Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Finding your own “I need to change” moment (Harold’s response)
Change is hard! It is especially hard when you think that your way is the “right” way. So, why change? Simply put, change is necessary to reach your destiny. The reality is that neither you nor I were born perfectly positioned for purpose (there’s an alliteration for you). We all fall far short of that. But, God puts things in our path to shape us into our divine purpose—if we allow it to happen. So often, however, we stunt God’s desires for our lives because we don’t want to change. We scream, scratch, and claw to keep doing things the way we’re accustomed to doing them. It feels safer. Achieving your dreams, however, requires risks. Change is risky because it demands more of us.
The greatest gift of marriage is the change that it demands of you. I know. It doesn’t usually feel like a gift. Words like “annoying”, “sickening”, and “frustrating” are more often associated with the attitudinal and behavioral shifts to which our spouses often push us.
In this week’s episode, Rob discovers that moving his marriage in a positive direction is going to require something new from him-particularly as it relates to dealing with Celia and budgeting. His natural penchant to prioritize financial matters has tainted his perspective on his marriage. He seems to be thinking in the right way as he has shifted his expectation from seeing what is wrong with Celia to assessing his own need to change. Kudos to you Rob. Celia, it’s your turn. Honestly, it’s my turn too. How about you?
Monday, May 31, 2010
Finding your own “I need to change” moment
Rob left work to find Celia at the church after she hung up on him. They are alone in the church parking lot.
“You hung up on me,” Rob started, and though his words were accusatory his voice was soft and he sounded hurt.
Celia’s heart was still racing from the surprise of Rob showing up at all, and she had trouble shifting gears from thinking about teaching music to kids as a church outreach to talking to Rob about – money. Celia did not think she could handle another fight about money or her meager income.
“This may be a shock to you, but money is not the most important thing to me,” he said.
Celia heard the word “money” and became nauseous. More slowly, the real content of what Rob said trickled down and soothed her stomach and mind. She took a deep breath and reminded herself of facts: she was married to Rob, she loved Rob, and he appeared to be trying to mend their recent rift. Either time had slowed or she was slow, though she had caught up with herself to some degree – at least she was no longer inside the parsonage with Paul.
As her heart caught up to the parking lot with Rob, Celia began to cry. “So what is the most important thing to you?” she said, fumbling in her purse for a tissue. “Because it sure seems like it’s money.”
“No. It’s you.” Rob stepped forward to hug Celia, but she resisted. Rob took her hand instead while she fumbled to blow her nose with the other. Again, Rob’s words were taking a long time to sink in. As they did, she stepped closer to Rob and let him hug her.
“I can re-do our budget,” he continued. “I was expecting you to change to fit my budget, but I need to change the budget to fit you. You need to be able to start this new afterschool program.” Rob’s words, and his arms, felt good, but still Celia resented that he acted like it was all his responsibility.
“Do you really have a budget? Like a real, written-down budget?” Celia said, sniffing.
“Yes, I really do,” Rob said, backing away to look at her.
Celia laughed, thinking that of course he does, but then she paused. “I want to do this afterschool program.” She blew her nose one more time. “But I’d like to see our budget, too. I understand that I need hold up my end of the deal, but please don’t tell me what that needs to be. Let me help decide.”
Rob nodded and leaned in to kiss her. “OK. I will do that, to show you that you and what you are good at”—he gestured to the parsonage – “are more important than anything.” Rob opened Celia’s car door for her. “And now I need to take you to lunch, to show Paul what kind of husband I am.”
“Can we afford it?” Celia asked, joking.
What happens next?
Monday, May 24, 2010
Pardon the Interruption
Rob and Celia are still fighting about Celia’s income. Celia may get to teach music to underprivileged kids at her church, which she is excited about. Rob can only focus on the money and Celia hung up on him, so he left work to drive to the church to talk.
The front door of the old parsonage was propped open with a paint can, so Rob walked in without knocking. He could hear voices in another room, but they echoed easily throughout the empty house; Celia was laughing and talking and sounding happy, something Rob noted with sadness that he had not heard for a while. As Rob followed the voices down a long hallway to the back of the house, he heard a man’s voice join in with Celia’s and they laughed together.
Rob turned a corner into what must have been a formal dining room, as evidenced by an old chandelier hanging in the middle of the bare room. He rapped his knuckles on the doorframe even though Celia and some hippie-looking guy were standing ten feet away from him. They stopped laughing at the same time as they heard the knock and turned to look.
“Hi. Can I help you?” the man said, while Celia said, “Rob, what are you doing here?” at the same time. The man, realizing that Celia knew him, strode forward with his hand out to shake Rob’s. Celia made the introductions.
“Paul is the one who is starting the new after school program I told you about,” she added.
“I’m really psyched that Celia is willing to help us out,” Paul said in a kind of laid-back, non-Southern drawl. “She has great energy about how to engage kids who have never been exposed to music before. I thought we might put a piano right here,” he added, pointing to one end of the room.
“I’m thinking we can pair older kids with younger ones,” Celia said, although to Rob’s ears she was just filling the awkward space that had been created when Rob interrupted whatever churchy groove they inhabited together.
A silence that hurt Rob’s soul hung between Rob and Celia, with Paul as witness.
“This is a nice surprise, coming to take Celia out to lunch,” Paul said. “We’ll finish our conversation about the program later?” he said to Celia. Rob was surprised and touched that Paul seemed to grasp that something was going on and offer them an out. Or else he felt guilty about something.
