I'm always interested in how married people respond to the question, "How long after you married did you realize that you were going to have serious problems?" To my surprise many say, "On our wedding day!" I remember Keri, a woman in her thirties, saying, "As I was walking down the aisle, I realized we shouldn't be getting married. I knew I wasn't ready and I kept praying to God that when the pastor asked if there was anyone who had an objection, someone would stand up and say so. But no one did. So I went through with it, hoping things would get better. But they didn't. They became worse! Finally we divorced."
When we were walking down
the aisle, I realized I
be getting married.
When I asked Keith how long it took after the wedding to understand that he and his wife were in for some difficult days, he told me it was on the second day of their honeymoon.
"We were in our room in a nice hotel," he said, "when I looked up in time to see my bride throwing a flower vase at me. Fortunately, she was a bad shot! The vase missed my head, but it knocked out the window. I was stunned and asked, "What's wrong?" She told me I would never know. That's been 18 years ago and I still don't know why she threw that vase, let alone why she is upset with me about so many other things. And believe me, it's rough."
I don't know if Keith is so clueless that he doesn't realize the upsetting things he does to trigger his wife's anger, or if she is incredibly oversensitive and easily hurt. But in any case, they could have avoided much grief if they had worked out their problems before they married.
There's an old saying, "Marriage is a school in which the pupil learns too late." If we aren't ready for marriage or if we choose a poor marriage partner, this can be very true. Yet for most people, it doesn't have to be. To be sure that it isn't, we need to do three things. First, we need to be prepared to be a reasonably mature, emotionally healthy, and spiritually committed spouse. Second, we need to select a mate who is ready to be a reasonably mature, emotionally healthy, and spiritually committed spouse. And third, we need to be willing to face our needs to grow and become better people and well-adjusted marriage partners.
In this booklet we will look at eight areas that will critically impact your marriage. These eight areas can provide helpful guidance in determining whether you and your prospective mate are ready to make a lasting, lifetime commitment.
1. Personality Adjustment
Some people are quite well-adjusted, while others are not. The person who is lacking in good emotional or personality adjustment finds it difficult to live with himself and others. Most serious marriage problems arise because one or both partners have some long-standing problematic personality characteristics. Once we marry, these problems are even more likely to be triggered because of the new levels of intimacy, responsibility and give and take required in marriage. A description of a person who is emotionally well-adjusted would look something like this:
- Composed rather than highly anxious or nervous.
- Happy rather than depressed.
- Optimistic rather than negative and pessimistic.
- Realistic rather than unrealistic.
- Respectful rather than disrespectful.
- Able to communicate rather than hidden.
- Sympathetic and caring rather than unsympathetic.
- Sensitive to others rather than insensitive.
- Self aware and open rather than defensive.
- Objective rather than subjective.
- Flexible rather than rigid and controlled.
- Patient rather than impatient.
- Amiable rather than hostile.
- Humble rather than proud.
- Thoughtful rather than impulsive.
- Good self-esteem rather than low self-esteem.
- Honest and direct rather than manipulative.
- Open to others rather than closed and hidden.
- Secure rather than insecure.
- Assertive without being domineering or controlling.
Even the positive dimensions of each of these pairs can become a weakness if they are carried to an extreme. Take optimism, for example. This is a great trait, but it needs to be balanced with realism or it becomes denial. Or consider objectivity. While it is generally preferable to subjectivity, it must be balanced with emotional sensitivity, or it results in an impersonal, computerized approach to life. And patience is a great virtue, but some people are so "patient" they refuse to take a stand on anything! They're like a limp, overcooked carrot!
We need to be willing to face our
needs to grow and become
people and marriage partners.
Other characteristics are appealing during courtship but become problematic later. Take, for example, people who are rather subjective and impulsive. During courtship, this can be enjoyable and endearing. These people are spontaneous, emotionally responsive, and fun. They can bring new life to a serious, objective, deliberate dating partner. But after marriage, when it's time to plan ahead, do the budget, make long-range decisions, or take on the responsibilities of work or parenting, the negative side comes out. The same trait that once brought joy to the relationship starts to trigger anger and resentment. What the mate used to consider "spontaneity" is now called "impulsive" or "irresponsible." And the subjectivity that used to seem enjoyable is now considered irrational!
Continued on Page Two