Simi Valley Family Magazine --
Winter 1996 issue
Deborah Tucker, M.A.
When a young couple gets married, they may naively think that what is
happening is simply the joining together of a man and a woman. It may take
them years to realize that what they have created, if their union is
successful, is a separate but related entity called a
A marriage is more than just a relationship, which is another type of
entity that exists between two people who have shared a certain amount of
time, energy, and emotional investment. Many couples who live together
before marriage make the mistake of assuming that nothing much will change
between them after the wedding. Couples who wait until after the ceremony
to live together may be caught just as much by surprise.
A marriage is similar to a separate creature that is conceived at the
time of the wedding, and must be carefully fed, nurtured and protected
from that day onward. If not treated properly, it can become malformed or
"dysfunctional". If neglected too much for too long, or if
mortally wounded, it can even die. However, as many couples can attest to,
a marriage is easier killed than buried, and even a dead marriage that has
long been abandoned can haunt a person, literally forever.
A marriage can peacefully survive for long periods of time on
starvation rations, only to rise up when least expected and assert its
rights to time, attention and even money (in the form of entertainment,
vacations and even therapy). Unlike a child, it never stops needing
nurturing and care, because it is either continually growing and changing,
or like its constituents, can become stuck and rather stunted.
A marriage is like a mirror, because at its best, it forces us to look
hard at ourselves and the way we relate to those closest to us. It is like
a sponge, as it soaks up our projections of old emotional baggage, but
like a shield, it also throws those back at us, forcing us to deal with
our own issues or risk the marriage reaching an unacceptable level of
overload and toxicity.
Perhaps a marriage is most like a garden. Carefully tended, it is thing
of beauty and creativity. Neglected, it can become a tangled web that may
look hopelessly withered and overgrown with weeds; yet given some
attention once more, can spring back to new life with new potential for a
richness and variety that may not have been there before.
The tools for tending such a garden are written about and discussed in
many arenas -- communication, attending to one's old issues, simply paying
attention. A teaching of the Catholic Church reminds us that there is
another component available. Marriage is regarded as a sacrament, a living
sign of God's love for us. A sacrament provides its own tools, especially
that of grace, which can give us the strength to do the work necessary
even when it is most difficult. Therapy can help a couple procure and use
the tools available; using one's spiritual and religious orientation is
just as important to find the endurance.
Phyllis Wilson, M.A.
Each and every day of our lives is filled with choices. Many of them
are so routine or seemingly inconsequential that we don't recognize them
as such. It's usually the larger ones that capture our attention. And yet,
all of the choices we make - big and small - impact the quality of our
lives. For that reason I believe it's important to become aware of just
what we're choosing day after day. That way we can continue to choose
those things which enhance our lives and modify those which we find are
not helpful in one way or another.
Listed below is a brief description of some general choices that each
of us has the power to make. Rather than being specific to one situation,
these choices are more global in nature, affecting a wide variety of life
situations in a positive way. I encourage you to mull them over, try them
for awhile, and evaluate the results. I think you will find them
definitely worth the effort.
- Choose to listen to your body's signals. We have a wealth of
information and knowledge within us; yet we're usually "too
busy" to tune in and listen. Our body tells us if we're hungry,
thirsty, tired, worried, stressed, scared, unhappy. It also registers
our excitement, joy, sense of fulfillment. The more we practice tuning
in and listening to the signals, the sooner we'll be able to use the
knowledge our body is providing to make any needed changes.
- Choose to be open to feedback. There is a balance between being
closed to the input of others and allowing ourselves to be devastated
by what someone else says. Strive for middle ground - hearing how
others perceive us gives us valuable information as to how we're
coming across to others. If we trust the source of the feedback, we
can mull it over, see if it fits, and use it as a guide to our future
decisions. If we decide that it doesn't fit or that the person giving
it has their own agenda which differs from what's best for us, we can
discard the feedback. Keeping an open mind allows us opportunities to
learn and grow.
- Choose to believe in good intentions. Misunderstandings are a part
of life. If our spouse does or says something we don't like, it is our
choice to assume it was an intentional attempt to hurt us or to choose
to believe our partner's good intentions. The difference in our
reaction depends on which choice we make, and choosing to believe that
he/she means well usually makes it much easier to resolve the issue.
This is one of the foundations of a healthy relationship.
- Choose to connect. When we're at the end of our lives looking back,
what things will stand out? What will really matter? I believe that
most of what matters is the relationships we have, the connections we
make with other imperfect humans like ourselves. We are social
creatures - we all need to love and be loved; to have numerous people
in our lives that are important to us. If we find ourselves lonely or
cut off from others, we need to take steps to reach out and reconnect,
to repair rifts, to build new bridges.
- Choose to risk. Any time we make changes, there is some discomfort.
We're leaving the familiar and venturing into the unknown, to try
something new. And yet if we never allow ourselves to be uncomfortable
for awhile, we'll miss out on many opportunities to learn and grow and
expand our world. Courage is not about venturing out unafraid; it is
feeling the fear and doing it anyway!
- . Choose to value yourself. Our beliefs and our behavior go hand in
hand. If we think highly of ourselves, we are more likely to take
better care of ourselves physically and emotionally, to make positive
choices, to choose caring people to be a part of our world. If we're
having trouble valuing ourselves, we can start by acting as if
we do, and with the actions will come the beliefs and feelings.
- Choose to see the opportunity in challenges. In every difficult
situation there are lessons to be learned. Sometimes we get bogged
down in the problems, stuck in the feeling of "why me?".
Certainly we need to put energy into meeting the challenge or solving
the problem. If we leave it at that, however, we miss the opportunity
to learn about ourselves, to gather skills and awarenesses that will
help us with the next challenge we encounter.
- Choose to be in the moment. Take a deep breath. Look around at the
sights, smell the aromas, hear the sounds. Tune in to the environment,
to your inner self, to the person you're with. Give thanks for what
is. Life is happening right now - don't let it pass you by.
- Choose to play. Of course we have work to do, yet we need to balance
accomplishment and achievement with rest and rejuvenation for our
mental and physical health. Many of us have forgotten how to let
loose, laugh, let our spirits run free. Give yourself opportunities to
- Choose to give. One of the greatest rewards in life is in the giving
of ourselves. We're all aware of the larger ways - volunteering for an
organization, donating money or goods. Yet there are a myriad of
smaller, equally important ways we can give - a smile, a gesture, a
few moments of our time. Look for the little ways to give - it will
enhance your own life immensely.