From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Marriage: What’s the point?
I recently attended a friend’s wedding in Lexington, Kentucky. There in the
heart of bluegrass country, a new tribe assembled consisting of the groom’s
family, the bride’s Mother and step-Father, and the bride’s Father and
step-Mother. Both friends and relatives excitedly anticipated the wedding which
would be officiated by both a Rabbi and a Catholic Priest.
At first, there were several awkward moments in the crowd. There was the
usual nervousness as the bride’s friends and family met the groom’s friends
and family. Within families, there was a little "old" tension related
to a family reunion where parents had divorced and remarried. And between
families, there was a little "new" tension related to the interfaith
marriage and growing religious diversity within the family. Yet, it was clear
that the group as a whole shared a common love for these two young people and we
greeted the weekend with joyful enthusiasm for their new life together.
Our task was easy... enjoy the wedding. Watching the two lovebirds, however,
I could not help but think of the many challenges ahead for them. Here are a few
more thoughts on that matter.
- People get married in order to form a unique bond of love. The
decision to marry indicates that couples have chosen each other from the
entire universe of other people, as life partners. The honor of this
partnership requires active love, trust and loyalty. It also represents a
permanent commitment to care for each other, as we care for ourselves. Once
again, the golden rule glitters!
- Love is a verb which must be actively demonstrated on a daily basis.
Just as we care for our children and our pets, spouses require daily love.
Daily contributions to our relationships result in long-term investments in
the well-being of our families. We all deserve daily appreciation from our
spouses and they deserve daily appreciation from us. Additionally, human
beings require affection, communication and touch on a daily basis. Marriage
provides the opportunity to satisfy these needs at home every day. Just as
we need food and shelter, we also need to be loved on a daily basis.
- Problem-solving facilitates growth in marriage. When couples are
faced with conflicts, they must look for "win-win" solutions to
their problems. While compromise is essential, self-sacrifice usually
backfires and proves to be more destructive to the relationship in the long
run. Healthy relationships allow each person to grow to their fullest
potential. Unhealthy relationships fail to support individual goals, such
that personal growth must occur separate from the marriage. When spouses
experience the drive to grow, marriage can provide a firm foundation for
support and a shared sense of accomplishment. The lack of adequate support,
however can trigger decay in that very same foundation.
- Trouble begins when one partner changes the rules without consulting
the other. When children decide to play together, they frequently start
with a discussion of the rules of the game. Almost by instinct, children
know that rules help them achieve a sense of order and control which
improves their self-confidence. Without rules, child’s play often
deteriorates into chaos and hurt feelings.
Similarly, marriages function best when spouses share a common
understanding of the rules, and when spouses agree to adhere to their own
rules of fair play. Problems arise when one partner decides unilaterally to
change or "bend" the rules. This is the beginning of a "double
standard" which suggests that spouses are expected to adhere to different
rules of conduct.
- From these children will come more children. Down the road, this
couple will start their own family. Then, in addition to their roles as
spouses, they will become parents. Their task will be to draw upon past
experiences and new knowledge as they decide how to best raise their
children in today’s world. She will bring the best qualities from her
family; he will bring the best qualities from his. Together, they will have
to develop a combined approach to child-rearing.
Marriage offers the opportunity to learn all kinds of skills for improving
communication, affection, sexual expression, consensus-building,
decision-making, conflict management, division of labor, parenting and
team-building. The task of each new generation is to improve upon the previous
generation and pass along the best of what we have learned. There is no single
guide to right and wrong. In order to achieve satisfaction, couples must build
their own unique marriage and family. This is an evolutionary process which just
begins at the wedding. A new branch of the family tree has begun to grow.
©Copyright, 2001, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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