Preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage
Our responsibility in marriage is to foster a more effective relationship between each other. It is one thing to say "I love you," it is another to express this love through our behaviour. Such behaviour will require constant vigilance to do those things which will promote the well-being of our partner. When we turn away from this responsibility, the relationship will tend to flounder or fall apart. The promises made in the sacrament of matrimony will be fulfilled only to the extent that each partner carries out his or her mutual responsibilities to develop a better relationship.
The following examples deal with various decisions made in a relationship. Decide which are responsible or irresponsible.
1. A husband has been offered a promotion which would require moving to another city. He is very close to his mother and knows she doesn't want them to leave. He passes up the promotion.
2. A wife goes on a clothes-buying spree. Usually she is quite frugal with their money, but because of this one splurge, the husband decides to handle the money.
3. A couple is finding it difficult to manage on the husband's earnings and have recently had serious financial difficulty. The wife wants to work to clear up the debts, but the husband refuses because of what his family might say.
4. A couple feels the need to be free of their children once in a while. They discover a club with social activities that both enjoy. They join.
5. A husband dislikes his work and comes home frustrated, angry, and short-tempered. His family finds this condition intolerable, but he refuses to seek work elsewhere.
6. A neighbour close by is very lonely. She is shy and finds it difficult to reach out to others. A married couple tries to draw her out by being kind arid doing things for her.
7. A wife would like to take some adult education courses for personal enrichment. The husband thinks this is a waste of time and money. He makes her feel guilty, so she decides not to take the courses.
8. A husband decides to join his wife in her church going activities. This gives her great joy.
9. A husband and wife decide that their friends are inclined to drink too much. Neither particularly cares for liquor, so they seek out new friends.
10. Both husband and wife work outside the home. Each feels that the household chores should be done without measuring.
Examples one, two, three, five, and seven deal with irresponsible decisions. Four, six, eight, nine, and ten reflect responsible decisions.
In reviewing all four values, remember that recognition, kindness, mutual independence, and responsibility are all values that help build a better relationship between two people. When each partner acts upon these values, they create an atmosphere of openness and freedom to be oneself in the relationship. These values reduce fear. They reduce the threat and feeling of vulnerability that come from taking risks with the partner. As we said earlier, the relationship is founded on the promise to love and honor one another. This is the continuing process of love freely given without measure—without selfishness.
Permanency in marriage requires that a couple constantly strive to facilitate their ability to relate well to each other, to grow and develop. In part, this means that they concentrate on the values we have discussed.What is being communicated?
Spouses must be aware that negative feelings generated from the expression of one-sided independence can be frightening. For example, if one partner has failed to express recognition and kindness to the other, independence can be seen as a barrier to their relationship. A husband might say to his wife, "I'm just not given to praising others. You know I work hard for you, and that's how I show my kindness. I want to be free to do things my way. Just keep in mind that that's the way I am." This kind of independence strikes terror into a partner's heart. It makes the partner feel isolated in the relationship because there is no positive feedback from such behaviour. It lacks mutuality.
Let's go over the following illustrations and try to distinguish which ones reflect mutual independence:
1. A husband insists that it is his right to go bowling with the boys every Tuesday night because it has always been part of his lifestyle, even before marriage.
2. A wife is an antique expert. Occasionally this takes her out of the home, but the husband encourages her in this hobby because it means so much to her.
3. A wife insists on working outside the home. This makes her husband angry since they don't need the money.
4. A husband feels compelled to make weekly visits to his mother who is in a nursing home. The wife recognizes his need and encourages his expression of concern for his mother.
5. A wife feels a need to render services to her church. She does so in spite of her husband's objections that her primary responsibilities at home are not being taken care of.
6. A husband frequently enjoys having his co-workers in for dinner. Even though it creates a great deal of extra work for her, his wife encourages him to feel free to do so.
7. A husband finds great pleasure in telling dirty jokes. He also knows that his wife feels uncomfortable when he tells them, but he does so anyhow.
8. For his next vacation a husband would like to visit some of his old school buddies. His wife has no particular desire to do anything special, so she encourages him to plan the kind of vacation he would like.
9. A husband is a clotheshorse. Since he earns the money, he feels he should be able to dress in style.
10. A wife feels compelled to get involved in politics. Her husband is not politically inclined, but still encourages his wife to fulfil her political commitments.
