Supporting Your Partner
The other day, two parents sat in my office, discussing their very different parenting styles. Mary tends to be strict and likes to set clear limits for their 11-year-old daughter, Sarah. Tim appreciates a softer touch--he is sympathetic to Sarah's challenges. He is more likely to give their youngster what she wants, if he feels that she has a good reason. Their problem is not their differences--it’s that they don't support each other on the family battleground. When an issue arises--they argue with each other in front of Sarah about what to do. Or, one rolls their eyes at the other.
The result--chaos and tension.
Family life is filled with conflicting forces. I want to go out for Chinese food and Diane wants a good Italian meal. Joe wants to play golf on Saturday but Mary wants to go on a hike with a girlfriend. Who's going to take care of the kids? Bill wants to buy a boat and Joan wants to buy new furniture. Who is going to get their way?
These differences in opinion, style, and desire can cover a lot of ground and seep into many corners of family life. Some couples are in perfect agreement about parenting--but can't agree on anything when it comes to planning a vacation!
My wife and I struggled in the parenting realm. It took me a very long time to realize that despite our differences, I needed to support my wife when she was struggling with our girls--even if I didn't agree with her. When they were teens, my wife and daughters would have knock-down shouting matches with tears and harsh words. The water works and angry words upset me. My attempts to help everyone settle down resulted in getting it from both barrels from my wife and daughters! I learned that supporting my wife was staying out of the way and letting her resolve these conflicts on her own. They always made up afterwards---just like the sun coming out after a thunderstorm. It was their way of resolving conflict.
Over the years I have appreciated my wife's support of my interest in martial arts. I spend many hours practicing Aikido, going to weekend seminars, out-of-state workshops, and helping to run our small school. She always encourages me. She comes to watch all of my tests and doesn’t begrudge all the time and money I spend on my passion. She feels that it is good for me. And it is.
So what does it mean to support your spouse?
United you stand, divided you fall. When it comes to parenting, most of the problems with kids are completely predictable! Bedtimes, mornings, mealtimes, clothing wars, curfew, and homework cover most of the challenging territory of family life. Work on finding middle ground and then, in public, when Sarah breaks the rules, back each other up! You won't be sorry!
Support your partner's interests. Supporting your partner's interests and desires generates good will in your relationship. "Good will" is the gasoline that fuels the marital engine. Without it, even a Rolls Royce will be stuck in the driveway! You can never have enough!
Keep everything in balance. You don't want your wife to be a baseball widow! I have always tried to keep my involvement with aikido in balance with my wife's wishes. When I felt that it was out of balance--I took a short break from Aikido. Or I would go out of the way to do something that she wanted to do (including going shopping with her at the Mall!) I never wanted her to feel resentful of my hobby.
Getting your way is not as important as you think. Yup--take it from a guy that’s been married for more than 35 years, it isn't so important that everything goes your way.
Being right is not always so great either! Who likes someone that is right all the time? Who likes a wise guy (or gal)? And if you are right, then someone else is wrong. Who wants that?
Let it go...
So what does "supporting" your partner mean to you?