Thursday, April 30, 2015

5 Lessons after 5 Years of Marriage

So, I've been meaning to post this one for a while... particularly since I wrote this back in March. In any case, better late than never!

As many of you know, Christina and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary in March. For lack of better words, it was magical. We're stronger, happier, and more in love now than when we first got married. And, it's funny that many times in life, circumstances arise to which you find yourself an "expert" of certain areas in life to one who asks advice. While I don't claim any true expertise in marriage and family counseling, I do believe that the success in our marriage has found itself rooted in a committed congruence of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual constructs. Therefore, to those who are interested, I'd like to humbly share with you...

5 Lessons after 5 Years of Marriage

1. 100/100
This is perhaps one of the first pieces of advice we suggest to anyone who comes to us with relationship questions. Early on, we established that ours would not be a 50/50 relationship. Anything that is 50/50 easily deteriorates because it relies upon human performance. And as humans, we are far from perfect. If 50/50 represents the total 100% in a relationship, then that relationship can easily be chronically functioning at less than 100% during a vast majority of the tine. However, if a couple is 100/100, each dedicated to being and owning 100% of the relationship, then the relationship truly has 200% of total potential to fill 100% of need. In the very common circumstance when someone is having an off day, they may be only holding 50% of relational waters. The other person needs to maintain their strength... even if is only at 90%, the relationship is still functioning at 140%/100%. Strong. Healthy. Whole. Consummate. 100/100 is an "all in" concept; there is no divvying of responsibilities. The relationship is everyone's responsibility in its entirety. Just because one person isn't having the best day doesn't enable the other to similarly let things go. That is how and why 50/50 deteriorates so very quickly and wears upon the relationship. Yet, in a 100/100, all in approach, the relationship is always at 100% because two people are filling those needs rather than two people, each filling only half the needs in any relationship, hoping to make the 100% fill line for both. 

2. We can both win
Once, at a fun little double date dinner with good friends, we were talking... couple to couple, sharing the lessons we've learned as those newly married. I chimed up and said, Christina & I learned that we can both win in our marriage. The response from the other party was a sharp gasp, "No....!" Head shaking. Such a thing is impossible! If there is a winner, there must be a loser. However, this wasn't our approach. We learned that in any argument within the marriage, we can certainly both win when we offer each other victories based on different playing fields. My wife may be playing golf. I may be playing baseball. She needs to sink her hole and I need to hit a home run. They are two very different games, nevertheless, being played on the similar terrain of dirt and grass. Therefore, it is important to keep in perspective the goals (even when conflicting) likely are only seemingly so. That it is the method of approach which is the quarrel, not necissarily the end goal. Sometimes, the end goal we claim to have such fervor for is actually only a means to an end we have yet to discover. Here is another way to put it (paraphrased and linked for you): It's a marriage. You can either both win, or both lose. Choose to win, for each other.

3. Gossip!
No, no... it's not what you think. But, it's funny just to say it in print. Really, the word I'm looking for is hypothetical conversations. Christina & I constantly discuss hypotheticals. We take our vantage point against that of any circumstance, real, storied, or imagined, and go through what our thought process would be, what our goals would be, what our action plan would be, etc. We do this when we watch TV, movies, hear about news stories, see it in real life at the store, whatever it may be... we take it and talk about it. And, we do it all the time. We do this because the more we talk about hypotheticals, the more our mind frames are exposed to each other. And, since nothing is at stake, we also start to suggest solutions. Time after time, our solutions become organically far more in tune with each other. Over time, it is hard to find hypotheticals that we are not on the same page because we're always talking about them. When finally the hypothetical discussion becomes a reality, we already have an action plan in place. We are already familiar with each other's frame of minds, and, more importantly each other's expectations. When we jump into action, nothing is truly a surprise. We've already talked it out. It's just a matter of tackling the situation and nailing it.

4. The other comes first.
Beholding the highest of the beloved; filtering the world through a "they come first" mindset is a pillar of strength in any relationship. It's easy to be selfish as humans. In fact, it is innate. However, when you filter the world through the needs and preferences of your partner, life becomes truly interesting. This is, in kind, a type of 100/100 action in play. You're already going to be thinking for yourself, no matter how hard you try to be selfless. How much better, when your spouse is thinking for you and you for them, all the while your natural instinct covers the basics for yourself? It is as if two people are being as kind and considerate as possible to you at any and all times. Marriage isn't about you; it's about the person you've pledged your life to.

5. Role Play!
No.... it's not what you think either. There's a phrase I heard long ago that stuck with me, "Different, not unequal. Unique, not inferior." In any relationship, each person plays a different role given any specific circumstance. Each role is not lesser or inferior to the next. It is simply different, unique. For those of you who are uber nerds like myself, think about a Role Playing Game (RPG). In an RPG, everyone has a different role. Typically, characters are classified by the function they serve. In many games, there exists a "tank" classification whose purpose is to absorb damage and take the brunt of any battle. There also exists a "healer/medic" classification whose purpose is to up keep the health of the "tank." For Christina and myself, I am the tank, she is the healer. Ironic, since I'm the PT. LOL! But, in all seriousness, I'm known to have more stamina, endurance, and overall durability compared to Christina. However, I can't just go about the battles in life on my own. I need her support to do it. Without her, I'd just be battle damaged into oblivion. As is per our roles, this means I also can't just go out independently and fight battles when there is conflict around her. I must constantly be mindful, circling back to shield her as tanks shield infantry in real life. Again, neither of these roles are superior to another. They are merely different, serving a different purpose, mutually aimed towards the same goal of success. Without a tank, a healer can't be protected and the fight is over in mere seconds. Without a healer, a tank will inevitably run out of gas and die out. Both are necessary for success. Now, this is quite the hyperbole of an example; but, I mention it to serve a very important purpose of wisdom. In the marriage relationship, roles need to be clear and agreed upon. Some roles are chosen; other roles are simply natural. The best situation is created when the natural roles are filled by those naturally strong in it, and, the chosen roles are done so for the benefit of the beloved, that they may be blessed by your service. When the greatest goal of your role is to bless the one you love - AND - this is mutual... life becomes a truly beautiful thing.

Well, that's it! I hope you enjoyed this relationship oriented blog post. Until next time!!

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