Infants, babies, toddlers, young children, tweens, teens, young adults….yikes! All those phases cover some challenging, long-term management efforts. Parents, you are officially promoted to upper management!
Each married couple sets the tone, pace, values, attitude, traditions, and problem-solving efforts for their unique family. As part of your family’s management team, I hope you have created a vision, identified your goals, built a strategic plan, done some bench-marking, and outlined your fiscal responsibilities. No, you say? Well, you are not alone. Few of us approach our relationships with the same focus we give to our jobs, but the same skills apply.
My husband and I have had the opportunity to be part of a Marriage Preparation Mentor Team at our church. We’ve found that the process of helping young couples also enriches our marriage. Sometimes after meeting with a couple, we will remark about their youth and the journey ahead of them. We often reflect on our families of origin, personalities, interests, financial perspectives, career plans, lifestyles, values, spirituality, commitments, and energy levels. Sometimes, we are asked if two people (who are so different), can make this relationship called marriage work. Yes! We answer from the voice of many years of experience.
I am thankful to our parents for making their roles as parents a high priority. That helped us have a sense of priority and focus about what we were doing as we negotiated the journey of parenting in our own marriage.
Simply stated, healthy families and healthy marriages solve problems. From managing sick kids in the middle of the night to moving the family to Boston. From who pays for the teen’s car insurance to the location of the family vacation. From who is cooking dinner to managing cancer treatment appointments.
Problem solving may sound easy, but opposite opinions, contrasting experiences, differing perspectives, emotions about the problems, and communication styles factor into the formula and complicate the process. That makes it difficult!
What Does it Take for a Marriage to Work?
In their book The Good Marriage, authors Wallerstein and Blakeslee outline the tasks of a good marriage. Those are:
- Separating from the family of origin (the leave and cleave concept).
- Building togetherness and creating autonomy (we are a team and we are going buy a motorcycle!).
- Becoming parents.
- Coping with crisis (with faith we can get to the other side of the tidal wave).
- Making a safe place for conflict (you and I disagree on this one and that is OK).
- Exploring sexual love and intimacy (I love you and you know me like no one else).
- Sharing laughter and keeping interests alive.
- Providing emotional nurturance (you have listened and supported me. Thank you!).
- Preserving a double vision (I see it, you see it, and we see it together).
Which area of your relationship needs improvement? It might be time to call a meeting wherein each of you must communicate your thoughts and feelings. Respect your partner’s vulnerabilities and quirks. And be patient. Trying to manage challenges with mutual respect, patience, and understanding will support the foundation of your “ultimate management team.”
Ann E Benjamin, MEd, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in the Offices of Dr. Paul Tobin and Ann Benjamin. She is also associated with the College of Executive Coaching and is always trying to create and locate some fun. Ann may be reached at 405-340-4321.