Last month, The New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks wrote, “Most people don’t change much over time.”
Then again, I suppose I do agree, that is, if we don’t care to change or we kid ourselves that we did our best, when actually we secretly are not fully sure what our best could have even been. How could we?
When clients, take the courage to know themselves rawly, I’ve witnessed lives transform ~ and how!
Usually, we are guessing about where to start. Here’s a solid first step:
“In a good marriage you identify your own selfishness and see it as the fundamental problem. You treat it more seriously than your spouse’s selfishness…Everyday there’s a chance to inspire and encourage your partner to become his or her best self. In this lens, marriage isn’t about two individuals trying to satisfy their own needs; it’s a partnership of mutual self-giving…to make their corner of the world a little better.”
This is one way of seeing your wedding rings’ intent, and it suits empirical research about happily thriving, fulfilling relationships. Nonetheless, in his Op-Ed, David Brooks summarizes two other viewpoints that reach far into our heads, like into the back of your kitchen junk drawer where the long lost key is waiting to be re-found.
Here’s what Brooks wrote:
“. . .If you read the popular literature, there are three different, but not mutually exclusive, lenses through which to think about marriage decisions:
The second lens is the romantic lens. This is the dominant lens in movie and song.
- More than people in many other countries, Americans want to marry the person they are passionately in love with. Their logic is that you need a few years of passionate love to fuse you together so you’ll stay together when times get hard.
- [However, in respected book called] “The Good Marriage,” Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee concluded that 15 percent of couples maintain lifelong romantic marriages.
The third lens is the moral lens. In this lens, a marriage doesn’t exist just to exist or even just for procreation. It exists to serve some higher purpose, whether it is seeking God’s kingdom for the religious or in service to some joint cause or humanity-enhancing project for the secular. In “The Meaning of Marriage,” Tim Keller argued that marriage introduces you to yourself; you realize you’re not as noble and easy to live with as you thought when alone.
- In many marriages there’s an unspoken agreement not to talk about what you don’t admire in the other, because the truth from a loved one can be so painful.
- But in a good marriage, you identify your own selfishness and see it as the fundamental problem. You treat it more seriously than your spouse’s selfishness. The everyday tasks of marriage are opportunities to cultivate a more selfless love. Everyday there’s a chance to inspire and encourage your partner to become his or her best self. In this lens, marriage isn’t about two individuals trying to satisfy their own needs; it’s a partnership of mutual self-giving for the purpose of moral growth and to make their corner of the world a little better.
USE ALL THREE
It’s probably best to use all three lenses when entering into or living in a marriage. But there are differences among them. The psychological lens emphasizes that people don’t change much over a lifetime. Especially after age 30, people may get a little more conscientious and agreeable, but improvements are modest. In the romantic view, the heart is transformed by love, at any age. In the moral view, spiritual transformation — over a lifetime, not just over two passionate years — is the whole point. People have great power to go against their own natures and uplift their spouses, by showing a willingness to change, by supporting their journey from an old crippled self to a new more beautiful self.
The three lenses are operating at different levels: personality, emotions, the level of the virtues and the vices. The first two lenses are very common in our culture — in bookstores, songs and in movies. But the moral lens, with its view of marriage as a binding moral project, is less common. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the quality of the average marriage is in decline.” Read David Brook’s full article in its original format here