Tag Archives: marriage

Politics and Marriage: Expectations and Renegotiation

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OK, I know you’re asking “Why in the world would he put those two subjects together – especially now when we are just post election? ” Well, to answer your question, we are also just post (another) premarrieds class and it got me thinking.

There is all this campaigning that goes on prior to “the big event”. A lot of promises get made that honest candidates hope they can fulfill. But the truth is that many of them really don’t know what is actually possible until they step into the job. I think that may also be true of couples that get married. They might believe they can deliver on their pre-marriage promises or agreements, but once they get into the pace of marriage, especially when kids are in the picture, it might be a real challenge.

Engaged she says: “I’ll probably want sex 4 or 5 times a week.”

Married with 2 kids she says: “Tonight? Are you kidding me?”

Engaged he says: “I intend to share the housework evenly.”

Married with a stressful job he says: “I need to relax. You don’t realize how hard I work all day.”

It’s at this point that a lot of spouses feel betrayed, or at least disappointed. I want to reassure you that this is normal. This is idealism giving way to reality. So what should a husband or wife do?

Renegotiate

If you have ever been through the process of buying a house or running a business you will understand the need to leave certain aspects open to renegotiation. There are circumstances that you cannot know until you experience or discover them. The parties involved must believe that they are getting a fair deal. Marriage is no different.

Some people have a really hard time with compromise, but along with forgiveness, it is the secret to a great marriage. I, of course, am not talking about moral compromise, but the day-to-day adjustments that have to be made in order to maintain a marriage’s equilibrium. As is often said, if you cannot bend, you will break.

The key to being able to compromise is developing empathy for the other person. Do you seek to understand, or only to be understood? Can you see a situation from their perspective as well as your own? I know it’s hard, sometimes really hard and “unfair”.

Your spouse never held the “office” of being married to you before saying “I do”. If you can remember that then maybe you can forgive some of those broken campaign promises.

Proverbs 3:13 Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.

The Apprentice

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I was having a discussion the other day with a friend about how we prepare for a career these days. He had gone through the typical school trajectory and was sitting on a liberal arts graduate degree. The discussion was whether to spend the money for a post-graduate degree or not. He was bemoaning the feeling that he wasn’t equipped to enter the job market with any particular skills. Then he made this statement that I thought was pretty astute:

“How did we lose the apprenticeship programs that have been around for hundreds of years?”

I pointed out that perhaps those apprenticeships are still around for a lot of careers, they just might be labeled differently. For example in the counseling world they are called trainees and interns. In other fields they are probably called other things. I understood his frustration, and I think a better question might be why couldn’t apprenticeship be an option much sooner in the career process.

The Problem

Likewise, I wonder why formal marriage or relationship preparation isn’t a mandated part of the educational system. Nearly everyone forms some kind of interpersonal arrangement, usually marriage. Wouldn’t it be great if we could exit high school or college knowing how to communicate well, resolve conflict, handle money and raise children? It seems more universal than solving a quadratic equation.

For so many people the only preparation they receive is watching their friends and family “do” relationships. I suppose that is a kind of apprenticeship, but for many maybe not the best, or perhaps even destructive.

The Solution

Along with specific marriage classes, one of the most practical solutions within the church are mentorship programs. Sometimes those are formal programs, but often they take the form of peer groups. In our church, Christian Assembly, we call them life groups. They might be either same or mixed gender groups, but for relationship growth, experience counts. Nan and I never had the advantage of having people in our lives that did marriage well. It wasn’t until we entered counseling after having been married for more than 15 years that we had the kind of guidance that promoted a healthy relationship.

I am definitely not against remedial relationship work. A lot of what we do falls into that category. But I can tell you from experience that front end preparation and in vivo mentoring is much less painful and way more fun. In our men’s group we had a great mixture of younger and older members. Many of us were married and had at one time or another fallen into relationship pits and had to dig ourselves out. We always enjoyed having the youngsters laugh with us at our misadventures.

So are you connected? Do you have community to help you stay in the process and on track? Do you have experience and are sharing it with others? Or do you need to step out and get involved?

Being “Brutally” Honest, etc.

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Lest you think I am going soft, let me say right up front that I believe in honesty in relationships. It is one of the character qualities that those who seek husbands and wives most value. It is the foundation that trust is built upon.

Where I am taking exception is with the word “brutally”. I know that people throw this word around to get across the idea of “the most honest version” of a story. I’m all over that. But there are people who are brutal in their honesty. And when they are they miss an important character quality: kindness. Rather than consider another person’s feelings, they blurt out “truth” and wound them, often unnecessarily. This sounds more than a little bit selfish to me.

Sometimes the truth hurts, and the pain caused is unavoidable. Empathy helps to cushion the blow, and kind people think out their approach and try to be honest, but gentle. However, there are others who take grim pleasure in hurtful truth telling. They may think they are only being honest, but they are actually just acting self-righteous. This truth without grace is simply meanness – not a good character quality.  I think of this well-known passage from the Bible that talks about loving others as the highest value. I suppose you could say that it is lovingly honest.

1 Cor 13   If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

When searching for a mate, character (as in being honest, etc.) matters. Character decides what happens during crises, conflicts, temptations and trouble. Too often, certain character flaws are overlooked or minimized because our heart (feelings) overpowers our head (reality). One or two good character qualities do not make a person of good character. You have to look at the whole package. Of course, you have to be a person of good character to expect to attract a person with good values.

If you have been reading our blog for any length of time, you know that we bang on this theme of values and character a lot. Why? Many, if not most counseling issues stem from the breakdown of good values and character (The Bible calls this sin). When we improve character, we improve relationships, families and communities. Yes, it’s a big deal.

I would encourage you to take an inventory of your character qualities (good as well as needs-to-improve). Are you kind, patient, honest, generous, God-loving, trustworthy, loyal, sober, diligent, responsible, forgiving, helpful, even-tempered, etc? Does this list describe the kind of person you would want to do life with?