Celia nodded. Rob said, “Good to meet you,” to Paul and led the way back through the front of the house and to the parking lot.
What happens when Rob and Celia are alone in the parking lot?
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
What to do when coffee isn’t the only thing brewing (Harold’s response)
Satan is the enemy of marriage—desiring to destroy it and wreak havoc in the process. Sometimes we can see his attacks from miles away. At other times, however, he works more insidiously coming in “under our radar”. Sometimes he attacks us through others—spouses, family members, and friends. At other times, he battles us in our minds instilling negative fears, doubts, and worries that hamper our marital relationships. Regardless of his method of attack, his agenda remains the same—to destabilize your relationship with God and with your spouse.
We are particularly vulnerable to Satan’s attacks when we are under emotional stress. When we are struggling to get the physial, emotional, and/or spiritual connection that we desire, we often search for that intimacy in unhealthy places. In our current episode, Celia meets someone who is validating her love for music in a way that her husband doesn’t. Celia likes the positive attention for a change. Things seems innocent enough right now. But, I encourage couples to be hypervigilant in protecting their marriage. The enemy only needs a small crack of divided attention to destroy everything that you have worked for in your marriage.
This episode highlights how important it is for spouse’s to be deliberate in meeting each other’s needs. If you don’t, someone else will.
Monday, April 05, 2010
Families, jobs, and marriages
Celia realized that Rob did not mean to be hurtful with his comments before Easter. He had told her he did not think her choir job was worth keeping since she hated it so much and made so little money anyway. Then for good measure he added that he wished she would stop complaining and make a real plan for her future.
But why could she not stop thinking about his words now, on Easter, when she was supposed to be relaxing with Rob and his family? They were having Easter brunch at a lovely inn Rob’s mom had found on the internet. There was champagne and orange juice, and Celia had just ordered one of her favorite dishes, poached eggs with hollandaise sauce. But every time she looked at Rob and his parents, all Celia felt was shame about her shortcomings.
It did not help that his sisters, who were lively and could lighten up any conversation, were not along today. The older of the two, Sara, attended a small college in New York and studied engineering; she had stayed on campus for Easter. The younger, Maria, had already left on a senior trip with friends, Rob’s mother reported. As his mother proudly discussed them secondhand they seemed like everything Celia was not.
“Maria’s narrowed her college choices down to Ohio State – we may have another Buckeye in the family – and Grove City College in Pennsylvania,” his mother was saying. “She’s still trying to decide if she wants to study business or engineering.
“Either way,” Rob’s father chimed in, “she’ll be flexible enough with her degree to find a good job when she’s done.”
Rob’s family was all about good jobs. Celia was not opposed to good jobs herself, but it was not something she had thought about much when she chose to major in music education. It wasn’t like her family had offered much guidance about it –her parents had not even gone to college.
Neither Rob nor his parents had commented on the Easter service at her church, either. Celia herself had been pleasantly surprised by it – there were lilies and other spring flowers in the Gothic sanctuary and the usual anemic attendance had been boosted by the presence of the Easter-and-Christmas flock. Even her choir had pleased her; despite their inability to nail a piece in rehearsal, ever, this morning Celia was reminded that on occasion they rose above their small numbers and mediocrity to sound like a genuine choir. For once, Celia was satisfied with their work and with her role in it.
Without missing a beat, right on the heels of talking about how wonderful his own daughters were, Rob’s father turned to Celia and said, “So how are your job prospects these days, Celia?”
What happens next?
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The danger of feeling ignored in marriage (Joanne’s comment)
One of my colleagues is a reader of Martin Buber, the German-Jewish philosopher-theologian who coined the phrase “I—Thou” to describe healthy intimate relationships. In an I—Thou relationship, we are mindful that the people around us have their own feelings, thoughts, and issues which deserve our respect, even if we are hurt by them or disagree with them. Buber contrasts I—Thou with what he calls an “I—It” relationship, in which people become objects around which we play out our own issues—our defensiveness, our anger, our fears, and our fantasies. Relationships move between I—Thou and I—It with some regularity, and the more intimate the nature of the relationship the more “I—Thou” we should seek. Rob and Celia were at risk of degenerating into an I—It relationship indefinitely over this recent debacle. Independent of one another, they chose to be vulnerable; Rob in reaching out and Celia in responding to his overture. They turned toward one another not just physically in bed, but also spiritually and psychologically. I am proud of them and believe their relationship will grow for it.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Forever yours (Harold’s response)
Like Joanne, I too admire the evolution of Rob and Celia's relationship. It has shifted from a me-centered to a we-centered paradigm. A few months ago, we were wondering if this relationship was going to make it at all--mostly because neither of them seemed to get what was motivating the other. Over time, they each seem more sure and confident of who they are. As their individual boundaries and identity have solidified they can see each other--clearly. And, they like what they see.
I'm often in discussions with couples who have difficulty seeing each other clearly. Some of it is because of the busyness of life (which we talked about a couple of weeks ago). Sometimes, it is our own narcissism and self-centeredness (which we've talked about it previous episodes). And, some of it is just not getting the angle our partners are coming from. There are many reasons why intimate partners are sometimes more like "ships passing in the night." But, if you are truly going to be a partnership that lasts forever, you have to see each other--clearly. And, you have to value what you see. And, authentically valuing your partner is only possible when you value yourself.
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