Marriage Balance

It is important to keep in mind that the balance elements discussed in this activity are not good or bad, right or wrong. Looking at each element in terms of you and your spouse simply helps to better understand your relationship and better manage your participation in the relationship.



Each of the elements below represents an interactive point within your marriage. Here, put an X beside the element if you think that it reflects a stronger area for you than for your spouse, a Y if you think that it represents a stronger area for your spouse than for you, and a Z if you think the two of you are about equal with respect to the element. X equals stronger for you - Y equals stronger for your spouse - Z equals about the same for each of you.



Once you have finished, it may be helpful to make three lists. The first list includes all of the elements you have marked X. The second list includes all of those marked Y, with the third list including all of those marked Z. This begins to give you a picture of the participation of each of you in your marriage. It will also be good to share this activity with your spouse, if he/she wants to participate.



1. Being clear about what is expected.



2. Working well with the other.



3. Dealing with the ups and downs.



4. Showing pride in the other.



5. Being supportive.



6. Being open and upfront.



7. Listening.



8. Accepting the other.



9. Not blaming or accusing the other.



10. Keeping commitments.



11. Keeping criticism minimal and specific.



12. Being predictable.



13. Being helpful.



14. Valuing your relationship.



15. Having faith in the other.



16. Staying involved with the other.



17. Talking with the other.



18. Giving your marriage your best shot.



19. Being patient.



20. Dealing with the give and take of your relationship.



21. Depending on the other.



22. Not trying to boss or control the other.



23. Understanding what the other needs.



24. Being gentle.



25. Helping the other feel special.



26. Satisfying the other.



27. Accepting the other's bad days.



28. Having time for each other.



29. Encouraging the other's interest.



30. Not over reacting or getting upset too easily.



31. Being a good example or model for the other.



32. Being flexible.



33. Paying attention to the other.



34. Adjusting to the other.



35. Conveying interest in the other.



36. Being tolerant of the other's habits and moods.



37. Resolving and working out problems.



38. Being positive and constructive.



Discussion



Each element in the activity should be considered in terms of the individual's functioning within the core triangle - friends, partners, lovers.



Since many of the elements are self-explanatory, this section will only focus on a few of the elements, highlighting points that might be overlooked and points warranting special instructional attention.



Being helpful to each other is a straight forward concept. Its application to being friends and being lovers is sometimes overlooked, however. Within the friendship dimension, the client needs to be sure that she is doing all she can do to facilitate activities, social opportunities, comfortable communication, and a sincere friendship orientation. Within the lovers dimension, being helpful includes doing what one can to increase the comfort and satisfaction levels of her spouse, modeling an appropriate level of sexual initiative and skill, and responding to the sexual needs and interest of the other. The idea is that being helpful implies facilitating the involvement and satisfaction of one's spouse.



Valuing the relationship is more complex than one might first think. Of course, this includes communicating one's valuing of the relationship to the marriage participant but also includes communicating valuing in ways that are understood and valued by the spouse. 'What kinds of things do you interpret as indicating that your spouse values the relationship? What kinds of things does your spouse interpret as meaning that you value the relationship?' It is not enough to simply value the relationship. This valuing must be communicated in ways that are understood and meaningful from the other person's point of view. Priority might be given to being helpful but also might be seen in terms of hanging in there and dealing with the ups and downs or in terms of manifestations of acceptance and faith in the other person. The notion is that valuing of the relationship needs to be communicated. This communication, in turn, comes through some prioritized mix of the elements in this activity.



Talking with each other is a similarly complex component of the marriage interaction. How one talks, how often one talks, what one talks about, and how responsive the talking is to the other person are all important ingredients. It is not enough to simply talk. One must 'communicate' with the talking focusing on each dimension of the core triad and on what is really going on at a day-to-day level. In addition, talking needs to expand to dreams, fears, hopes, aspirations, frustrations, and the full range of life and living.



Talking is for the purpose of conveying what is happening with the individual but also has the equally important purpose of letting the other person know that she is acknowledged, understood, and appreciated. You will want to work with the individual in terms of assuring that talking is considerably more than just talk.



Accepting the other person as she is or as he is may be one of the toughest parts of marriage-effective functioning. When all is said and done, people are not going to change very much. Either they are accepted 'pretty much' as they are or they are to spend their lives being, to some extent, rejected. Keep in mind that, if one is not accepted, the experience for the individual is one of being rejected. People can become more effective friends, more effective partners, and more effective lovers. Nonetheless, who they fundamentally are is not going to change very much. Expecting the other person to become more skilled and more effective is reasonable. To not accept her on a relatively as-is basis though, is an exercise in frustration for both spouses and is probably one of the quickest ways to sabotage and undermine the ongoing growth of the marriage.



The above, at its essence, brings into central focus the importance of each spouse being able to depend on the other. Yes, this includes depending on the other to do things, keep commitments, and be there when needed. More fundamentally, though, depending on the other person also includes knowing that she really does understand your needs and interest, will not turn on you, accepts you on an as-is basis, will help you feel special and important, and is a worthy guardian of your self-esteem and self-respect.



Adjusting to each other within a marriage relationship is a central factor in the success of that relationship. Many times, couples will understand this as 'compromising.' The reality is that people do not actually compromise very often and then usually only with some sense of frustration and a sense of having given up or given away something important. Adjusting to each other is not the same as compromising, then. It is, rather, a process of understanding each other's priorities, preferences, and idiosyncrasies. Each spouse then adjusts and accommodates to the style of the other in ways that encourage and facilitate the styles of each, without requiring either to give up things or elements of self that are important and valued.



The real skill here is coming up with arrangements and approaches that do not require either spouse to compromise or give up things that are important. The creative arrangement is such that both are able to be who they are, with style, all the time, on purpose. The only expectation is that both individuals are people with style and that the style of each reflects a positive sense of self and orientation to the other.



By Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. March 24, 2017