Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Marriage Expectations

I chat on a couple of boards.  One is finance related, directed at people working toward and living a debt-free life.  Often, threads will come up that deal with one partner in a marriage that is shouldering a majority of the burden while the other sticks his/her head in the sand.

What saddens me is the advice frequently given.  It usually follows the line of "you're right, it's not fair, the other person needs to step up."  While I don't disagree with that if that is the case, it seems as if the root of the problem is often overlooked.  WHY is the other person sticking their head in the sand?  And what can their spouse do to help them?  Too often, the advice given is damaging to marriages.  "Make them do their share" seems to be the mantra.  If the spouse is being childish, then it's fair advice.  But if there is an underlying problem that goes beyond, the best fix is to address the root cause.  You can treat the symptoms or you can treat the disease.

What happened to marriage being a partnership?  If my partner is floundering, do I throw a weight on them and watch them drown or do I do what I can to help him back on his feet?  Is it "unfair" to expect me to shoulder even more burden while my partner is dealing with whatever is going on with him?  Well, maybe in a schoolyard sense of fair and unfair.  But in marriage, my role is to lift up my husband.  His role is to lift me up.

Recently, my advice to a wife dealing with this was to pray for and love on her husband.  Her husband has buried his head in the sand because, I believe, he feels like a failure for not providing properly for his family (or what he feels is properly).  And I was called unfair because I was asking her to do more while her husband apparently didn't have to do anything.  Except they forget that each person can only control their actions.  This woman can choose to be a loving spouse to help her husband through a difficult time so that he becomes aware and can take responsibility, or she can choose to keep hounding him on her point because she is right.  Which is better for marriage in the long-run?

No wonder there are so many divorces in this country.  We have a perception that marriage should be "fair" all of the time.  I am so glad that my parents didn't model that for me.  Really, my heart is heavy because so many people just jump to assure her that she is right and that he needs to man up.  Well, duh, that is all obvious.  The point is, how do you fix that problem?  By pointing fingers?  Or with love and patience?

I'm not perfect in this.  I've pointed my fair share of fingers.  Love and patience is HARD.  But I've discovered it works every time.  I still have to fight my finger-pointing ways and work on the love and patience.  I'm far from perfect...far, far, far.

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