Life Lessons from a Sand Dune

“A good marriage is one which allows for change and growth in the individuals and in the way they express their love.”
-Pearl S. Buck

My husband and I recently went on a road trip to White Sands, New Mexico, which is just over 6 hours from Phoenix. We make it a priority to go on one overseas trip a year, and then we like to go on smaller trips closer to home throughout the rest of the year. One of our passions is traveling, so we try to go as often as possible.

We bond through our experiences with planning our trips, traveling, eating, and having fun in new places. This is what Ron Deal and David Olson, authors of The Smart Stepfamily Marriage, call the “fun factor” of a marriage. Shared leisure activity is the number four predictor of a healthy marriage according to a survey of 50,000 couples conducted by Deal and Olson. Shared leisure activity gives couples an opportunity to bond. We’ve also found that while we always learn something about each other, we also learn life lessons during our travels. This time, we learned our lessons from a sand dune.

Lessons from a Sand Dune

Embrace Winds of Change

The sand dunes are constantly moving and changing due to the strong winds in New Mexico. We learned that they can move up to 30 feet per year, depending on their size. This makes it hard for plants who try to grow there, but the amazing thing is that plants have adapted to live in the sand dunes. For instance, the skunkbrush sumac grows deep roots that form a pedestal after the sand dune moves on. This is a great example of adaptation that we can apply to our stepfamily lives. As situations in a stepfamily are constantly changing, we can first acknowledge that change is inevitable. Then we can take responsibility for how we react to that change.  Getting upset at things that are outside of our control doesn’t change anything- it simply puts us in a bad mood.

I had to embrace my own winds of change as we were getting ready to leave on our trip. I had been wanting to go to White Sands for about 5 years, so I was excited to leave at 8 am, as we had planned. However, just as we were getting ready to leave, my husband had an unexpected work emergency, and we were delayed 3 hours. Originally, I had planned on us getting to the park in time for the sunset on the first night. Since the last entry into the park is at 5 pm, there was no way we were going to be able to get there in time, especially if we stopped to eat or go to the bathroom. (And let’s face it- we were going to stop!)

Normally, I would have been anxiously waiting to leave. Instead, I told myself there was nothing I could do to change the situation. I calmly read magazines until it was time to leave, and my husband thanked me for waiting patiently. I decided that I wanted to have a fun time on our trip, and even though our plans had to change, we would still make the most of our time together.

sand dunes

Keep moving

Just as the wind keeps the sand dunes moving, we also need to be moving forward and progressing. With stepfamilies, the progress may seem slow (like one grain of sand at a time), but the important thing is that the movement is still there. If you think back to when your stepfamily started until now, you’ll be able to see the progress your family has made. When we were walking in the sand dunes, sometimes it felt like we were in the same place because the scenery didn’t change much, but in actuality, we had covered quite a bit of ground.

Soak up the sunshine

It cools down in the desert at night, so much so that the sand was cool to the touch. We found out that White Sands has short, cold winters, with temperatures frequently dropping to below freezing at night. That’s why it’s important to soak up the sunshine during the day and enjoy it as much as possible. We enjoyed sledding down the sand dunes and having a picnic. However, when we were watching the sunset, we had to bundle up because we got chilled. And we can compare this to our stepfamily. We’ll have wonderful days where we have fun and laugh together. We need to soak those days up and treasure them. Those bright days can carry us through the dark ones when it seems like we aren’t getting along or talking.

picnic table in White Sands

Overall, our trip to White Sands was a memorable one. We laughed so hard as we were sledding that it reminded me of when I was a kid. We went on a sunset stroll and marveled at the beauty of the sand dunes in the setting sun. In the evening, we enjoyed hamburgers at Y’all’s Steakhouse in Alamogordo. If you’re thinking about going on a trip with your partner, make it happen. You deserve the time together, so don’t feel guilty! It will strengthen your marriage and provide a good example of a healthy marriage to your children and stepchildren.