Understanding Marriage -- Part One

Understanding Marriage - Part One

Let us discuss of the factors that would
enable us to understand the facets of marriage,
and the adjustments that are necessary for marriage.

This will take a truthful self-examination for husbands and wives
on a conscious level and putting some of these factors
into the marriage or avoiding them.

It will take husbands and wives who are motivated
and concerned to make the preparation that is necessary
to have a good marriage.

Every marriage is unique because unique persons are involved.
Two unique personalities are involved in a marriage.
Most of their characteristics are common to all human beings,
however, they also have individual differences
due to their gender, inheritance, ideas, feelings,
and attitudes acquired as a consequence
of their experiences in a particular family and social group.

The kind of marriage they have and its quality will depend
to some extent upon the people they are.

It is important that each spouse understands
his/her motivations for his/her behavior.
Self-understanding and self-acceptance
are basic requirements
for all good interpersonal relationships.

Adaptability is necessary in all relationships,
and especially after marriage when differences
often become important,
and it is no longer possible for each spouse
to go their separate ways and avoid them.

Some of the adaptations and adjustments
that are nearly universal and not unique are:

methods of handling finances,
use of leisure time and recreation,
religious expression and behavior,
demonstration of affection,
choice of friends,
intimate relations,
getting along with in-laws,
separation and togetherness,
manners and etiquette,
life values and goals,
and the training and discipline of children.

The relevant question to ask is this:
"What is our approach and response
to the above adjustment areas needed in marriage

Our purpose in this message is
to bring to the conscious level those things
that condition and direct behavioral responses,
that is, the way we behave in our marriage.
This will result in a better understanding of the truth --
that what goes into a marriage determines what comes out of it.

The most important things going into marriage --
our attitudes, preferences, aversions,
habit patterns, and emotional response patterns
which give to or deny to the couple
the aptitude of compatibility and adaptability.

Happy marriages are built,
and are always in the process of becoming
because marriage is a dynamic, continuing relationship.

Unconscious motivation is the major concern of this discussion
as we attempt to create self-understanding and self-awareness.

Too often we are not aware of our true motivation,
and we are likely to make up reasons for our actions.

Conditioning accounts for most of our fears, tastes, and attitudes.
We have been programmed.

Most of the responses we make are built-up.
All behavior has its antecedents in,
or is the result of many contributing factors.

The individual is the product of his/her experiences,
and whether these be large or small, none is ever lost.
When an individual is confronted with a new situation,
he reacts according to his previous conditioning
and his previous experiences.

With the understanding that what we have stated
is abbreviated and oversimplified,
we are challenged to recognize a very significant fact
which affects marriage couples directly.

Two people are married.
They come to each other with the same drives or needs,
but with different motivations, energies, expectations,
conditioning, and experiences.

Therefore, every adjustment in marriage requires
an understanding of self, and an understanding of the other,
and a mutual understanding and agreement for the present.

It becomes obvious at this point that
conflict in marriage will be normal.

William G. Sumner termed the association of the sexes in marriage
as being "antagonistic cooperation."

Conflict in marriage can be removed or reduced
by the other person changing,
by changing one's self,
or by some form of compromise.

It is not the conflict or the disagreement in marriage
that poses the major problem.

Rather, it is the manner in which it is expressed
and worked out that causes the greatest difficulty,
and this is where self understanding becomes a crucial need.

So, let's look at our self -- so that we may develop
the insight needed to be a better person in marriage.

The concepts and illustrations that follow
have the purpose of reinforcing what has already been said
and are intended to orient us in directing our thoughts
to common (although not always recognized as such)
interrelational problems made complex
because of our past conditioning and experiences.

One of the most sacred institutions we have ever invented in our society
is called by some psychologists the "Dear old mom/mother."

Specifically, it is an institution which also includes
other close relationships, such as father, brother,
sister, uncles, aunts, and other people we grew up with
and who were a part of our background and our early experiences.

Many have felt that this "myth of motherhood"
does more damage to the human personality than perhaps
any other thing could possibly do.

Everyone loves, or is supposed to love, "dear old mom."
She is always supposed to be patient, gentle,
loving, kind, long-suffering, pleasant and agreeable.
At least this is the way she is painted in America mythology
and one can recall many other beautiful songs
and poems about mother.

With this kind of almost deification of mom,
can we really feel that this woman was, and is a human being.
Probably not.

Often, the consequence is that
we feel a tremendous amount of guilt
because of the big myth of the "perfect" mother or father.
This becomes especially true, when from our own experience
we discovered that he or she was a real "beast" in many ways.

We must face this myth realistically -- if we can.

It would be fruitful for each of us to stop for a moment
and answer truthfully these questions:
(If you are already mothers or fathers,
the questions become even more meaningful.)

Are you always patient?
Are you always gentle?
Are you always kind?
Are you always long-suffering?
Are you always agreeable?
Are you always adaptable?

The answers to questions are almost always -- "no!"

In other words, you will really be saying,
"I'm just human."
And that reference becomes significant.

Your father and mother were also human.
So, what is wrong about our facing our real feelings about them?

Moreover, how about facing them
with a little humor and a little understanding.

Maybe mom did nag too much,
and dad was a bit of a grouch at times,
but maybe, there was a reason for it.

There may have been good reasons
which we never really looked for or understood.
And maybe they never understood themselves completely.

Maybe they did the very best they could
with what they had to work with.

And maybe it's "me" who is responsible for "me,"
and if so, we need to laugh at ourselves
when we are acting in a crazy fashion
because we have been conditioned or trained to act that way.

In other words, why can't we take charge of this marriage?

Most people continue to act entirely
as they were conditioned to act or behave as they were raised.
All of this without an understanding
why they act as they do.

We need to recognize that we have lived in our homes
for a long period of time and in those homes
we learned how to think, how to act,
and more importantly, how to feel.

Specifically, we formed and learned habits
that we carry over into our adult experiences.

The Sculptor

"I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day.
And as my fingers pressed it, still
It moved and yielded to my will.
I came again when days were passed,
That bit of clay was hard at last,
The form I gave it, still it bore,
And I could change that form no more.
Then I took a piece of living clay
And gently formed it, day by day.
And molded with my power and art,
A young child's soft and yielding heart.
I came again when year's were gone,
It was a man I looked upon.
He still that early impress bore,
And I could change it nevermore."

Mom and dad, you have a lasting impression.
Use your influence wisely.

End of part one.
Back To Marriage.

Prepared By Dr. Harold L. White


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Copyright (c) 1996-2002 Dr. Harold L. White All rights reserved.