Drudgery? Disgusting? Dreaded?
Desire? Discipline? Delight?
Julie commented on Sunday and asked how we move through the steps so that our relational world becomes enjoyable. I will give you an answer today, and I will speak from my own experience. In case I sound just a bit too "Pollyanna-ish", I want you to know up front that I don't have a perfect marriage...
...even though Cathy has a perfect husband. OUCH! She just slugged me!
(If you think I'm being a bit too egotistical, read this, about just one of my days of being a jerk. In other words, I don't often take myself seriously.)
Where was I? Oh! How does someone move from Desire to Discipline to Delight?
Most marriages, at least in this part of the world, begin with Desire. This is a family-friendly blog, so I will be careful how I put this. Most women desire a relationship with a man who will love them unconditionally and exclusively. They want a guy who will rejoice over every facet of them as persons. They want someone who will listen and care; someone who will share life with them.
Most men desire sex.
They enter into a relationship, both thinking about what they will receive from it and imagining this perfect, "happily ever after" world where those desires are met.
What they get is a dose of reality where he discovers that she wakes up with the worst breath of the day and she finds out that he leaves his dirty underwear in the middle of the bedroom floor. At this point good relationships MUST shift to Discipline.
The Discipline stage means that each person is learning to make adjustments to meet the needs of the other one. The male is learning to listen and (hopefully) to care. He blows it often, because his wife has much to say and wants him to be interested. When she sees him tuning out, she feels devalued.
In the meantime, the wife is learning that her husband has certain physical needs. Most wives, I believe, want to please their husband physically. However, if the husband who used to always listen, now watches endless sports on TV and plays endless video games, it becomes a matter of discipline to attend to physical intimacy. In simple terms, females are very attuned to emotional intimacy and males aren't.
The conflicts at this stage of the relationship can be world-shaking. Many couples seek outside help at this point and I highly recommend it. In fact, I have seen many marriages lost when one spouse begs to see a counselor and the other stoically refuses.
Moving from Discipline to Delight often takes years. During those years of Discipline, both partners are learning how to work through conflict. At the same time, the man becomes more attuned to the emotional needs of his wife and the wife grows more appreciative of this man who is beginning to fulfill her dream of a life-long, loving marriage.
After 36 years, for Cathy and me, it's Delight.
I still have work to do.
How about you?