MARITAL REALITY BASIC TO “FAMILY VALUES”
As a society, we seem to be acknowledging the cost of
family instability. We’re looking for ways to address the
problem. Welfare reform, teen-pregnancy prevention,
abolishing the “no-fault” divorce, chasing down runaway
parents and prosecuting abusers are just a few of the legal
and social remedies being considered. The cry for “family
values” is heard across the land.
I don’t believe we will succeed in imposing family
values through institutional measures. Maybe we can create a
climate more conducive to family stability but that won’t
solve the problem. People won’t give up their own freedom to
choose, not in America. Nor should they. We cherish our
right to make the same mistakes over and over.
We ought to replace some of this family values chatter
with information about “marital values”. Marriage is the
beating heart of the family. Sadly, most people don’t know
that marriage is not just about love for another person.
It’s about transformation of the self.
To do marriage right you must be willing to let it
change you. This is not an easy thing to bear and yet most
of us need to change some things about ourselves in order to
reach our full potential. The problem is that it hurts.
People often seek to change partners in order to avoid
having to change themselves. That’s what having affairs is
about, too. With a new partner you can run all your old
games again. You can use your bag of tricks to convince
someone that you are who you wish you were. If you can make
it stick then you can believe it yourself.
Unfortunately this won’t hold up. As soon as anyone
gets close they start to reflect you as you really are. Once
again you’re faced with the need to change. Or hide. Or
The high art of monogamy is in facing who you are as
reflected in the eyes of your partner and, of course,
allowing them to do the same. You have to give up your
illusions about yourself and about your partner, too. That’s
when the real adventure begins.