New Year, New US: Part 2Jan 16, 2022
Our Foundation: What makes us “US”
While spending the day at the beach in Miami we heard a hysterical mother crying out for help at the nearest lifeguard station. She was crying out, “My son! My son! I’ve lost my son!” The lifeguard responded with a line of questioning about what the boy looked like and what he was last wearing. By now a crowd had gathered and we were perking up to see how we could help. Just as a group started to organize and prepare to search for this missing child, a boy pushed through the crowd and shouted over the hysteria, “Mom. Mom. Mom! I’m right here.”
The mother started crying and grabbed her son like she would never let go. She pulled him away from her, holding him by both shoulders and sternly told him, “Never wander off again. Ever! Do you hear me?!?!” As she pulled him in for a squeeze again, he said quietly to his mother, “Mom, I didn’t wander off. We set up our stuff at that lifeguard stand over there. Not this one.”
What had happened was about 30 minutes earlier the mother went out into the water and unknowingly drifted with the waves in the ocean, and when she came back on to the beach she was confused. She had walked up to lifeguard station 14 which looked identical to lifeguard station 13 where they were set up for the day further down the beach. Things looked similar, but she was far enough from where she started for things to appear way off.
If you ask 2 people to describe an event that they both experienced there is a high likelihood that the descriptions would differ. In marriage, we often have different expectations and then we measure reality against those expectations. If I expect to save $5 and I only save $3, I’m disappointed. But on the other hand, if I expect to save $5 and I save $6, I’m thrilled. Things get more complicated when you add another person’s expectations. If your spouse expected to save $10, you may end up arguing because you’re thrilled, and they are disappointed. In marriage, one of you can be thrilled and the other disappointed even when experiencing the same exact thing.
This example of saving money looks a lot like going out into the ocean only to return to the wrong lifeguard station. Our goal in helping couples is to create similar expectations…Similar; not identical. One of the best ways to create a shared set of expectations is to clarify the things that make us “us.” When we define the things we want to be known for and things we want to experience in our relationship, we can then measure our reality against our desired status. If we are off by a bit, we can course correct based on a shared set of things that anchor us. For example, if we shared the expectation of saving $5, we would both be happy with $6. The spouse that desired $10 may still not be as thrilled, but the agreed expectation of saving $5 acts like a lifeguard station for us to measure against.
The reality of relationships is that we all drift, but creating a foundation, a point on the horizon like a lifeguard station, will help you experience more joy and allow you to easier course correct when you are off target.
Creating your shared expectations is just an easy conversation away.
The 4 key areas for building your marriage foundation...
Together answer the question “What do we believe about marriage?” You don’t have to perfectly agree but capture all the things you believe about marriage in general and the things you believe about your marriage.
Examples: We believe that marriage is a commitment for life. We believe that marriage is more about loving and serving the person we marry than it is about us.
Most couples never think through the purpose of their relationship, but we all know that marriage is not as simple as “I like you” and “You like me.” Together discuss, “What is our desired purpose together?”
Examples: The purpose of our marriage is cultivate a nurturing space where we both strive to make our loved one feel valued and appreciated.
Characteristics are how we would like to be described or identified based on how we love and treat each other. Characteristics are aspirational in nature, but they give us something to strive for and adjust to when we may be off course. Make a list of things you wish to be identified by in your relationship.
Examples: Friends, Fun, Loving, Spontaneous, Supportive, Partners
Values are the things that guide our behaviors. Sometimes there is overlap between characteristics and values, but they are subtly different. Values are the things that cause us to behave certain ways and characteristics are the observable outputs of those things. Often, we think of values as internal motivators and characteristics as an external display of our values.
Examples: Talk not fight, Put the other person first, Humility, Honesty, Always Growing
As we have talked about in this blog series, the question isn’t IF you drift, it’s WHEN you drift. If you have discussed and documented these 4 key areas, you have a foundation…the most important things on the horizon so you can always get back to or at least closer to where you desire to be.
P.S. Stay tuned for more information on a free webinar following this blog series just in time for Valentine's Day.
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