Much Ado About Relationships Part One
We are in an age in which relationships are not working the way we really want them to. I read in a newspaper not too long ago that the divorce rate in the United States has fallen. My first reaction was, Praise God! That was welcome news. However as I read on, I discovered that the rate fell because people were actually not getting married like before. The marriage rate has fallen considerably. The common thing now is what is called “shacking up”, that is, living with someone you are not married to legally, but who is serving all the purposes of a married partner. People, especially men, do not feel like getting into the commitment called marriage. Why is this? Ted Slater, in “Why men delay getting married”,
(http://boundless.typepad.com/blog/2006/09/why_men_wont_co.html) came up with ten reasons:
They can get sex without marriage more easily than in times past
They can enjoy the benefits of having a wife by cohabiting rather than marrying
They want to avoid divorce and its financial risks
They want to wait until they are older to have children
They fear that marriage will require too many changes and compromises
They are waiting for the perfect soul mate and she hasn’t yet appeared
They face few social pressures to marry
They are reluctant to marry a woman who already has children
They want to own a house before they get a wife
They want to enjoy single life as long as they can
In effect, if you can get all the benefits of being married without the commitment, why bother? It is like eating your cake and still having it. However, is this right? Or is it appropriate? While I will not be quick to blame the men for not wanting to go into marriage when they have another way out, I will also want to state that the society is not getting any better because of the “shacking up” alternative to marriage. When you shack up, it means you can also easily call it quits when you want to. If you already had children while shacking up, what happens to those children? These days, raising children with two parents watching is difficult enough, not to talk of when it is left for one parent to handle alone. The television is the parent in many homes, and what do you see? Who are the parents in this instance? Those harmful programs!
The family is the basic building block of the society. If we want the society to get any better, we must put more focus on the family. Dysfunctional families make up dysfunctional societies. So, where is the problem? How do we begin to make our families, and by extension our society, better? We go to the very foundation. The Psalmist asked in the bible, If the foundation is destroyed, what can the righteous do? The foundation of a house happens to be the most important part of the building, even though it is not fully appreciated once the building stands on it. You look at the building and are amazed at the super structure. What a magnificent building! You exclaim. It is however standing on a “platform” you cannot see anymore, and without which the building would not exist. The taller the building will be, the more work that has to be done on the foundation. A visit to construction sites will drive home this message.
In this instance however, our foundation is the family. The family begins with the couple, orthodoxically male and female, who come together for the purpose of becoming a family that may later include children. My focus ultimately, is to address the reasons why men are not so eager to get married anymore. What can we do to turn things around? Shacking up is not the solution but an aggravation of an already bad situation. The question to ask is, these people who shack up, is it by choice or design? Is it what they really want deep inside them, or is it seemingly out of lack of choice? I will suppose that an average man that is mentally stable will want to have a wife and settle down to start a family if he is sure he is not getting into a problem by so doing. Life is stressful enough these days without having a woman come around to compound the problems. This appears to be the perspective of the men who delay getting married or do not get married at all. Are the women the problem? Not necessarily. The problem is that too many people are not making the right choices when it comes to marriage. Eventually, the blame is laid at the doorstep of the institution called marriage. If we can make the right choices; choices we can live with, be happy with, that goes well with our personalities, we would have less problems with our families and our societies will get better.
It is not about how good or bad you are, but about how well you can work together as a team, after all, even the devil has team mates! So, it all comes down to personalities. Effectively matching people together whose personalities can work well with each other is the challenge we face here. In families where they have stability and a degree of happiness, it is either they share likes and dislikes, or one partner is conforming to the other partner’s ideas of likes and dislikes. I am of the opinion that it is better and easier for the couple if they naturally share likes and dislikes, than have one partner conform. The day the conforming partner is no longer willing to conform, is the day things begin to fall apart. Conformity is a sacrifice the partner is making, and you make sacrifices for a reason. If you think you are not getting any result from your sacrifice, you may begin to think of withdrawing it. It is like putting bait on a trap so you can catch a rabbit. If the trap will not catch any rabbit, at least you can have your bait back!
Your personality is about who you are. It is a product of your genetic make up and your environment (influence). This is why the bible admonishes you to guide your heart with diligence because issues of life come from there. Evil communication corrupts good morals. If you stuff yourself with most of the garbage coming from the television these days in the name of programs, those are the stuffs that will come out of you, and they will define who you are and your life values too. Your values define what is important to you and the degree of their importance too. When you can define a person’s values, you are almost at the point of fully knowing that person. Getting to know someone is not that difficult after all?
Your company of friends can also say a lot about you. Meanwhile, friendship is in degrees, and it is good practice that everyone should be clear in their minds what level of friendships they have with people. There are some friends that are platonic friends. They are friends almost because you are not enemies. The “hello, how are you?” friends. These friends are often in your school, place of work, some in your neighborhood, depending on where you live. Some neighborhoods allow you to “see” each other occasionally even as neighbors. Other neighborhoods rub your shoulders against each other. There are some friends that are closer. You are more comfortable with them, and you could share some details about yourself with them and seek advice. Your lunch break is spent together; you visit each other and talk at great lengths. There are still some other friends that are so close you must talk to or see each other everyday, if you don’t live together. Their opinions you value so much and they influence you a great deal. In a nutshell, the things you do together and how much you value a friend, defines your level of friendship. Degree of friendship is quite abstract and it depends on who is drawing the lines. However, if you are not a smoker for instance, you are not supposed to enjoy the company of smokers by choice. That is why the saying goes, “show me your friend, and I will tell you who you are”.
No effective matching of couples can take place without a thorough study of their personalities. The more you have in common the greater the chances of success in your relationship. The things you have in common are the glue that will bind your relationship, which is why your spouse should also be your best friend. It makes it a lot easier. Some don’t like to have people around them, recluses; others are crowd pullers. Some don’t like hot food, for others, it must come straight from the stove. Some are addicted to the television (couched potatoes); others use it to catch up on the news and not much else. Some are religious while others are atheists. The list is endless, but the point is simply that if you like what I like, there is less room for disagreements.
Continued in part two.