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Fixing your spouse vs. knowing your spouse.

As I ponder the clients I met with yesterday, an interesting pattern surfaces. In all of the marital cases there was some degree of lack of understanding about the individual or the partner. As they interacted with each other, it was like watching a mechanic try to use a screwdriver on a nail, or using a wrench on something that needed sand paper. They didn’t know their partner well enough to know how to interact with them in a constructive way. Each just got frustrated with the other because he or she was not being the way they wanted them to be.

My daughter and I were looking at some of the YouTube clips of the songs from “Fiddler on the Roof” and when we watched, “Do you love me?” I was reminded of some of the research I did back in my college days on what ingredients/factors help create successful marriages. Arranged marriages are successful for several reasons. In an arranged marriage culture, for the 10 years before the wedding, each individual is spending their mental an emotional time pondering whether or not he or she is going to be able to meet the needs of the new spouse, while in cultures like ours, we are trained to think about the opposite, which is, “Is the other person going to meet my needs?”

In an arranged marriage culture, each individual is trained to become so self aware that they are concerned that their own weaknesses might cause the marriage to fail, where today in our culture the concern is about the other person’s flaws causing the marriage to fail.

We give ourselves all sorts of room for development. If I handle something wrong because I am in a bad mood then my partner should cut me some slack, but if they do something wrong (handle a parenting moment imperfectly)then it is time for a full intervention.

It is hard enough to work on self development, like having your head under your own hood trying to find and fix your own problems, to have someone push you out of the way and start pointing out things they see are wrong with you and using the wrong tools to fix it….

The first thing (and perhaps the only thing) you need to know about your spouse is whether or not they are doing the best they can in their personal development. Almost every individual I meet in my office I ask the question, “Are you doing the best you can with the information you have?” And if I ask the question sincerely, without someone else in the room to be judgemental about their answer, the is an emotional pause, a deep breath and a confirmation that they ARE doing all they can do, followed by an exasperation because they know that it is not enough.

I ask, “Will you ask for help if you need it?” They confirm this as well, but most are quick to inform me that they are unlikely to ask their spouse for that help because the spouse is more likely to “beat them up” than to help in a constructive way.

Think of how you feel when you are asking for help. Think of how you need the other person to handle it when you ask for help. Most of us need a kind, patient and compassionate person when we are vulnerable enough to ask for help. When your spouse needs help, are you being kind, patient and compassionate?

4 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    "Are you doing the best you can with the information you have?"

    My answer – probably not, but I don't know how to do any better. I assume I have the information, but I don't know which information is the right information, or what to do with it.

    "Will you ask for help if you need it?"

    My answer – It is extremely unlikely I'd ask those who are close to me, because I wouldn't know what to say. I don't like feeling weak/vulnerable, and honestly, I don't expect any useful information out of them anyway. I sincerely feel that something is wrong with me, but the "advice" I get is basically "Cheer up! Walk it off. The first step is the hardest step." etc.

    Roughly, how much email do you get here? I've sent some emails, but have yet to receive a response. Perhaps you couldn't tell, but today is a worse day than usual.

  2. D says:

    I read anonymous…and had a feeling that she is doing the best she can…but due to our womanly instincts to want to be perfect…she is doubting herself. I was taken back to the times when I had to evaluate the information provided to me and determine if I was doing the best I could. It is tough when you receive conflicting…or sometimes even false information. But to me…the key is…are you doing the BEST that you can. It isn't saying…are you doing it perfectly. Maurice has said over and over again in worth group…that we women are good at trying to always improve…and looking inward to see if we are doing enough. It is our celestial side. When it comes to "right information"…I have found that visiting Maurice (an informed & educated outside source) sets me on the right road and even sometimes validates me. I found that asking for help…couldn't come from anyone close to my life…the views were tainted and slanted. I have only felt the safe feelings through worth group and visiting Maurice. (And I've been at this for a very long time and it will probably be for the rest of my life.) I'm hoping that my commenting gives you some validation and knowledge that if you are trying…you are doing the best you can. And no…Maurice didn't pay me to advertise him or worth. lol

  3. smarter than a first grader says:

    To Anonymous: You are missing a great opportunity when you do not commune deeply with those who are closest to you. Yes its is hard to accept the fact, but particularly a spouse has the answer and greatest insight to what we need to bring greater growth and happiness into our own lives.

  4. To "smarter…",

    Thank you for providing that piece. To all of you out there who have a spouse that really does have your best interests at heart, and has the humility to know when they are wrong. If you feel that you could be edified by what your partner has observed, yes, he or she is the best source to go to, and such deep and intimate conversations strengthen the bond at least as well as quality time in the bedroom. I pray that we will all be the kind of spouse that ONLY gives feedback to our partner's in the deepest of humility and edification.

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