Marriage is a 3-Legged Race
One of the major transitions in a marriage relationship is from an independent life, being responsible just for oneself and making decisions without having to consider or include others. I call this from Me toWe (you can listen to my podcast series with this name on SoundCloud). Imagine you and your partner are tied together at the ankle and knees, in a good old-fashioned three-legged race. How would you move together? How would you accommodate each other? How do you start? How do you get to the finish line as quickly and safely as possible?
I encourage couples to think about their relationship as a three legged race: they are joined, side by side, and like in a race – if they don’t coordinate, communicate and accommodate it’s impossible to finish the race.
Each marriage partner has multiple roles in the relationship: lover, confidant, support, leader/follower; and if there are children - parent. These are the ties that bind two people together. There are also outside influences that challenge these ties: family of origin, friends, and work.
Traditional marriage vows often stated: cleave to each other; forsake all others; let no one destroy that which has been consecrated. Good advice, but how to put it into practice?
Think about your best times in your marriage – there is connection, moving in a common direction, at a common pace. There are lots of clear communication and joint decision making - creating that feeling of pulling together to address daily operations and obstacles. You are filled with a belief that I can trust you, you can trust me, and we’ll succeed together.
Think about your worst times in your marriage – making decisions without considering and consulting each other whether about purchases, social activities, child discipline and rewards. If one partner decides s/he can unilaterally make a decision, the other will ultimately feel left out, disrespected, and unimportant. Having secrets, like addiction or infidelity that could blow up the relationship are other examples of not being on the same page.
The reality is, good or bad day, there is always an invisible bond – when you work in each other’s interest the marriage is going smoothly. If you pull away, try to do things without considering your partner’s strengths, challenges, beliefs and needs, it will always impede the progress of your relationship and family.
So next time you need to make a decision, consider the impact on the relationship if you do or don’t include your partner. If there is something that you want to hide, then you are certainly not respecting your partner or the relationship. If you fall out of step with your partner – the marriage will struggle. If you end up living parallel lives, and don’t honour that invisible bond, your marriage, your race through life with this partner will fail, to both your detriment.
A WORD OF CAUTION: just because you have discussed something with your partner does NOT mean they have agreed with the proposed decision. It just means that you have told them your hopes, dreams and needs. Until you have mutually explored the impact of that decision, and nailed down the specifics, you are not in the race together and are heading in the wrong direction. Discussion is not permission. For important or especially hot topics I encourage all couples to write out what they have agreed to do to ensure that it can be reviewed and clarified. This way faulty memory and personal bias are less likely to trip you up. It’s always good to have a map of the journey you plan together.