Complexity in Marriage Conversation
In Marriage and in Politics, simplistic solutions mislead.
Most marriages begin with a basic and important fallacy. It is this: ‘we’re in love and everything’s going to be fine.’ This belief misses the necessary and inevitable effects of people changing and growing, of their situation – jobs, health, extended family, community shifts, political winds, economics, babies, education – all changing and shifting as their marriage itself is changing. Many couples lose their connection to their love in the vortex of these changing realities.
Political leaders who offer a phrase, cliché, or simple answer to so many modern challenges, mislead us into thinking a complex situation can be easily addressed.
Conflict is inevitable and necessary but you have to know how to embrace it successfully. Someone recently asked me how he should approach the deep differences that were emerging in his marriage over political differences. He’s growing more and more conservative in his understanding of what’s needed to address the challenges we face in this country. She’s growing more and more liberal in her commitments to economics, environment, immigration, minority rights etc. “Can we find a way to talk about this that doesn’t end in a screaming match? he said. He went further. “You are always talking about embracing conflict. We do but it never ends well. Just the other day she shouted at me ‘I think I made a big mistake marrying you’.”
Complexity in marriage, like complexity in organizations, is under appreciated when we cling to a linear model of problem solving. You are either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ There’s one solution and it’s the one I am proposing.’ ‘Get over it or get out.’ When couples miss the depth and dimensionality of their lives, their experiences, their beliefs and their vision for the future they miss the quality and effects of their interaction. They try to simplify and their conflicts degrade into arguments.
Good communication is reverential. It is appreciative of the multi dimensionality we each bring to every conversation. It honors complexity. Here’s how it can look.
The husband I referred to above is a bottom line kind of guy. When he’s not in the heat of argument he can see he also cares about the environment, the less privileged and minority rights. However, he moves very quickly into his focus on well known abuses of our laws and systems and has little patience for conversation that he interprets to be ignorant of those abuses. His partner thinks with a strong connection to her heart. She isn’t a linear thinker and the challenges she sees deeply trouble her. She interprets that he is indifferent to those needs and relates to him as if she knows who he is. She doesn’t and he doesn’t know who she is either.
We like to use the phrase ‘this is a big conversation’ as a way of giving us some space to create a conversation that will include our need for conflict but will take it out of the courtroom in our minds. Our marriage is changing. I’m changing. She is changing. We are becoming the individuals we are meant to become and that evolution requires a consciousness of respectfulness and curiosity.
Out complex situation is held together by our love for each other. Loving each other requires perspective, appreciation for emerging differences and a deep belief that what we are doing, right now, in this conflict, is what we married for in the first place.