Have you ever witnessed the following scenario in a household? Dear Daughter or Dear Son wants to do something and goes to one parent to get an answer. If not pleased with the answer, the child will go to the other parent and work on them until the wanted answer is achieved. This strategy is called “divide and conquer” and the most common remedy is for parents to actively work with each other to be on the same page. This may seem easier said than done, but the ultimate goal is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as parents raising the children, not allowing the child to divide the relationship.
This same divide and conquer strategy can creep into a relationship in so many other ways. There are lots of things that couples allow to come between them that can ultimately cause division. The remedy is the same, however. Both husband and wife need to actively work to be on the same page, and not allow the obstacle to divide them. This again can be somewhat easier said than done. So, how can a couple protect their relationship from division? Marriages truly are always a work in progress, but there are some common things a couple can do.
The first remedy is to have lots of conversations, and have them often. When a couple is engaged, it is built into the marriage preparation system to teach couples to actively communicate about their future marriage. What communication styles they have, what their family of origin is like, what their financial habits are, etc. Once the wedding day occurs, however, there is no longer any built-in system to get a couple to talk to each other about these things. They are on their own.
As the marriage progresses, the husband and wife do not remain as stagnant individuals, they continue to grow and so do their thoughts and ideas. This is where a possibility for tension may lie. If the couple is not having frequent conversations about their perspective on different issues, it is those very same issues that may come between them. There are numerous conversation starter suggestions online. Make the time to talk with each other, and bring up some of those conversations you had when you prepared for marriage. Actively working on communication will lend itself to a stronger relationship.
Another strategy that is taught in marriage preparation which can sometimes get lost is goal setting. Oftentimes we think of marriage goals in terms of finances. Are we saving to buy a house together, a car, retirement or a vacation opportunity?
A common strategy to be on the same marital page is to create goals in all aspects of your relationship. How can we work together to be more healthy? What are some goals we can set to grow intellectually? Can we learn a new hobby together or a home improvement project? What are some parenting goals we can set for our children? What kind of character and virtue habits do we want our children to have? What are some spiritual goals we can set and even grow together in this way?
Simply stated, the best way for a couple to be side by side is to work towards the same outcome. With a common goal in mind, it is a lot easier to control the issues that may arise that could potentially undermine both the outcome and the relationship.
A third strategy is to utilize the sacrament of reconciliation. The premise here is that sometimes the things that can divide a relationship may have their origins in sin. Are we struggling with pride in our relationship and always having to be right? Has envy or jealousy crept in through resentment? Is there overindulgence on our parts with anything? Are we allowing phones, TV or even friends to occupy all our time?
These and many more self-examination questions can be pondered as one prepares for confession. The beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation is that it not only gives us the grace to identify and rid ourselves of whatever we may be struggling with, it also reconciles our relationship with God and works towards unifying you and your spouse.
So let’s take to heart the words of Matthew 19:6 which states: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” A married couple is stronger together when they are unified as a team with all their heart and soul, and with God’s grace they can be a very powerful source of inspiration to all those around them.
Tremblay is Marriage and Life Ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.