Following the script they both inherited from their families of origin, each of them looked to the other to fix the light bulb.
Believe it or not, just as an actor in a play follows a script, so it is with married couples. Without knowing it, a husband and wife are drawn into set ways of relating to each other that are a mixture of personal dispositions, family backgrounds,and media and the familiarity that comes with being childhood friends. We will call them ‘Unspoken rules’ and Unconscious roles.
Expectations between couples seem to clash for the following reasons:
We expect the other person to follow our ‘rules’ (Unspoken rules): From my previous post, I spoke at length about unspoken rules, how they are formed and why we don’t talk about them. Unspoken rules don’t surface until someone breaks them, and conflict arises because we assume our partners know what we are thinking. While these are not particularly our fault, it is what we have seen modeled to us in childhood and unconsciously form out own thought pattern. Without knowing each other’s rules, there is no way to avoid breaking them.
We expect our mates to fill a certain ‘role’ (Unconscious roles):As in Jimi and Lola’s case, unconscious roles make you ‘assign’ a specific role or responsibility to yourself or your spouse. Because of the way we have seen our families operate when we were little, we have unconsciously written a script in our minds that our spouses are expected to play: Frustration sets in when the actions that our partners are taking (or not taking), do not go along with the roles we have unconsciously assigned to them in our minds.
A few years after we got married, we spent the Christmas holidays with my parents-in-law. I come from a background where, every morning while I was growing up, my mom woke us up as early as 5:30 am and we all congregated in the living room of my house for morning prayers. After the prayers, we all said good morning and went on our merry way. In my husband’s family however, when they woke up, everyone went to their parents’ room where they met chatted a while, and then all came out together. During the Christmas holidays, because of the ‘rules’ in my head, I would wake up very early, run downstairs and wait for everyone to come. It took me a couple of days to realize that they all met in the room and chatted. While I did not understand it at the time, I thought my husband did not want to include me in the talk with his parents, and maybe he must have been thinking that I did not want to bond with his parents! In both our heads, we were breaking each others’ ‘scripts’ without even knowing they existed!
We expect our spouse to make us happy: This is one of the biggest sources of disappointment in relationships and marriage, and is a leading cause of divorce. While we usually believe that we have met the soul mate in our spouses and partners, we usually think the other person should complete us. This causes a lot of heartache in marriage, when a man or woman fails to meet the expectation of making the other happy. When this does not happen, spouses, in search of happiness and fulfillment leaves that person to look for another that will ‘complete’ him or her. A man (and in this case I am also referring to women) has no power in himself to make another man complete, and if you do not find contentment before you met your spouse, you definitely will not find it even after marriage in your spouse. As human beings we have absolutely no capacity to fill a void in our hearts that God created for Himself. A marriage is out two whole people coming together to be a whole and complete entity, not two halves becoming one. Adam was not ‘half Adam’ until he met Eve he was whole and complete.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we usually assume that our partners think the same way we think, therefore, when one partner ‘breaks’ one of our rules, or fails to fulfill a certain role, we tend to believe that it was intentional, leading to resentment, frustration and conflict. We have to be conscious of the fact that what may be important to you may not be important to your spouse and vice versa; but the need to communicate these expectations will bring them out in the open and if handled properly provides the opportunity to deepen your understanding of each other, and your relationship.
- As a couple you will need to decide on the roles and rules that are specific to your relationship. It is essential that these rules and roles follow the principles of mutual understanding and respect.
- While all scripts are not bad, they need to be communicated openly. Using prescribed roles and rules, what you have observed from other couples or what has been passed down from our parents is doable, as long as they are clearly spelt out and you are both in agreement.
- There is no point laying down prescribed rules and roles that will foster strife and resentments.Mutual decisions will not bring resentment.
- Be ready to be flexible and meet on middle ground.
Until then, Peace.