Price: Choose to 'minister' to your partner's pain
I recently heard a quote by George Eliot that said "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" I was impressed with the quote and searched for more information about Mr. Eliot. I was surprised to learn that George Eliot was actually the pen name for Mary Ann Evans, a 19th century author of several books — "Silas Marner" being the only one I recognize. I think I was supposed to read it in high school, but that was last century so we’ll just move on.
From what I gather, this quote was not directly connected to marriage, but it sure does seem to me to have great application. What would our marriages be like if each spouse adopted the mindset that his or her primary purpose in the union was to make life less difficult for the other?
Here’s another of her quotes I found that seems fitting for marriage. Just substitute the word spouse for friend and I think you’ll agree. She wrote, "A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away."
In my search, I found two humorous quotes I just have to share with you: "And, of course men know best about everything, except what women know better," and "Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact."
The final George Eliot quote that got my attention is directly related to marriage — or at least should be. She wrote: "What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life — to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?"
Oh that couples had such a mindset before and during their marriage. Those who make their living off divorce may not approve, but I think our society would surely benefit.
Each and every one of you reading this column — no exceptions — made a grievous error when you got married. You married a human being! Now, before you say "duh," let me remind you that by making that error in judgment you assured yourself that you had entered an intimate relationship with a person who would not always be Prince or Princess Charming, at least not 24/7, 365 as the expression goes.
There will be moments of pain and unpleasantness in every marriage, and while that should not come as a surprise, I have met numerous couples who were taken back when the glow of first love wore off. In the early days, weeks and months of dating and courtship, we are so in love with the feelings of love that we often turn a blind eye (or ear) to the imperfections of our partner.
That euphoric state is not sustainable for us mere mortals. Estimates I have heard are that it will last from six months to two years. For most, it begins to wear off sooner, but it is normal for that state of ecstasy to morph into a deeper love that is supposed to be more lasting and satisfying.
Actually it is a good thing that the euphoric, or as I call it "gaga" love wears off over time. If it didn’t, we’d all have 20 kids and never get anything done.
I hope you never get to the point where you and your spouse take each other for granted and lose the special relationship and closeness you once enjoyed. But you will have times when you will see a side of your spouse that might make you think you married the wrong person. While I can’t speak to every situation, I am confident in saying it is doubtful you did.
Couples need to know their relationship will change over time. This is normal and can be a healthy development — if handled well. This is especially true if your goal is "to make life less difficult" for your partner. The same may be said for the challenge "to minister to each other in pain."
When you do see the ugly side of your spouse, chances are great that at that moment they are in some pain — physical, mental or emotional. You have two choices when they take their pain out on you. You can react to the anger, or you can minister to the pain.
Choose the former and the fight is on. You will engage in an attack and defend battle resulting in two losers and no winners. While it is not always easy, let me counsel you to consider option two. Rather than take offense and return the negativity, why not calmly ask your spouse what has him or her so upset and what can you do to help alleviate their pain?
Like I said, I realize it is not easy to hug a cactus, but doing so could bring healing to your mate and strengthen your relationship in ways no other act could do.
Ron Price is the owner and operator of Productive Outcomes Inc. and the author of "PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work," an e-book available on Amazon. He can be reached at 505-324-6328.