Today’s educational system is not geared to teach us how have bonded, functional relationships. We learn to love by example, both negative and positive. We cobble together interpersonal skills, mindsets, behaviors, and philosophies on how to be in relationship, how to love.
This implicit learning curve can make for assumptions, projections, and misunderstandings due to our own innate biases and perspectives. These biases often only come to light on an issue by issue basis as our complex relationships unfold, like our relationship with our spouse.
Due to its mix of emotional, financial, and legal ramifications, a marriage is one of the most complex relationships we have in modern culture. Despite this complexity, the vast majority of us are taught that the correct approach—the romantic approach—is to marry first and then start the hard work of figuring out how to navigate through the myriad of practical day to day issues which arise naturally when people work as a team.
Almost all of us go into marriage assuming that our views on complex issues, like child rearing, are shared with our spouse because vows have been exchanged to become a shared emotional unit and a joint legal entity. The simplistic version of this typical attitude is, “We’re married, so we’ll do what works best for us.” And most of us don’t go the extra mile to extrapolate that what we think is best for “us,” might not be what our spouse thinks is best for “us.”
Therefore, many marriages have moments of reckoning. Times when assumptions, projections, and biases bubble into the light to be examined and processed by both people in the relationship. For instance, a reckoning might occur in a marriage when one parent expresses that they is “babysitting” when they is solely responsible for their child, while the other parent holds a completely different view of the parent’s role, and level of responsibility, in caring for their child.
An effective approach when these moments of reckoning arise is to talk through and negotiate a joint narrative which both people agree is an acceptable approach to the issue at hand. In the context of child care, if one spouse believes that they are a babysitter, but the other spouse believes that they are two equally responsible parents, then a productive conversation would involve:
- Mapping out the history of how each spouse developed their views on a parent’s responsibility for child care,
- Work to develop compassion and empathy for what leads their spouse to see the issue differently,
- Identify each spouse’s practical needs based on their views (i.e. I need time on my own away from the family or I need to only be responsible for child care for two hours a day on work days, etc.),
- Negotiate a way that both people get as many of their practical needs met, so feel heard and respected in the relationship, and finally
- Develop a joint narrative of their approach to the topic, that both can accept, which can be used a foundational starting point if a reckoning on that issue arises in the future.
Thank you to all my teachers, colleagues, and students who gave the gift of their wisdom throughout my years practicing facilitative mediation. Also, thank you to all my spiritual teachers who added depth to everything I’ve ever learned about being a vibrant, happy human in a complex world.
O, Peace, Peace, Peace.
Unmani Saraswati, JD, LLM became the Chief Happiness Mentor of Bliss Revealed after a successful seventeen year career as a divorce mediator-attorney and law professor. A lifelong student of how to how to have a vibrant experience of life, she earned her credential as a Certified Massage Therapist from the Institute of Conscious Bodywork in 1997 and graduated from Trika Institute’s Seven-Year Tantrik Yoga Study Group Program in 2010. As a Chief Happiness Mentor, Unmani draws on her ongoing study of ancient wisdom concepts and life-skills, nineteen years of daily mediation practice, and her work supporting thousands of clients to bring out their best selves in the midst of crisis through mindfulness and education. She teaches the self-paced online program My Bliss Path™ and live streams with subscribing members of the Blissverse Locals community. Also, check out her free videos and blogs. To find out more about Unmani’s mission for everyone to have a Healthy Body, Strong Mind, and Happy Heart go to: https://linktr.ee/blissrevealed