The even-numbered examples reflect mutual independence. The odd-numbered ones reflect a kind of isolated independence which ignores the binding force of the relationship. Through awareness of each other's values and needs, the partners allow each other to be themselves in activities which promote their feelings of well-being. This doesn't mean that either has the right to do whatever he or she pleases, but instead each makes an effort to be open to the uniqueness of the other. Each allows the other the freedom to pursue certain interests. Neither becomes threatened by such activity, but instead encourages the partner to feel free to be herself or himself in the activity.
In part, responsibility means the fulfillment of obligations in a relationship or lifestyle. A noted psychologist once wrote that most negative feelings begin when we shirk our responsibilities. When we evade our duty, it makes us feel bad. We become angry with ourselves, try to blame others, or, in general, feel anxious. It would seem as though we simply can't escape the ill effects of irresponsibility.
1. What a great person you are!2. I appreciate how loving you are.
3. I can see how kindly you treat other people.
4. I like how you dress.
5. You're so thoughtful.
6. You're such an honest person.
7. You really work hard at everything.
8. You always try to do your best.
9. You always seem to know how to handle me.
10. So often you think of me before you think of yourself.
11. You never tear me down.
12. You always tell others what a great person you think I am.
13. You go out of your way for me.
14. You know how important my friends are to me.
15. You constantly remind me of your appreciation of my talents.
If you are inclined to make statements similar to these, you are telling your partner that you are aware of his or her positive attributes. To allow praiseworthy behaviour to slip by unnoticed would do nothing for the relationship. We must constantly reinforce our partner's behaviour and enhance closeness.
As we have said, kindness requires an action on our part for our partner's benefit. For example, John may recognize Mary's wonderful qualities and praise her for her talents, good looks, and her goodness. He becomes sensitively kind to her when he does things for her. He knows that she loves roses, so he plants rose bushes for her. He knows she loves classical music, and buys her an album. John highly values doing things for Mary that he knows will please her.
Kindness prevents partners from measuring each other's contribution to the relationship. When partners are sensitively kind, they seldom "keep score" or make statements like, "You are not doing your part," or, "You do so little for me." Instead, kind spouses will say things like, "I appreciate your thoughtfulness," or, "You are something special. You are so kind to me," or, "You are really sensitive to my needs." Instead of measuring, kindness promotes positive action for each other's satisfaction.
Yet not all kindnesses are necessarily positive. Kindness can create problems in a marriage. Kindness is possessive when an act is done to control a person. A husband might buy a dream house miles away from everywhere so that his wife can't visit with her friends. A wife might buy gifts for her husband so that he can't complain about the money she spends on her wardrobe. Each does a "kind" act for the other in order to control the other's behavior.
Motivation helps us determine the direction of our kindness. If we are moved to help others for their good, we are sensitively kind. If we are moved to control others, we are possessively kind. Such "kindness" doesn't speak to the other person's needs or values. It doesn't allow the other person to be himself or herself.
Some examples of kindnesses are given below. Try to decide which ones are not possessive.
1. A wife knows her husband is facing an unusually difficult day at work. She decides to prepare his favourite meal, even though it will require extra work.
2. A husband wants to attend a ball game next week. This week he's going to bend over backwards to be kind to her in many little ways.
3. A husband knows his wife would like to buy a new dress for a special party, but that she won't spend the money unless he encourages her. He points out how well she handles their money and that a new dress will fit into their budget this month.
4. A husband wants to buy a new car, but his wife wants to buy new furniture. He very kindly helps her refinish the old sofa and chairs; later they buy a new car.
5. A daughter knows that her parents miss her very much. She tries to include them as much as she can in her personal and socfal life.
6. A son knows that his parents will always come to his rescue as long as he maintains contact with them. During hard times, he makes sure that he visits them often.
7. A wife notices that her husband is depressed. She concentrates on doing those things which she knows will help him work through his depression.
8. A husband becomes interested in a new hobby which has no appeal for the wife. She plans many mutually enjoyable social events which leave him little leisure time for his hobby.
9. A husband's work takes him away from home on Monday through Friday. He appreciates that his wife is homebound during that time. Although he would prefer staying home on weekends, he makes sure they have social activities outside the home.
10. A wife enjoys attending concerts and plays. The husband programs their social events on those nights when such cultural performances are not offered.
As you have probably guessed, the odd numbers are examples of sensitive kindness. The even numbers are examples of possessive kindness. While kindness creates a better relationship, possessive kindness prevents closeness and a good relationship. Remember, recognition tells our partner something positive about his or her behavior, while kindness requires some action on our part to nurture the partner's values and needs.