Posted By RichC on February 21, 2018
There are a few things in life that can really make someone feel good … one of them is in receiving a respectful complement. Really it started as a question, but a younger father of teenagers asked me how Brenda and I "balanced our lives" when our kids were growing up. I’m not sure if that "balance" was the word, but I knew he was struggling with relationships, work, responsibility, etc. He mentioned that he and his wife have been struggling to agree on a lot of issues lately and the dealing with rebellious (normal) teens has pushed emotions to the brink. I’m sad for them as it sounds as if family counseling may be in their future.
Life is indeed complicated as we are all pulled in many directions. We all have to compromise and usually that means more "giving" than we may want as each pull stretches the amount of time, energy and number of dollars. As I thought about the "how we handled it" answer, I realized just how fortunate I was to be part of a team.
Young couples may go into a relationship with the best of intentions, but selfishness and idealism can easily take over as the years go by and life gets more complicated. So the easy answer to my younger friend was that he and his wife needed to focus on working as a team and come up with a few common goals – be it time devoted to parenting, balancing household finances and the amount of time they have for each other verses their own personal activities and friends.
For Brenda and I, there have been a lot of zigs and zags … mostly unanticipated or planned for. From the simplest things like who controls the TV remote, to the much bigger things like career decisions and finances. Being a team player means that the best decision isn’t always going to go your way. It is my opinion that in the best marriages, the "teamwork" part goes unsaid, but is the priority. Each partner recognizes when it is his or her turn to give a little more – although that is probably overly optimistic (we can all work on it!)
In the less than perfect marriage moments, commitment to the end goal needs to rule the day. We can only control our side of the behavior and often need to be the "over-giver" and appreciate it when and if our partner does the same. In my friends situation (I’m only seeing his side at the moment), it seemed to me as if both were frustrated and sacrificing their individual freedom … as their teenagers needs and wants demand more and more of their time and money. I shared with him that both Brenda and I decided to put our kids lives ahead of our own and shelve our own aspirations during those years . Our kids recognized it and especially now realized our effort was to give them so they would have the security of caring parents and the educational opportunity for a good start at being adults; it will hopefully be something they will emulate as parents? Often times its the small things that are noticed, like mom and dad giving up a night out or not buying something new so that the kids can have something better; in other words, they often silently noticed the sacrifice and "giving" gesture. Who knows, this may make for a more successful relationship when they are parents?
To be truthful, Brenda and I really never went without, but we both always did our best to make sure our kids never felt like we placed our wants and desires above what was best for them. I doubt my sharing solved his frustration, but "if" at least he recognizes a few areas where his focus has been on self and not on his wife and children … maybe there is a place to start (hopefully his wife and children will respond in kind).
We all have room for improvement and can usually find places we can give a little more or do without. I hope whatever I said was helpful as he is definitely at a stressful and demanding phase of life.