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The Dangers of a 'Me First' Marriage ...by Bill Knell

A comedian recently said that, "Marriage is like a tug of war, except everybody loses!" Don't let society's view of marriage poison yours. A comedian recently said that, "Marriage is like a tug of war, except everybody loses!" This reflects the prevailing view in American Society that marriage, as an institution, has failed. People speak of 'starter marriages' to describe the state of those who are wed at a young age, expecting that such a union will be just the first of many. So-called experts, themselves married several times, speak of 'relationship drift' to describe cheating or 'a transition from one connection to another.' But the biggest problem in most marriages isn't cheating or some flaw in the institution, it's selfishness.

Many marriages start off on the wrong foot or end up failing because both parties enter that relationship expecting to get something out of it, instead of putting something in. Married people are bombarded with advice from self-help books and talk shows that constantly remind them, "At some point you have to think of yourself!" Single or divorced friends and colleagues put the pressure on by reminding married people of all the fun they're missing while stuck at home. Getting married doesn't mean checking your personal life, needs or desires at the door. But it does mean making some necessary changes.

Too many people begin a marriage with selfish concepts they've learned from a society used to throw away relationships. So the first thing you have to do is get rid of those concepts! Marriage means that there's going to be a distinct change in your personal life, habits, schedule and social agenda. If you're not ready to make these changes, you're not ready for marriage. Remember, you are now sharing someone else's life and they are sharing yours. The point of marriage isn't to stifle, but to fulfill. When done correctly, marriage can be a permanent cure for loneliness and bring a new level of stability into anyone's life.

Marriage isn't a continuation of being single. Spending time with your mate is as important as spending time with friends, business associates or relatives. Nothing puts more pressure on a marriage then a participant who is constantly found at the home of a friend or relative, while neglecting their own. Too many married people find things to do to avoid 'feeling married.' They shop, socialize, work extra hours or develop a new hobby just to avoid facing up to the fact that they're married. Being married doesn't define who you any more then being single did.

In any marriage, it's not about ME, it's about US. If you're easily offended, feel that others owe you something or keep a scorecard in your pocket of what you do for people verses what they do for you, it's time for an adjustment! That kind of an attitude will quickly destroy any relationship. Marriage requires respect. If you respect yourself, you'll have the ability to respect your mate. If you lack self-respect, you probably lack self-esteem. Low self esteem is one of the primary causes of selfishness. It's a built in protection that kicks in because you assume others don't care about you, so you have to put extra effort into caring about yourself. Learning to trust your mate is one way to combat low self-esteem. Once you're over that hurdle, you must learn to respect your partner. Mutual respect is never a one way street. Both parties must make adjustments that lead to joint satisfaction.

Most newlyweds go through a self-defensive ME stage. It's a natural reaction to the sudden changes that the mixing of two lives can cause. The best way to survive this period is by making sure that living arrangements, schedules and participation in household chores are mutually agreed upon. It's no good to establish a situation that imposes itself on one party just to satisfy the other. Too many couples leave these things unsettled hoping that everything will work itself out. When things do work out, it's usually more to the benefit of one party then both. Marriage is about working together to accomplish common and individual goals.

When it comes to ironing out differences, communication is king. When you have a discussion, always talk WITH your mate, not AT them. If you are prone to give orders, become a Marine Drill Instructor or buy a dog! Positive communication means sitting down and talking things out until you come to a reciprocal agreement. Marriage is always about two people, never about one. Everyone argues, but most arguments can be avoided with a little consideration and some careful planning.

Finances are said to exert the most stress on any marriage and be the chief cause of arguments. While no one can avoid unforeseen financial problems, creating and sticking to a budget helps. Getting use to wise spending habits and budgets early in a marriage will make life much easier if kiddies come along.

Consideration should be an automatic part of your married life. Too many relationships have become a him verses her or her verses him battle royal. Leave war to the professionals! "Love is never having to say you're sorry." That was a popular saying during the late 1960s. It was from a fictional movie, but life isn't a movie! If the saying had been, "Love is not selfish," more marriages from that time may have had a better chance at survival. Treat your partner the way you expect to treated.

There are times in a marriage when you may find yourself in a less then desirable position. The way you deal with that situation will determine the strength or weakness of your relationship. You can strengthen your union by being willing to accept the fact that circumstances will not always favor your immediate happiness. One party may lose a job in a household where two incomes are needed. That might mean that the other may have to work extra hours and share less of the household duties. A spouse may become ill and depend on you for virtually everything. Tough times test a person's character. If you aren't ready, willing and able to take on that kind of responsibility, then marriage isn't for you.

Most of us hate the term 'flexibility' because we have been taught that being flexible means being weak. TV talk shows feature couples who are encouraged to confront each other to a point where they come to blows over everything from buying the wrong clothes to weight loss. Confrontation has become the order of the day for the foolish and weak minded. Intelligent people don't need to stage some elaborate moment of making a partner face the truth about themselves. Being flexible means being willing to accept a certain level of change in a partner's life that doesn't threaten the relationship. Everyone goes through dark times when they don't feel like themselves. People gain or lose some weight and make changes in their wardrobe for many reasons.

Being flexible never means a willingness to accept abuse. Abuse is indicative of a serious psychological problem. It means that the Abuser simply cannot control themselves and is likely to hurt their partner in one way or another once something sets them off. Anyone who is experiencing abuse in any form should immediately insist that the Abuser seek professional diagnosis and treatment. Abuse isn't going to stop by itself, it must be stopped. Every marriage is going to have it's bumpy periods and problems. These obstacles may have nothing directly to do with any actions taken by either party, but may come from children or outside influences. The best way to survive these times is to go into a marriage with a WE instead of a ME mentality. Divorce courts are full of couples that are there because they spent far more time individually trying to figure a way out of their marriage, then they ever did trying to work together to save it.


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