Friday, August 19, 2011

Compromise The Key To Marriage?

Ask anyone what it takes to make a successful marriage and they will likely tell you two important things - good communication skills and lots of compromise.  The problem is that both of these nuggets of wisdom are crap, and actually are hallmarks of really bad marriages.  Research seems to show that in highly conflictual and low enjoyment marriages that the communication is crystal clear, they are very accurately portraying exactly what they want to communicate to each other, like "I hate you", and "You are the most selfish person I have ever known."  Nothing unclear there, just straight to the point and right from the heart.  Another hallmark of really bad marriages is where compromise rules supreme and everything is fair, there becomes a tit-for-tat, quid-pro-quo way of interacting that is anything but love.

I kind of cringe when I hear couples talk about compromising or making deals with each other and I think it links back to the previous post that says the focus of marriage should be on growth and sanctification rather than making yourself happy.   So maybe I am wrong but compromise to me seems like two people cleverly negotiating their selfishness with each other so no one has to give in, or ever lose.  Maybe if we can come up with elaborate schedules requiring graphing calculators to determine the exact exchange rate of a poker night with the guys - three mornings to go running?  A week of country music in the family car?  A fifteen minute conversation with her mother-in-law without a sarcastic remark?  Maybe if I can recreate the final ring ceremony romantic extravaganza from The Batchelorette, then I can trade that in for you taking those pole dancing lessons I heard about?  If you have an affair does it makes things better if I just use my free pass to go find someone else?  I think the reason this mindset bothers me is that it inevitably leads to the next logical solution, which is to begin doing all this without even talking - to just decide that since he didn't do this, I won't do that.  Because she isn't meeting these important desires within me I will withhold what she desires as well.  And so we end up in an 80's action movie stare-down waiting for someone to slip up and show weakness.  

So what is the alternative to compromise?  Submission.  Everyone in the marriage just decides to see themselves as steward leaders under authority and in authority.  I won't be able to completely flesh out true biblical submission here in this blog entry but for now lets just assume that it is mutual between both partners and that their ultimate authority is God.  I think Emerson Eggerichs in Love and Respect lays out one of the best models for mutual submission within marriage where both spouses see their ultimate authority as God and they have been charged to meet the core desires of each other to build each other up.  A man was designed to need respect, and women were built with a unique ability to speak life into us, to help us feel good enough, competent enough, accepted enough for who we are to go out and conquer the world.  But when a wife criticizes, complains, compares her husband to others, and defines him more by what he is lacking than what he has it cripples him.  A woman was designed to need love, and men were designed with an ability to give and sacrifice themselves in a way that puts their wife up on a pedestal and creates a confidence that nothing will be placed above her.  But when a husband becomes lazy and selfish, content to count his paycheck as all that should be required of him, and treating his wife with apathy and indifference unless she is naked it pushes her towards anxiety and insecurity.  Circular spirals happen both directions, positive and negative, as it is far easier to give respect and love when you are getting yours in return.

The problem comes when you look at your overweight husband piddling on his iPhone while ignoring the kids, after having spent the entire Saturday playing golf following a week of working late every night combined with mandatory happy hour since he needs his "Me Time."  Or when you overhear your wife equating your relative worth and value as a human being to Casey Anthony to her mother during her nightly venting session before mocking your attempts at physical intimacy by laying out every mistake you ever committed with detail that makes you question whether she has hidden cameras.  Kind of hard to drum up respect for a guy who doesn't deserve it and it seems stupid to lay your heart out out for a woman that looks to devour you unless you develop telepathy and never make a mistake.  So if you go with the compromise route then everyone gets what they deserve and no one is really loved.  But if you decide to submit and respect the husband who doesn't deserve it and love the unlovable wife, then everyone gets their needs met and we become far more likely to become respectable and lovable - that is speaking life into our spouse.

A warning needs to be thrown out here that often when we start trying to be a better spouse and submitting we are really just caving, building resentment across time, unless we start getting some payback.  That's not change, that's exchange - it's quid-pro-quo compromise just on layaway.  So either we become the spouse God has called us to be out of submission to him, not our spouse, or we build in frustration looking to get paid back.  Basically if we respond to our spouses by what they deserve we give them very little but if we respond to God's love poured out on us by loving our spouses unconditionally we give them our all.  It's ultimately what we want for our kids - that they will find someone who will love them like we do, and that even if they screw up their spouse will be everything they need - the same God wants for his children.  So when you see God as your heavenly father-in-law it gives you a different perspective on how to treat your spouse.  You can tell me you love me all day long but if you treat my kid like crap then I don't really buy it.  So maybe the greatest test of your love for God is how you tangibly treat His son or daughter - Ouch.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, dude. Good stuff. (Sorry for the brevity of my comment, I'm two-thumbing it on the iPhone. Hey look, irony. Ha.)