Thursday, October 19, 2006

Becoming Our Best Selves

Marriage is work. It is not always a partnership which is equal. At any given juncture, phase, or even minute of the day, one spouse may actually be several pages ahead of the other. A marriage becomes a haven if a few disciplines or habits are worked on consistently until they flow from our body language, our choice of words, timing so that we change and change each other, for the better.
There is a lovely Jewish proverb which says,"We shall light a candle of understanding in our hearts which shall not be put out". This can be applied to marriage as a guide to communicating when one is on a different page or level than the other. If one spouse has leapt ahead a few steps on an issue and the other should be brought along to the same understanding, it requires that a 'light' be shown on the issue in a nonthreatening way: "Dear, I read an article about giving children a chance to experience several types of activities after school such as sports, ballet, scouts. You know, to give them exposure to other things while they are still children. I think we should talk about the options we could give the kids. What do you think?" When the subject is not too personal, just a hypothetical, then the 'light' can shine on the issue and 'understanding' as well as respect for views and equal input into a plan becomes possible.
A great spouse is really like a great pet dog as George Eliot said," ....are such agreeable friends. They ask no questions, they pass no criticism". There are times, and you get to know them, when it is better to just be an agreeable friend because you really listened. You really just sympathized. You really didn't try to solve the problem for your spouse. He felt you understood, nonjudgementally. If there has been a healthy amount of this 'no questions/no criticism', then trust is built for those times when the foot must come down about something important.
The essence of the nurturing process is this: "A good (spouse) friend accepts us as we are yet helps us to be who we should"(anonymous) If each believes that they are entirely acceptable just as they are to the other, there is a powerful bond that is trust/love steel. If there is trust and love, the other's input is valuable, sought for, accepted. If valuable guidance is given, then it is received in their'heart' as a 'light' of awareness and it will 'not be put out' but will be cherished and not rejected.
Of course, we are talking about living a gracious and civilized way-in our marriage. This requires a highly disciplined restraint, carefully guarding impulsive comments and this includes sarcasm, defensiveness and insensitivity. If one does it, the other absorbs it instead of responding in kind. This means nurturing marriage is a paradigm shift from the sitcom or soap opera marriage model. It means create a relationship where trust and friendship as well as all of the childrearing, emptynest adjustments, and elder care required of life on earth. If this other level of being married can be achieved in an effortless interchange of selfless, sensitive acts it will result in our rise to a level of being 'what we should' or becoming our best selves over time and it will be evidenced in every relationship we have both in and outside of the marriage.


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