MARRIAGE IS ALWAYS A WORK IN PROGRESS
Irene and I married over 47 years ago, at the edge of the volcano, on the big Island of Hawaii. Marriage is always a work in progress, and always takes at least two people to make it a success. Even the best marriages have rainy days, but you can’t have a beautiful rainbow, without a little rain. I will share our journey with you. If you read my history, you will know I was divorced before I met Irene. I explain the reasons for the divorce and how I grew from it. The techniques for having a successful marriage evolved from that early experience. I will only deal with the academic, to keep it simple, rather than the emotional tools I developed. Communication. A common word that is very vague in it’s meaning, especially in marriage. However, communication is critical, to make a marriage work. Just talking to each other is not communication, there must be some structure that carries the conversation forward. You have to know the difference between useful and emotional conversation. An emotional conversation is dangerous, because both parties are venting rather than listening, they are just waiting for their turn to refute or reject what was just said. Useful, is when both parties listen and respond relative to what is being said, free of emotion interpretations. You have to develop a reference of how to tell when your spouse is trying to say something that is very important for a long term relationship. My developmental program places great emphasis on clearly defining a term or subject, in order to communicate with a minimum of confusion. In this case, knowing the difference between the man, husband and father or a woman, wife or mother makes it much easier to identify the source of any marital problem and discover solutions. Who is talking to who??? Are the husband or wife yelling at one another, or is their someone else involved. Not knowing who is yelling is often the main problem to a major conflict and the reason for poor communication. Even though I am often using the man/husband as an example, I am also referring to the woman/wife. Let’s explore who is arguing with who. Before marriage, there is a man or woman going through life with their own visions of the future. A happy marriage, a successful career or both? Their thoughts and emotions are special and unique to them. One day, for reasons of love, passion, convenience or loneliness, they decide to get married. The reason to get married will play an important roll in communication, since personal emotions are involved. On the day they are married they become a husband and wife and readjust their thinking to share their lives. They enter the marriage vortex. Great, at least for awhile. At some point, bumps began to appear and the marriage begins to have a few clouds and a light sprinkle. It is now, clear communication, will determine if the rain turns into a storm or clears up and leaves a blue sky. Now we get back to the question, who is talking to who. Usually it is not the husband and wife, but the man and woman who are doing the yelling. Usually there can be four avenues in a marital argument. One is the man/woman, husband/wife, man/wife and woman//husband. This is why most communication can be confusing difficult and emotional. Through the whole marriage, the man and woman will always exist inside the husband and wife, therefore very important to know the source of any frustration. On another page, I will pursue a few thoughts, , on what is a man, a husband, or a father and a woman, a wife, or a mother. I will offer a number of common areas of disagreement and show how and why the conflict and give possible resolutions. Please bear with me in my explanation. A major mistake in marriage is forgetting, just because you get married, you are still a man or women. A husband thinks different than they would as a man and the same for a woman as a wife. For instance, before marriage a young man has dreams of getting a law degree and enjoying all the benefits it offers. But, he gets married early and finds kids and marital responsibilities keep him locked into a secure job, however, he still maintains his earlier dreams. Over time, when clouds appear in the marriage, he becomes frustrated, because he begins to suspect he will not attain his personal dreams. The important point here is to recognize that it is the personal feelings as a man, that is the basis for the frustration. The same for a woman. As a girl she had dreams of what she wanted the future to be and found the reality of marriage challenged those dreams. Her early vision of a husband may be quite different than what she sees. Her frustration is as a woman, separate from being a wife. The wife, looking at her husband, only as a husband, misses the real source of a growing problem.
She is happy, because the marriage seems stable, with only a few common bumps. She also had dreams, maybe to be a lawyer, doctor or hair stylist, but put them aside for the family. They are not aware of a growing problem. Yes they have arguments, but they always seem to disappear the next morning. Yes and no. Yes, because things seem to return to normal and No, because the problem is just being stored, often to fester and come out later as a bigger problem. The sprinkle is turning to rain. It is worse if he is a father, because it now brings in different emotions that are separate from being a man or husband. If you look at major arguments, in a relationship, it is really the man /woman seeking happiness. . The proof of this is divorce. The husband and wife want to become a man or a woman again, to pursue their personal dreams. If they do divorce, hopefully they have learned a lesson and will learn how to communicate the next time around. This conflict of who is speaking can be clarified and resolved by doing a simple exercise that is presented with the marriage pyramid. It can be applied to a married couple or those waiting to be married and want a clearer picture of who they are marrying. Both parties have to step back, identify and clarify, some critical reference points. Every year, on June sixth, my birthday, I spend time alone and reflect on the past year, as Jim DeMile, the man, not the husband. How was the year? Am I happy? If not why not? Did I accomplish the goals I had set since my last birthday? What changes need to been done to make the next year better as a man, husband and father?. What do I want to do as a man? (For instance, my interest in martial arts, is as a man, since Irene has no interest in it, therefore it is outside the marriage. She accepted my traveling around the world, but would have preferred I stay home. The problem that could arise, is if my interest interfered with something that was important to her. Many martial artists have poor marriages because the art, from the spouses point of view, takes time, emotion and money away from the needs of the family). The martial arts becomes the spouses competitor. Having a personal interest is OK, if you offset it with extra time for the family. Have you ever known a couple who got divorced and all their friends were shocked, because they seemed to be a perfect couple. Divorces often happen just after the kids leave home and the parents lose the sense of responsibility that kept the marriage together. Or a couple who knew the marriage was dead, but stayed together for fear of having to deal with the outside world. Or a couple who had been married 50 years and then suddenly divorced. The older couple realized that time was short and they wanted to try and achieve some level of personal happiness while they could. On December 31st, our anniversary, Irene and I sit and review the year as husband and wife, but we communicate as a man and woman. Jim DeMile to Irene Sutkus. How is the marriage going??? Any problems?? If so, how do we fix them? What do we want for the new year? It is important for me to see where if what I want comes into conflict with what Irene wants. If there is a conflict then we must determine whether it is a want or a need. How important is it? What are we willing to change or give up? This is an important phase in our relationship and keeps it on course. We both feel each year should be better, but it takes honesty and sincerely caring for each other as the basis for our communication. We have to see where our desires as a man or woman come into conflict as a husband and wife. We have to be aware of changes over the last year and update our thinking accordingly. A third part of the triangle is the father, mother role and how it causes conflicts with the man/woman and husband/wife roles.