Getting our Baggage Unpacked, "Communication in Marriage". Part 5
By Norman & Ann Bales Of All About Families
Throughout our years of ministry we have worked with many couples in preparation for their wedding day. When Norman performs a marriage ceremony he requires a couple to go through at least six hours of counseling prior to the wedding. Through the years we have encountered a certain amount of reluctance to participation in counseling. One prospective bridegroom considered the requirement an insult to his integrity. However much resistance we may encounter when it comes to talking about plans for the marriage, we always see the conversation shift into an enthusiastic mode when we start talking about the ceremony. After doing this for many years, we are still amazed at the number of people who devote more energy and time to planning a thirty-minute ceremony than a lifetime marriage.
Unfortunately, we nearly always drag some unwanted baggage into the marriage relationship - baggage that we rarely even discuss prior to marriage.
Description of Unwanted Baggage
- The "Happily Ever After Myth."
Let's make sure we understand where "the happily ever after" idea comes from. It's certainly not in the Bible. It is in fact an unrealistic expectation, "'And they lived happily ever after' is one of the most tragic sentences in literature. It's tragic because it is a falsehood. It is a myth that has led generations to expect everything from marriage that is not possible." (Dr. Les Parrott III and Dr. Leslie Parrot, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts).
The word "happy" is derived from the old English word "hap." It means to be "content with circumstances." You will not always be content with circumstances. In a marriage, you may have to deal with serious illness, financial difficulties, lengthy periods of separation as the result of job or military obligations, the loss of loved ones and various kinds of conflicts. You will not live through an unending period of contentment with circumstances.
However, it is realistic to expect to be blessed. Ephesians 1:3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."
It is realistic to expect to have peace. Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
It is realistic to expect contentment. "I have learned to be content with whatever I have." (Philippians 4:11) 1 Timothy 6:6 "Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment." (NRSV)
- We expect exactly the same things from marriage.
"What we anticipated seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens - especially in marriage." - Les and Leslie Parrott.
Why does it happen that way? Basically, there are two reasons:
- Unspoken rules - example - Who carries out the garbage? Where will we spend holidays? What family traditions will we observe? How do you prepare beans? One newlywed couple both remembered how much they enjoyed a good pot of beans cooked in the crock-pot. These were fond memories from their childhood. The wife set about to prepare the beans. To the husband's dismay, she prepared dried pinto beans. He was assuming that a pot of beans mean "green beans." - Differing expectations; even a different definition of what is meant when you use the word "beans."
- Unconscious roles. Who does the best job of planning? making decisions? shopping? keeping up with the family finances? keeping secrets? cooking? buying gifts? cleaning house? caring for the lawn? "Too many people miss the silver lining because they were expecting gold" - Maurice Seitter.
- People expect marriage to right all previous wrongs, make all necessary personality adjustments and resolve all relationship difficulties.
Generally speaking the "rites will not right him and the altar will not alter him" (or her for that matter).
Over time some things often do improve in a relationship, but that can be balanced off by the fact that certain aspects of your partner's character don't always surface before marriage. Some of those characteristics might not be desirable ones.
- Everything bad in my life will disappear. "No matter how glorious the institution of marriage, it is not a substitute for the difficult work of inner spiritual healing." (Les and Leslie Parrott).
Marriage is, in actual fact, just a way of living. We didn't expect life to be a bed of roses before, so why do we expect that after marriage.
"A healthy marriage becomes a place to wrap up unfinished business from childhood." - Harvell Hendrix, pastoral psychologist.
- My spouse will make me whole.
The old saying, "opposites attract" is based on the phenomenon that many individuals are drawn to people who complement them - who are good at things they are not, who complete them in some way.
During the premarital period, we tend to view our prospective spouses as persons who will meet all our unmet needs. Rarely do we stop to realize the other person is thinking exactly the same thing.
The book of Proverbs says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). Our incompleteness and differences give iron its roughness, it's sharpening power. Marriage is a God given way to improve and hone our beings. Marriage challenges us to new heights and calls us to be the best people we can possibly become. Neither marriage nor a new partner can make one whole or rid one of the baggage brought to marriage. We can work together to make our union strong but we have to work from within to make ourselves whole.
Some Areas of Baggage
- Low Self-Regard
- Life Perception
- Poor Conflict Management Skills