June 2nd, 2010 09:55 EST
Relationships (Part nine)
Really there is not much in common between us. We don`t read the same authors. We don`t support the same political parties. We have diametrically opposite views when it comes to music, friends or movies. In fact, you`ll be embarrassed to see us fight over TV channels. But the truth is that we love each other a lot. It`s just that, no matter how close we are, both of us need our space.
(The copy of an advertisement highlighting the opportunity in the paradox.)
J. Allan Petersen writes that most people get married believing in the myth that marriage is a box full of beautiful things they longed for - intimacy, companionship and sexual fulfillment. The couple soon finds out the truth - at the start, they have only an empty box. They must put in something before they can take out anything. Unless they keep working at their union by giving and not taking, by praising and not faulting, by forgiving and not retaliating, the box will remain empty.
In most cases the box remains empty because man and woman are different in characteristics and needs. Recognizing the fact, Professor Henry Higgins, in My Fair Lady, laments: Oh, why can`t a woman be more like a man? Very definitely, man and woman come from different molds. Man comes across as the tough one - made to be defender, provider and father. In contrast, woman, presumably the gentle one, is meant to play the role of care-giver and mother. Man could exploit woman because of his physical strength. But woman, using her charm, could weave a web of intrigue and deceit into which unsuspecting man could be trapped. Because of her physical weakness, she learns to survive, even flourish, using glamor and hard-to-get techniques. They are poles apart. Yet, they could combine forces to live in harmony, if only they tried!
What do they do instead? They accuse the other of the very faults they commit. No wonder, most problems in such unions can be traced to double standards - the widening gap between precept and performance; between exhortation and example.
A marriage Counselor warns: Marriage is not a private contract. It is a covenant that affects the entire community. She is right, because the bond in the union, strong or weak, affects them, the children, the rest of the family, their work, friends and their social circle. When they stay united they spread good cheer. But when they threaten to go apart, the throes of separation affect the community. Would to God that more couples understood the seriousness of their decisions before they sever relationships!
Why are many couples mismatched? Because they come together in haste. Infatuation and not love (though the term is used loosely to mean sexual attraction) is the main reason. When the union is prompted by pleasure, not much thought goes into the decision. I recall the words of my saintly mother, as she cautioned young people: Don`t marry in haste and repent at leisure. That is what happens time and again. If the partners gave more thought to the marriage and less to the wedding, the unions would have a better chance of lasting longer. Normally, they plan for the wedding in detail - where it should be celebrated, clothes for the day, the dance and dinner program, the list of invitees, the honeymoon itinerary and other arrangements. In stark contrast, little thought is given to the marriage - compatibility, priorities, tastes, preferences, children, God in their lives, forgiveness, the need to forge a lasting relationship and allied points. Since they are not prepared for the rough side of family life, they are quickly disillusioned and look for a new union, hoping that the new one would be better than the old. They rush out of one, into another to find that the second is no better than the first. They are rushing through life, not stopping to think.
What are the reasons for such breakdowns?
1) They entertain unrealistic expectations of the other.
2) In a short time after the union, they begin to see only the negatives. Earlier, they looked only at the positives, which they praised lavishly.
3) When mistakes are committed, they choose not to apologize or forgive. Instead, they taunt and strike with malice.
4) They play games and hope they will not get caught.
5) They expect the other to conform to their needs, not accepting the differences in the other. They refuse to give the other space. Their selfishness and immaturity kill the union.
If these are some of the reasons for breakdowns, how can couples stay united?
1) A mother of six, married for 27 years, shares her secret: Love is what you have been through with somebody. Not running away, but standing firm, hand in hand, facing adversity.
2) Mother Teresa said: We can do no great things. Only small things with great love. Her words apply not just to social life, but also to family life. Caring for the other in small things makes a big difference.
3) To find meaning in the words of Stephen R. Covey: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Trying to understand, respect and appreciate the other, oils the wheels of interactions - the relationship suffers from less friction.
4) To heed the words of Von Herder: The roots of deepest love die in the heart, if not tenderly cherished. In the early days of the union, each word was music to the ears and each moment not long enough. With time, things change. Now there is less listening and not enough time for each other. Emotional distance separates the pair.
5) A priest who tried to promote prayer often said: The family that prays together stays together. Perhaps his words should be adapted to read: The couple that prays together stays together. Couples should make time to pray together, even for a few minutes, to gain God`s grace to stave off the challenges of rift.
| ||Relationships (Part Eight) - To attract others into a relationship our personalities have to be pleasing. |
| ||Relationships (Part Seven) - Why do we shun a loving God, when all He wants is to bless us, if only we have eyes to see and a mind to know? |
| ||Relationships (Part six) - Break the big task of CHANGE into many small tasks, to accomplish each. |
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| ||Relationships (Part Five) - Unless we find pleasure in the pain of forgiving and receiving forgiveness, our relationships will suffer. |
| ||Relationships (Part Four) - The choice rests with us on building or breaking relationships. We cannot absolve ourselves of the consequences that follow the wrong choices we make. |
| ||Relationships (Part Three) - In a relationship, communication is important. And in communication, attitude is paramount. |
| ||Relationships (Part Two) - My relationships will depend on making myself attractive to others and looking for goodness in them. |
| ||Relationships (Part One) - Relationships are about giving, because the measure you give is the measure you will get. |