When you ask people to name common causes of divorce, you are likely going to hear money, sex, children and in-laws. I did a series of columns last year on these frequent challenges to marriage in which I asserted that these factors do not have to steal away from the harmony and joy of a marriage, but they will if they are not properly addressed. If you missed any of those columns and would like to read them just send me an e-mail and we'll make it happen.
This week I want to bring to your attention two other potentially destructive factors about which you would be wise to come to understanding and agreement. These factors are 1) failure to truly leave mom and dad, and 2) emotional baggage from prior relationships and life experiences.
You've heard the expression that "misery loves company". Well, I'm not so certain I agree with that sentiment, but I can tell you that if you relate to these two factors you are surely not alone.
By failing to leave mom and dad I mean, in part, that we are often very much influenced -- if not outright controlled --by how we were raised. This is true whether our upbringings were positive or negative. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to believe that how things were done in our family of origin is how things should be done in our family of matrimony, or perhaps exactly how things should not be done.
If you were both raised identically I guess that might not pose a huge problem. But the odds of you having identical pasts are greater than you winning the Powerball lottery 52 weeks in a row. That may not be statistically accurate, but you get my point.
So do you see a potential problem as partners from two different backgrounds each want their new home to function as their first one did? Hello?
The marital home is supposed to be a new creation that is identical to neither of the spouse's original one. Appropriate blending and identification of how the new home will function could ward off numerous heated discussions and save a boat load of grief. The problem, however, is that couples are often unable to communicate intimately enough to hear and honor each other's views on the subject.
Another feature of failing to leave mom and dad becomes evident when the parents have an inordinate level of influence on decisions the new couple makes. Decisions about where to spend holidays or how to raise the children are just two of many such potential spheres of over influence.
I certainly believe in the biblical commandment that we are to honor our father and our mother. But honor does not mean that you give them the right to make decisions which are reserved to you and your spouse. Parents should definitely have a place in your marriage, but it must be a subordinate role to that of husband and wife.
What's that common phrase form the marriage ceremony "when two are joined together let no one try to separate them?" So if you really want your marriage to succeed and bring you the joy and intimacy you want, may I suggest you have a respectful conversation with your parents and let them know how things are going to be different -- if that needs to be the case. If your parents have an overbearing influence on your marriage you simply must follow Bob Newhart's advice in his classic YouTube video and "Just stop it!"
Another common threat to marital bliss is the fact that each spouse brings with him or her baggage from their past. While this baggage will never be checked on an airline, the "fees" for it can be exorbitant. Face it, we were all wounded in some ways earlier in life. That, in and of itself, does not need to be a big problem. What happens all too often, however, is that one or both parties are woefully unaware of how their present behavior is influenced by their past experiences. Chances are pretty high that your spouse has at times paid the price for someone else who has hurt you in the past.
As I mentioned in last week's column, chances are also high that there have been times in your marriage when one or both of you were reliving a childhood wound in some way. When that occurs, we often find ourselves acting more like a hurt little child than a mature adult. You have likely had episodes akin to foot stomping and tongues sticking out at each other that resulted in great exasperation and negativity.
While such episodes are common, they are also preventable if you know how to do so and that, my friends, is not difficult to learn or to practice.
So let me close with what I consider to be some very good news. I will be facilitating a marriage-enriching seminar next weekend which has the potential to radically impact your marriage for the good. The seminar is called More Than Married, and it is being hosted by Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington. The cost is $60 per couple, and some of that can be waived when necessary.
Participants in this seminar will learn communication skills and better ways to connect in their marriage. I can just about guarantee you will discuss issues which you have never been able to discuss before. And you will do so in a positive manner which will indeed strengthen and deepen the quality of your marriage. This course has the potential to help each of you not just deal with your past baggage but to teach you how to heal from it.
This is starting to sound like a commercial, so I better bring it to a close. But I will do so with a challenge and a "double-dog-dare," if you will, that you consider investing a little bit of time and a little bit of money into your marriage. I am so confident you will be glad you did. Feel free to call or e-mail me if you want or need further information.
Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.