Tom’s World — Tom Westfall
Ingredients for a success marriage?
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending time with my children, their spouses and all four of my grandchildren. We camped on my son’s ranch in Montezuma County, and spent the week hiking and looking for evidences of the ancients who inhabited his canyon thousands of years ago. It was a special week; one that I will remember and cherish for years to come.
Aside from the spectacular scenery, brushes with various forms of wildlife (including mountain lions) and the pursuit of ancient treasures, there was plenty of time to spend in a variety of other activities — singing around the campfire, playing games, relaxing and conversing with family about a myriad of subjects relative to life.
Although in aggregate we tend to eschew the discussion of politics we did manage to solve most of the political ills extant in our country today. If only… (The world will little note nor long remember those discussions!) One of the most entertaining conversations I had occurred with my 4-year old granddaughter, Nora.
Nora is a delightful child with sparkly brown eyes, a sense of humor much akin to her grandfather’s, a warmth and compassion to her heart, and the ability to “tell it like it is.” She and I got to talking about school and about her friends. She told me who her friends were and I noted that several of them were boys. Just to be a tease I asked her if either one of them was her boyfriend. She said that she sort of liked this one boy named “Henry.”
From there, our conversation evolved into a discussion of marriage. I asked Nora if she thought she would ever get married, and she replied that she thought she probably would someday — maybe even Henry. I asked her what she thought were some of the most important things to think about when selecting a husband. Her answer was priceless; (and please remember, she’s in pre-school.) She said, “Grandpa, I think that the boy should be kind and not poop his pants.”
Needless to say, I was laughing so hard on the inside that I nearly bit through my cheek. I didn’t want her to think I was laughing at her of course, so had to swallow the mirth momentarily. I assured her that those were important things to consider. She mentioned that one of her other friends at pre-school, also a boy, still messes his pants on occasion, which was why she thought it was important that the boy she would ultimately marry be completely potty trained.
I was considering suggesting to her parents that perhaps they needed to help her “raise the bar” a bit, in terms of a potential mate, but as I’ve analyzed her prescription for a partner, I think she may be on to something.
The first part of Nora’s requirement for a potential mate was kindness, and as I thought about that it has occurred to me that this is perhaps the most important ingredient in a successful relationship. Often times we are attracted to someone predicated upon their looks, but in truth, this infatuation isn’t the “real thing” and falling for someone based upon their “shell” isn’t a formula for long-term success, in terms of marriage.
As human beings we are basically selfish people. We are an abundance of (often times) unmet needs and we are constantly seeking to have these needs met — sometimes to the exclusion of kindness. In nearly every relationship there is some tension — that’s the nature of relationships, but the ones that thrive are the ones where selfishness is replaced with selflessness, where kindness towards one another is practiced on a daily (if not hourly) basis.
It’s easy to be unkind. All we have to do is think about our own needs and how our partner is failing to meet them. We can blame our partner for not being able to read our minds, for not being there for us, for not seeming to care. And when we fall into this negative groove, our relationship will struggle.
On the other hand, being kind requires “intentionality.” That means that we have to consistently put someone else’s needs on the same level as our own — we have to think about how our words and actions will impact another person and we have to act, not according to how we “feel” but rather upon what will most likely help the situation. That’s hard work, but Nora’s correct — that’s the key ingredient in any successful marriage.
Nora’s second point — about her potential spouse not pooping his pants is a wonderful line that hopefully has made you smile, but in another sense is a powerful metaphor. As adults, we don’t often poop our pants, but we do sometimes make a mess of our relationships. We take our spouse for granted. We forget to be thankful. We judge and criticize and blame…
Considering that over half of the marriages in our country fail, perhaps Nora’s bar doesn’t need to be raised at all — in fact, it may just be the perfect standard!
Westfall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and also is active on Facebook.