Friday, September 3, 2010

Questions and Answers

Periodically, I will feature a Question and Answer segment on the blog to attempt to answer any questions or respond to any feedback I’ve gotten during the previous weeks. One thing I know for sure is that people are really trying to figure this marriage thing out. And while I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I have had the opportunity to experience a lot of things in my marriage that has prepared me to encourage you from an informed place. Understand, I don’t have a license in Marriage and Family therapy or a PhD in Sociology, but I do operate from a place of “practical application” with success and that, my friend, is my “qualifier!”

This week’s questions:

. How do you promote cohesion in a marriage when your spouse does not believe in operating in this manner?

A. To fully explore this matter I would need you to elaborate a little more, but I will say this: My former pastor used to say, “You can’t do a single thing married or a married thing single.” The interpretation of that phrase is that once you’ve entered into a marriage covenant, you should no longer operate as if you’re the only person who matters. Your partner should have an equal voice in all major decisions that will affect the union. Both men and women are guilty of desperately trying to hold on to what’s “theirs.” However, the goal should be to learn how to marry your assets, both tangible and intangible, while maintaining your identity. Your spouse may be fearful of losing himself so you need to demonstrate to him that you can achieve more together than you can separately.

. How do you fight habits/ relationship styles that are rooted in the way your spouse was raised when they see nothing wrong/destructive about these habits?

A. To answer that question, first let me suggest that you re-frame your thinking. Your mission should not be to “fight” with your spouse about anything at anytime. Oftentimes people enter into marriages with pre-conceived notions and expectations about the course of the relationship. These expectations are usually predicated on things that they saw growing up or experiences they’ve had in previous relationships. The best way to effectively deal with those expectations is to discuss them openly and honestly. Try to understand their point of view and “lovingly challenge” them if they seem a little irrational. Remember, you, too, may have some “habits” acquired from your upbringing that your spouse may think is a little “off-the-wall.” All opposing viewpoints are not necessarily bad, they’re just different. As a “helper” in the marriage, your responsibility is to help your spouse shape into a better person whose life has been upgraded just because you stepped on the scene. Go gettem’, sistah!

Q. How do you help your spouse deal with their own fears, failures and insecurities without alienating them or making them feel chastised or more insecure?

A. One word: Wisdom. This answer will piggy-back off of the previous one. As “helpers” to our mates, we should seek to “dwell with them according to knowledge.” Viewing your spouse empathetically will help you nurture the areas that need to be nurtured and challenge the areas that need to be challenged. Remember, you may have a little “sumtin’-sumtin’” that’s not quite perfect, either. There’s a saying that says, “I’m all right and the world’s all wrong.” That’s how most of us feel when we’re by ourselves. But when we enter into a relationship with someone else, our short-comings become magnified. For example, we suddenly realize just how selfish and territorial we can be. Understanding this gives you the ability to be able to better support your spouse and bring positive re-enforcement to him. Remember, he is not your child. He doesn’t need to be chastised. He needs love and support.