I have always loved the game “Concentration”. Matched pairs of cards are shuffled and then individually placed face down on a table. The goal is to turn over pairs of cards and see if they match. If they do, then you keep them, if not, you turn them back over and continue turning over pairs of cards. The game is won when all the pairs have been matched.
Sometimes people will come to me and ask if I believe the person they are dating is a good match for them. What they are asking sounds simple, but really is much more complicated.
“I am attracted to you and you are attracted to me.” Match.
But just like the game, a successful relationship is only achieved if all the pairs match.
- “My family accepts you and your family accepts me.” Match
- “I want to live in So. California and you want to live in So. California.” Match
- “I deeply believe in God and you deeply believe in God” Match
- “I want to have kids and you don’t want to have kids.” Uh, oh. No match.
Did we just run into a non-negotiable, a ‘deal-breaker’? Or is this an area of potential compromise?
“You are willing to have kids if I am willing to support you as a stay-at-home mom, even though I want a working wife.” Negotiated match.
We both go into marriage with a picture of marriage in our mind, and a ‘job description’ for the other person. These pictures and job descriptions often don’t match up very well, yet we aren’t aware of the differences because we fail to fully discuss all the issues. Often we don’t even know that we have ‘rules and roles’ for the other person until they break a rule or don’t accept ‘their’ role. And frequently we don’t find this out until we are already married and having difficulties.
This is why entering into a comprehensive process before getting married (or even afterwards) is so helpful. We can often identify potential problems by asking the right questions and determining whether there are any ‘deal-breakers’, or places of compromise that can be worked out in advance so that the relationship can progress without a lot of drama.
All it takes is concentration.