Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Which D?

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?


Liz said...

I would think that marriage is a process of moving back and forth between all 3 of those stages.

And maybe a special stage for when parenting is added to the mix and it isn't just about adjusting to each other's quirks and addressing each other's needs but also about encompassing these little fully dependent and needy creatures...

For me, it might be "Dependence." Because we are learning how to depend on each other, who carries what parenting task, when the other steps in. Or maybe it's "Dancing."

Dina said...

We've learned that having a fulfilling marriage definitely requires more effort and work since having a child. We have a tendency to be fiercely independent at times and get lost in our own lists and thoughts, forgetting that we have a partner who wants to help and know what's going on. It's been painful at times and we're still making our fair share of mistakes, but I'm so thankful that we're both open to working at the relationship and becoming better communicators.

We just formed a small group with a few friends that have young kids and are experiencing some of the same difficulties we are. We're going through the "Fireproof Your Marriage" study and our first two sessions have been really good. It's always nice to know that others are experiencing some of the same challenges and to learn from each other. Also, I know our challenges would be so much more daunting if God was not a part of our lives.

Heather said...

That's a really great way to put things, Sam. Thanks. I might just get my DH to read this tonight so we can discuss. This move has really tested our marriage (on top of already being tested with a new baby). We're doing ok...mostly, but we'd both rather be doing great. We definitely need to talk about things more, we've just been trying to survive lately.

Anne said...

I am in the delight stage. It took almost 20 years, and circumstance. His job no longer is first. He's retired and I am his sole focus. He also learned to trust me which is huge. And by trust I mean with himself.

Sam said...

Thanks to each of you for your comments. Liz, I like Dancing! Dina, we have discovered that the encouragement and connection of a group of genuine friends is invaluable. Heather, I pray that you look back at this as a genuine adventure. Anne, what a great way to describe trust!