Stronger at the Broken Places

How challenges can strengthen your relationship

Traditions Are Fine, But Don’t Be Limited By Them

Marriage can be whatever two people agree it is.

Ellen was an accomplished attorney who earned more money than her husband Herb. After Ellen gave birth to twin girls, they decided that Herb would be the one to leave his job to stay home with the children. Both sets of in-laws had judgments about the non-traditional choice they were making. Some of their friends commented that it struck them as peculiar that Herb was "Mr. Mom." They were worried that he wouldn't fit the role he was taking on. Despite some misgivings, Herb and Ellen implemented their plan. Herb stayed home and Ellen became the sole breadwinner of the family. The girls blossomed in Herb's capable care. He loved being home with them, and Ellen didn't have to give up her career, which gave her so much gratification. Herb remained in the role of the primary caregiver until the girls started kindergarten, and then went back to work. Despite the judgments of relatives and friends, the family thrived.

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We all grow up with certain fixed ideas about marriage. It's easy to forget that many of these notions are not how things have to be, but are instead subject to interpretation and modification. While religious and social traditions can be  helpful in establishing a marriage's operating principles, the relationship runs the risk of losing vitality and passion when it fails to incorporate the ever-changing needs and concerns of each partner. Marriage is not a fixed entity but a work in progress inviting ongoing refinement. Good marriages are not likely to thrive when built upon unexamined traditions. They flourish when they are continually co-created by both partners. Any policies and practices that each partner is in accord with may be workable in a marriage, as long as they don't cause harm to anyone. Agreements can be modified as conditions and perspectives change over time.

Committed relationships are dynamic, living entities. Like all organisms, they require a process of continual change, a steady steam of feedback, and adjustment to fluctuations in internal and external conditions. Keeping your finger on the pulse of shifting needs and responding accordingly is a requirement for maintaining healthy and vibrant partnerships. While that may seem like a daunting demand, it’s actually an invitation to participate in what can be the most compelling and fulfilling adventure of your life.

 

Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., and Charlie Bloom, M.S.W., are the authors of Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truths from Real Couples About Lasting Love.

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