horrifying signature images of the late 20th Century.

All the moire horrifying because it was completely preventable. In fact, engineers tried to prevent it.

The SRBs - the long skinny solid-fuel rockets attached to the big central fuel tank under the shuttle itself - consisted of segments of pipe flanged together, each containing the rubbery rocket fuel. The flanges where they were joined were sealed with rubber O-rings, designed to withstand the heat of combustion.

Unfortunately, they had limits in the other direction...cold. And it was cold that day, in the 20s. Too cold for the O-rings.

The engineers at Morton Thiokol, who designed the SRBs, tried hard to convince NASA to postpone the launch, but the launch had already been put off numerous times, and they really, really wanted to fly their 'Teacher In Space", Christa MacAuliffe.

NASA overruled the engineers, deciding that physic would be altered by political necessity. (Think that's unfair? Seven people died.)

The O=rings started to fail on the pad, when the SRBs were ignited, and 72 seconds into the flight a plume of flame was playing on the external fuel tank...which blew up, shattering the shuttle.

Out of limits.

Every situation in this world has limits. You can't launch a Space Shuttle when it's too cold.

You can't be late for work too often, even with a very understanding boss.

You can't ask too big a favor of a friend, without risking alienation.

And there are plenty of limits in a marriage.

  • You can't take your spouse for granted too often - We all do, sometimes, assuming that our mate will pick up the slack, will pick up after us, will be readily available to pick up the kids when we've got an event planned with our BFFs. But when too many "hey, do you mind..." events happen without an equal number of "I really appreciate this" followups, we start to get beyond the limits of what's right.
  • You can't assume too much - You know your spouse well, but probably not as well as you think you do. people can always surprise us, and the kind of surprise we don't want is the one that includes the statement "but I assumed you'd be okay with this..."
  • You can't ignore physical needs for too long - This ranges from handholding to intercourse, and includes the entire gamut. Most people have a need to be touched...ignore it and the capacity for 'understandin' physical affection starts to wither. This happens for men as well as women...yes, ladies, men can get completely turned away from sex, just as women can. Paul the Apostle said you can be 'apart' for periods of prayer and fasting, but that you have to come back together again. He didn't allow the excuse of Facebook time or "American Idol's on!" or the kids needing rides to half a dozen afterschool activities a week. We're supposed to make time for touch.
  • You can't ignore spiritual needs - Yes, this means going to church regularly, and yes, church is more important than NASCAR or the NFL or sleeping in. You can mkss church for the Superbowl...that's once a year...or for the Talladega race (twice a year). But the whole NASCAR season doesn't give you a bye on being a member of your congregation. Your marriage needs it. So do you, as an individual.
  • You can't ignore each other - Have you ever gone to the mall or a grocery store and noticed how many couples are alone together? Maybe they're both playing with their phones, or one's shopping while the other is busy resenting being there...but they're not together. Yes, it's okay to go into a brown study while your husband...or wife...is checking out the new shotguns at Cabela's, but if you get into the habit of distancing yourself from everything your spouse is doing, you're stepping across a border nto the land where contempt lives.
The Space Shuttle 'stack' of the Orbiter, SRBs, and fuel tank was robust enough to go through huge forces and aerodynamic pressures, but there were things...small things...that could, and did, bring it down.

Your marriage is the same way. Love will help you withstand a lot, but once you go outside a set of limits, it can take a small knock to bring the whole thing crashing down.

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