After all you’ve gone through—busting myths about a relationship, aiming the harsh spotlight at your darker side, embracing a new set of Personal Relationship Values, and then engaging in a detailed re-connection program—you are probably feeling pretty good about yourself right now. And you should. But we both know that if you are thinking that you’re going to be sailing forevermore through smooth relationship waters, then you need to go back to http://localhost/kugo/marriage-myths/ one of this book and start all over.
I will say this over and over: no degree of good intentions will get you what you want.
The first trick to managing your new relationship is to pay close attention to your priorities. Priority management is simple and effective if and only if you are clear on what those priorities are. Do you remember that I spoke in an earlier chapter about the concept of life decisions? These are the decisions that we make at a very deep level of heartfelt conviction, as opposed to the decisions we make out of simple intellectual deduction. Your rescue of your relationship must be that kind of life decision, a priority so important it becomes the standard against which you evaluate every thought, feeling, and behavior that you have. You have only to ask yourself the simple question “Does this thought, feeling, or behavior support my priority of maintaining this relationship?” If the answer is no, if you are doing something that does not support your priority, then you’re in trouble. My rule is this: if you catch yourself at any time doing something that is not in support of your top priority, or is in fact antagonistic to your top priority, stop what you are doing and change to something that is consistent with your priority.
The second task in managing your relationship is behaving your way to happiness. Don’t confuse this with the less genuine technique of “fake it till you make it.” You aren’t faking your relationship in any way. You genuinely do want a healthy, happy, and productive partnership. If you begin to behave in ways that define and reflect your priorities, then you will begin to enjoy the consequences of that kind of behavior. You can move toward happiness simply by behaving in ways that define what happy means to you in the relationship context.
As part of the reprogramming of your life in general and your relationship in particular, you must have a particular plan to deal with what you know will be the weakest spots in your relationship. Your particular weakness could be fighting, or it could be withdrawal. You might have a specific tendency to get vicious in certain situations, or you may be stuck in your comfort zone, or maybe you react to trouble spots in your relationship by flirting a little too much with someone of the opposite sex at work.
I am embarrassed to confess to you how many years I spent being frustrated with my wife, judging and resisting her for doing exactly what God designed her to do. God didn’t design us to be the same; he designed us to be different. He made us different because we have different jobs in this world, and yet we criticize each other for being who we are. Men criticize women because they are emotional, sensitive, and intuitive rather than one-dimensionally logical. Women are supposed to be that way, and those characteristics don’t preclude intelligent, insightful, and decisive thinking. They just do it differently.Women have more of those characteristics than do most men because God contemplated that women would fill a role in the cycle and plan of life for which those characteristics would be ideally suited. God gave men less of those qualities and more of certain other qualities such as logic and physical strength, because he determined that those characteristics would lend themselves well to certain jobs that he contemplated for the males in society. It’s not a matter of hierarchy. It’s not that emotionality, sensitivity, and intuitiveness are second-class—just as it’s not true that classic male characteristics are second-class. There’s nothing wrong with the differences between a man and woman, unless you decide it’s wrong.
This might seem like an odd topic to you. What is managing your admiration? How do you do something like that? The reality is that just as you can forget to build on the strengths of your relationship, so too can you forget to work at rediscovering, finding, and focusing on the qualities in your partner which you can and should admire. Remember, couples who deal only with their problems have a problem relationship. Even in strong relationships people too often focus on the negatives, hoping to resolve them in an effort to make the relationship better. But if you dwell on what is wrong, it’s easy to lose sight of what is right. If you dwell on the flaws and fallacies, it’s easy to forget the admiration. Indeed, if you concentrate on the negative messages about your relationship, your expectations for your relationship and your partner will not be very high. You need instead a plan to remind yourself of all your partner’s admirable qualities, and to remind you that the negative side of your partner doesn’t cancel out everything else.